As much of the country begins to explore tiered reopening, with different counties and businesses operating on different schedules, gyms stand to be among the last places to return. Heightened sanitation measures will be a must, with every piece of equipment getting thoroughly wiped down on a more consistent basis than before the pandemic.
Americans’ comfort with resuming activities after lockdowns vary significantly across age and income lines. In the case of fitness needs, an increasing number of consumers appear to be making adjustments at home. According to CivicScience data compiled over the past six months, consumers have been more likely to consistently exercise since stay-at-home orders went into effect in March. Forty-three percent of adults — up 10% from March — are working out several times per week, even without gyms open. There’s been little movement among those who almost never work out, but much of the data from occasional exercisers have shifted into frequent exercise.
With gyms almost entirely closed across the country, it’s difficult to parse data collected in the last month concerning gym habits. Are consumers addressing their current situation, or gym habits under normal circumstances before lockdowns were enacted? In either case, consumers who exercise several times a week are most likely to feel comfortable attending a major public event within the next three weeks. Adults who almost never exercise are just slightly more likely than average to prefer waiting at least six months for large gatherings.
There are also distinct separations across income brackets for regular gym use. Adults earning $100,000 or more are nearly 10 percentage points more likely than earners making $100,000 or less to exercise at the gym once a week or more. As economic uncertainty and pervasive unemployment continue into the summer, these could be troubling trend lines for gyms and fitness centers.
The Rise in Home Equipment
If the past two months have seen an increase in at-home exercising, they’ve also led to heightened interest in home equipment. According to CivicScience polling of more than 18,000 adults, roughly a third of them currently own home fitness equipment. A not insignificant segment — 8% total — do not currently own home exercise equipment but plan to purchase some soon. Consumers in the 35-54 age bracket have the highest rate of new equipment ownership and intent to purchase.
The Absence of Sports
Although sports fandom is far from a prerequisite to exercising, there’s a noticeable connection between the two interests. The 23% of U.S. adults who consider sports to be important or a passion are increasingly likely to be regular exercisers. Under normal circumstances, this overlap might not be as noteworthy. But with an untold number of hours freed up per week for die hard sports fans and little clarity as to if or when those leagues may return, there is potential to see a vacuum for new activity. Staring down the possibility of a lost basketball or baseball season might not be what drives you to exercise on a nice day, but it certainly could help fuel the appetite for physical activity.
Sports leagues may resume this year in front of empty stadiums, which could be as much of a public health precaution as it is an adjustment to demand. Somehow, even as another month has passed under widespread lockdown and tensions rise over its continuation, Americans are less comfortable with the idea of returning to a large public gathering. Compared to this time a month ago, the number of adults hoping to wait six months or more for sporting events or other large crowds has risen 9% to nearly half of consumers.
While it’s too soon to tell if home fitness and cardio will come to displace gyms as we know it, there’s certainly been a revived interest in exercise over the past two months. Gyms and fitness clubs aren’t necessary to go on a run or lift weights at home, so these figures could only rise if consumers continue to feel trepidation toward public spaces. If sporting events aren’t returning to normalcy anytime soon, then it may be equally hard to imagine public fitness centers rushing back without a dramatic overhaul.