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Industry Trends

2020's Top Fitness Trends: How Tech is Shaping the Future

Experts share the latest trends in the fitness industry and how yoga and fitness business owners can capitalize on the evolution of working out.

January 15, 2020

Got a pair of smart yoga pants that correct your form? Sweated it out with your bestie in group rowing class? Hired an online personal trainer to get you in shape for golf season? Done an hour on your Peloton before breakfast?

Technology is going far beyond the familiar apps and wearables in 2020, as stimulus-loving Millennials and convenience craving Americans of all ages reshape what it means to work out.

We tapped the experts to find the latest trends in the fitness industry in 2020 and beyond, what’s driving them, and how yoga and fitness business owners can capitalize on the evolution of working out.

Technology Can’t Replace Your Community

The explosion of virtual and at-home training products is enough to make any fitnessprenuer stress-sweat, especially if your business is of the bricks-and-mortar kind. But top trainers and fitness business insiders told us that savvy studio owners can incorporate technology to their advantage. One major reason why? You just can’t replace good old fashioned human connection. And community is something Millennials – your students age 22 to 37 – value most.

“It’s difficult to replace the feel of a live class or the experience of a one-on-one personal training session online,” said Franklin Antoian, personal trainer and founder of the online personal training website, “The growth that I see in online fitness is from more and more people discovering online fitness. So online fitness is complementary to traditional fitness.”

Daniel Demoss, personal trainer at a Denver gym, and founder of Dumbbells Review agreed.

“Despite Peloton, boutique fitness will still sustain its popularity because of stimulating the sense of community in participants,” Demoss said. “People find it challenging to work out without having social support. Peloton is gaining popularity among people who are fitness freaks, have a strict schedule, and can spend $1,500 on its hardware.”

Students might workout with their celebrity trainer through their new interactive Mirror, but it won’t replace their favorite Monday night class with you, experts said.

“You might think that people who stream exercise classes have disintermediated the gym itself, but we’ve found the opposite is true; virtual exercisers typically also maintain a membership at a health club or studio,” Ben Midgley, CEO of Crunch Fitness, recently told Fortune. “It makes sense, because this combination gives them variety, social engagement and keeps them exercising longer. Many exercise advocates and even beginners now use multiple venues to stay on track with their fitness plan.”

How to Get on Trend and Stay Relevant‍

To stay ahead of the curve, smart yoga studio and boutique fitness club owners are offering their own online classes, apps and instructional videos.

The key, said experts, is to sell these options as a way for students to practice or work out when they wouldn’t have been able to get into class anyway, like during travel for work, or at 5 a.m. And it’s important to sunset the classes so students don’t have unlimited access, and to price them right (don’t give them away for free!)

“We will see more studios and boxes adopting the Peloton model of limited and/or timed class replays online,” said Chris Lucas, CEO of Ompractice, a new online yoga platform that allows teachers to see students practicing at home during classes.

Ompractice provides live, two-way yoga to the members of health insurers, large companies, and individuals worldwide. The company has also been piloting partnerships with studios to add additional digital class inventory (rather than cannibalizing in-class revenue).

“Treat it like a digital drop-in so to speak: price it the same (or more!) as a regular class, and this adds the option of additional convenience to a larger number of students, and increases revenue potential for the original class,” Lucas advised. “Digital options must be structured as either extensions and add-ons to your current offerings (specific pose/movement tutorials for example), or if they replicate or replace the in-studio content, students pay the same (or close to) for access to the instruction as if they were at the studio.”

Fitness, dance and yoga professionals are also offering work out guides and classes through social media channels like Instagram and YouTube. The draw is obvious, especially for Millennials. It’s a familiar platform, and it’s more affordable than a gym membership. If you’re a box or studio owner, the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” applies here. It’s time to get more social!

“A great way for studios and gyms to stay in the game and to also still get people in their doors in 2020 and beyond, is to actually partner with influencers on events,” said Liz Jeneault, a fitness influencer, and vice president of marketing for the popular product review website Faveable.

“You want to embrace social media as much as possible and while it might feel like you’re competing with fitness influencers, you could choose to collaborate with them on events that could be lucrative for you, and also help build your brand,” Jeneault said. “You could partner with influencers on special studio classes, giveaways, or even charity events.”

Fitness business owners also need to put energy into in-person interactions with students, said said Joanna Stahl, founder of Go2Practice, and a fitness instructor in New York, NY.

“The concept of friendly and inviting is amplified these days. Your studio has to be relevant, awesome, challenging, and beyond cool,” said Stahl. “Did someone awesome tweet about you lately? Is there a filter for that workout? Who’s talking about you at their office holiday party? That matters. Paying for talent, keeping your members happy, creating an experience for them to engage in the new concept of “community” are all expensive, ominous and necessary.”

Studio management software that provides handy, personalized notes in students’ profiles (like Punchpass does) can make meaningful conversations super easy.

Group Workout Classes are Still HOT

Having access to workouts almost everywhere, all the time, seems to be encouraging more American’s to get fit and healthy. A record 20 percent of American consumers worked out at close to 40,000 for-profit health clubs in 2018; and individual membership grew 2.6 percent, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

The fastest growth sector is small, specialized boutique studios, with ever increasing price tags. Bootcamp-style workouts, spin classes, barre, and hybrids like yogalates and aqua-Zumba are among the top draws. HIIT continues to be popular, with shorter, even more intense (we’re a little afraid) workouts are emerging. And, as consumers’ knowledge of their overall health and bodies’ grows, there’s also been a noticeable emergence of more holistic, recovery-based and lower intensity fitness options on the rise, from rowing, to walking and even meditation.

“Coming off a decade of high impact, high intensity, HIIT or Bootcamp style workouts, I see the consumer becoming smarter in their workout choices,” said Caley Crawford, NASM, Concept2, Director of Education for Row House, a nationwide rowing studio franchise.  “More and more, people are choosing workouts that are not only highly effective but also build their bodies up instead of breaking them down.  I believe people will choose more low-impact cardio and strength workouts that will directly benefit their lifestyle and add longevity to their muscles and joints.”

This just-released annual fitness trend report from Class Pass found workouts are getting more social, group classes and variety are motivating, rowing, boxing, martial arts and Pilates Megaformer workouts are growing in popularity, as is meditation and other soul nurturing activities. Here are a few highlights:

  • 80% of those surveyed have coordinated a workout with a friend or colleague this year.
  • In the US, the most popular classes to take with a friend are rowing and boxing.
  • Outside of the United States, friends are also likely to take a martial arts class together.
  • There has been a 38.6% increase in Megaformer reservations in 2019 vs 2018.
  • Newbies to group fitness are most likely to take a yoga class as their first class.
  • Meditation was the most popular wellness activity booked on ClassPass in 2019.

Oh, and what about those yoga pants that train you while your practice? We wanted to know more about those too!

According to Tyler Sellers, certified trainer and CEO of TotalShape, “smart clothing is also expected to become a fitness buff’s first choice in the coming year.”

These smart clothes include the built-in default features like heart-rate calculation, body temperature, and measure of walking distance, Sellers said.

The yoga pants, from Wearablex, are called Nadi X, and are coupled with the company’s iphone app.

“It enables with the technology to send real-time gentle vibrations,” said Sellers. “The vibrating leggings are embedded with technology that integrates with your Nadi X phone app via Bluetooth. These pants typically take data from five points on your body to detect which posture you are in at that moment.

Wow. Put those at the top of our January must-have list!