Exercise trends through Covid and beyond (a gym owners’ story)

TheBoldAge Co-Founder Steve Foreman discusses how Covid impacted his business

Published by Steve Foreman on Dec 07, 2023

Covid had a huge impact on all of us, personally and professionally. Many small businesses did not survive, and as gym owner, times were tough. Despite the science being limited, all gyms and leisure centres had to close. As a result, 80% of our membership disappeared in a relatively short space of time.

That is obviously a huge amount of revenue to lose. Therefore, during lockdown, we had to get creative to try and ensure that some revenue kept coming in. Personal Training moved from the gym to the local park, or online through FaceTime or Zoom. No resistance machines, no cardio machines, a couple of sets of dumbbells at the most, exercise looked a little different during lockdown. However due to people having time on their hands, many began to go on longer walks, some started running. Covid meant that people began to focus on their own health a little bit more, not just gym members, the public started moving more.

After lockdown, we reopened with membership at 20% of what we had pre-Covid. The next challenge was that people had developed a fear of mingling together in what they perceived to be confined spaces. Despite the gym being very quiet, people were reluctant to return for fear of catching Covid. Historically the gym was a very social space, a community. Some of our more mature members used to come in for a chat as much as for the exercise. Post Covid, the gym just felt empty.

Over the next few months people started to trickle back to us, but membership has never returned to pre-covid levels. At the time of writing (Dec 2023), membership is around 70% of what it used to be. However, people have changed the way that they view exercise and their personal wellbeing. They place far more importance on looking after themselves and are prepared to invest in themselves. Personal Training has gone through the roof. People now want that one-to-one attention, they want to be supervised so that they are exercising safely, they want to be as healthy as possible, and they want to get the most out of their time at the gym. Furthermore, members are now willing to pay for this additional service.

People of all ages attend the gym; we have members aged from 16 to 80 plus. Post Covid, we have seen an increase in those aged 50 plus attending. It is this age group that has the most disposable income, and it appears that they are now willing to spend a proportion of that on themselves. Everyone knows that if you are fit and healthy, you are less susceptible to any complications from Covid and indeed any of the other myriad of germs and infections that spread at this time of year.

We were one of the lucky, small independent gyms, we survived Covid and are now back to being that lively, social environment for our members. Membership whilst not at pre-covid levels is acceptable and levels of Personal Training are high. Many more people now understand the benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle and are willing to invest in themselves, to take responsibility for their health, this can only be a good thing.

Useful Links

Circle of Life: The Underrated Power of Walking – TheBoldAge

Physical activity videos – Make Your Move | Age UK

Does the latest fitness technology signal the end for gyms? – TheBoldAge

Exercise Plan for Seniors: Strength, Stretching, and Balance (healthline.com)

TheBoldage looks at how to create your own home gym with these household items – TheBoldAge

Physical activity guidelines for older adults – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Don’t you just love stereotypes, not – TheBoldAge

Thanks to Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash for the great photo