January 25, 2021 7:15 PM

With gyms in trouble, who benefits from 2021 New Year’s fitness resolutions?

Gym memberships are a staple of the New Year’s resolution package. But with the pandemic still looming large over the fitness industry, individuals determined to better themselves or their wellness will have to find alternative rituals for 2021. Alternatives which may range from Virtual Reality to adaptogen mushrooms, Canadians will need to get creative in how to spend their effort, and their cash.

/ Published 3 weeks ago

With Gyms empty, where will New Year's Resolutions take Canadians in 2021
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Much has been written about our hopes for 2021 as a country, and as a globe. From Covid-19 Vaccines to the fight against global climate change, country-level changes are being promised around the world. But Individuals are also making resolutions, and as they do each New Year, many are focusing on personal improvements around health or fitness. These intentions usually feed into the gym and fitness industry, but are stymied by the stark reality of a full-blown pandemic this year. Where will all this energy, and money, then go? From Virtual Reality (VR) exercising to Rritual’s adaptogen mushroom supplements, some of 2021’s New Year’s resolution solutions may surprise you. 

New Year’s resolutions drive gym memberships and attendance… most years

Personal fitness, weight loss, and healthier eating are among the top New Year’s resolutions each year, year after year. And while that should be taken as an indicator of their effectiveness, New Year’s resolutions are nevertheless a powerful force driving behavior. According to one survey (of Americans, so the data may be skewed), the top resolution is to exercise more, with losing weight and healthy eating also in the top 4. This means approximately 30% of the population will start any given year with a determination to get into shape or work on their physical, or mental, fitness. 

In a normal year, this represents a huge influx in customers for gyms and fitness centers. On average, gym memberships alone are sold at a 50-100% higher rate in January than in even the next best month (usually in the summer). This revenue is important for businesses and companies in the fitness industries, and is part of the reason many have been fighting so hard to avoid further health restrictions, or to have them lifted altogether. 

Covid-19 Pandemic stifling the traditional New Year’s Resolution destination: gyms

Indeed, 2020 was not a normal year, and 2021 is unlikely to be one either. Covid-19 wrecked unprecedented harm on our economy, lives, and health, and fighting it has required drastic measures to prevent even more deaths than have already tragically occurred. Yet these measures have had casualties of their own. 

Besides closures in the entertainment and hospitality sectors, gyms have suffered under the wide range of lockdowns and gathering restrictions imposed to slow the pandemic’s spread. Even in areas where they are not forced to close, attendance is down as people try to avoid potential vectors of the disease, and with good reason. One spin class in November was linked to an outbreak of at least 40 cases: the kind of news that keeps attendance down. 

Every month it seems we hear the same stories from different gym owners warning of closures and bankruptcies as attendance, and revenues, drop off. All this adds up to a poor start to 2021 for gyms. And while some are stretching for creative solutions to mobilize the New Year’s resolution bump, many Canadians are turning to less conventional sources of physical and mental fitness. 

Gyms attempt to cope with Covid-19 to avoid losing all New Year’s resolution profits 

The lost New Year resolution income is closing some gyms, but spurring others to innovate. Some tech-savvy gyms are moving classes online, using lessons drawn from the first lockdowns to provide the ‘home delivery’ equivalent of fitness training. Others, like many personal trainers, have moved to social media, on apps like Youtube or TikTok, to reach new communities to spread tips and keep up morale and mental fitness. 

But even some more traditionally-minded gyms are finding paths, and spaces, for working out safely. One Montreal based gym, now expanding to Toronto and other cities, Silofit, is using ‘micro’ gym spaces that individuals or small groups can rent by the hour. While some larger gyms are converting their large spaces for micro-sized units or pods. 

Such methods will certainly help some gyms survive the coming months, but are unlikely to satisfy all the New Year’s demand. Some resolution holders will have to get creative if they want to work on their physical or mental fitness in 2021. 

Augmented home fitness: looking into the future with Virtual Reality

Some are seeking solutions in the tech of the future, and 2021 is only likely to accelerate both the demand and availability of future-tech fitness solutions. Already fitness video games like Nintendo’s RingFit have been huge hits during the pandemic, and you can bet some New Year’s resolutions to hit the gym in 2020 became to hit the Ring in 2021. 

Other solutions are even more ethereal. Virtual Reality (VR) fitness programs are being developed, or sold, spurred on by the pandemic’s gym restrictions. These range from addictive and immersive Virtual Reality fitness games, pragmatic apps to help correct your running posture from afar, to highly futuristic prototypes of VR running exoskeletons. Obviously, some solutions will not be ready for 2021! But that doesn’t mean that the money and energy propelled by New Year’s resolutions will not end up feeding into such projects. 

Curating Mental Fitness: Embracing the Rritual’s of the past with Adaptogens 

With gyms still posing a threat to personal health, and technological solutions still limited, other New Year’s Resolution makers will be turning their efforts inwards, and backwards in time. Focusing on the self and improving your way of living can go beyond stepping into a gym more often, particularly after a stressful year like 2020. Resolutions to meditate more, lower stress and anger levels, and be more positive are all part of the same trend towards self-improvement. 

One of the main sources such efforts are directed towards is the past. The wisdom of ancient cultures and previous generations are at the forefront of many minds in a year when these very same sources have been most imperiled. Such inspiration is often more concrete, and accessible, than the technological solutions of the future, and some companies are dedicated to making them mainstream. 

To continue with our Canadian examples, Rritual is a ‘superfood’ company harnessing the health and wellness potential of ancient ingredients like functional mushrooms or versatile adaptogens. Focused on fighting the very problems 2020 forced on most of us, such as stress, sleeplessness, concentration/focus, and even immunity, they are immediately accessible and ideally positioned to become a core element of individual’s 2021 mental fitness efforts. 

Don’t drop your New Year’s motivation just because the gym is off limits

Regardless of what people may have pledged for yourself for the New Year, whether it is getting in shape, living more sustainably, or bolstering your mental health, there will be solutions out there, just not in gyms this year. Solutions, which may vary in shape, form or inspiration, but all of which are suited in their own way to helping people tackle their self-improvement goals. Be it mushrooms in their coffee or a gym session in their headset, these solutions are only likely to grow in importance, and profit, as New Year’s resolutions push us all towards personal betterment. 

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Featured Image by Humphrey Muleba from StockSnap

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