It wasn’t just people who had to turn in 2020 – so did the entire fitness industry.
For obvious reasons, most people who had some type of fitness routine had to change it in 2020. Instead of going to the gym or taking group fitness classes, we set up mats in our living spaces for virtual training and went on socially distant hikes and desperately searched the internet for dumbbells.
But it wasn’t just people who had to turn – so did the entire fitness industry. And it wasn’t just the pandemic, either. From the revitalized movement against systemic racism to the psychological ramifications of the collective trauma of the year, there was a lot to consider for fitness companies in 2020. To find out what’s next for the industry, I spoke to Dominique Brown, Director of Marketing at The classabout her company’s journey in 2020 and her predictions for the future of health and fitness in 2021.
Virtual and home fitness
Largely out of necessity, virtual fitness and home fitness exploded in 2020. The concept has enjoyed increasing popularity for years as more high-tech home devices such as Peloton bikes have been introduced, as well as more work-from-home flexibility at home . But it got a huge boost last spring when people – even those who were completely convinced they couldn’t exercise at home – had no other choice. Indeed, health and fitness app downloads increased by 47 percent in the second quarter of 2020. Now that some bans are still in place, it’s no surprise just that 15 percent Many gym members believe that gym membership is the best way to meet their fitness goals in 2021.
The class had opened their digital studio in October 2019 and shone about three classes every day. “But then everything shut down in March, and we switched to being a digital fitness company for the home entirely overnight,” says Brown. That the company had conveniently launched its live streaming platform a few months before the pandemic began, and that the training itself doesn’t require any equipment, made this pivot point a lot easier than usual. The Class currently broadcasts and offers about 70 live classes per week 100+ on-demand videos. And because there are so many ways to participate virtually, people from all over the world are discovering The Class. Brown says, “It’s a completely different company than it was a year ago.”
Merging fitness and wellness
Another major impact of 2020 was an increased focus on mental health. In September 2020 over 80 percent from people who have taken an anxiety screen rated with moderate to severe symptoms. Of course, the circumstances and trauma that contributed to this year-round have been devastating – but it’s worth recognizing that more and more people are feeling comfortable speaking openly about mental health issues and even seeking help. And for many, that “help” is staying active.
In 2021 the concepts of fitness and wellness will continue to merge. This has always been the case for The Class, which describes itself as “cathartic training that restores balance between body and mind”. “The class has been a lifeline for the people this year,” says Brown. “Especially since so many of us have been quarantined in their homes and experience and feel so many things that we don’t know exactly how to process them. People have turned to The Class to shake out everything they feel to sit with themselves. It’s an exit for emotional expression, and I think it will continue into 2021. As humans, we always need a place where we can express ourselves fully. “
Diversity in focus
Over the summer, with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the resurgence of global talks about racial inequality, companies in all industries – not just fitness – had to take a step back and evaluate whether they were part of the problem or part of the solution. However, there was still a lot to do, especially in the fitness industry. In the past there has been pervasive social pressure to conform to Eurocentric ideals of beauty – and the message often sent by industry is that if one implicitly knows and is slim, you are fit. Consequently, those who are not white and slim have not seen themselves represented in the fitness of brands, media publications, or even physical spaces such as gyms and classes.
Slowly but surely this is changing – and the events in summer were an important catalyst. After these events, Brown recalls, “We took a close look at ourselves and the entire wellness industry to see how we could create a more equitable and inclusive environment.” As part of a brand update, The Class revamped its visuals and marketing materials to make sure everyone feels represented. They also recognize that hiring diversity is vital to this mission as well – and Brown is testament to that. She says: “As a black woman, I believe that The Class is growing as a company and that we are drawing other voices into the room.” In 2020 it is clear that The Class has grown in several ways.