Fitness in Focus: 6 Things We Learned in 2023

Fitness in focus: 6 things we learned in 2023
By Jo Bryce

By Jo Bryce

Courtesy LesMills.com

Despite global economic gloom placing financial pressures on both club operators and members, fitness rose to the challenge to remain resilient and resourceful in 2023. And with an entire new generation of gymgoers flooding into the industry, there was plenty to be optimistic about. Here are 6 key takeouts from the past 12 months.

GEN Z ARE TAKING OVER

Waiting in the wings no longer, Gen Z represent the biggest single growth opportunity gyms have ever faced, as revealed by The Gen Z Fitness: Cracking the Code report published in June 2023. It found that a third of Gen Z are already using fitness facilities, while a further 50% are ready to get started on their fitness journey, leaving operators in no doubt about the size of the prize.

 

Jam-packed with insights about a generation dubbed “the next global spending power”, the report represented the biggest-ever study into Gen Z fitness, combining quantitative and qualitative insights from more than 4,000 young people aged 16 to 26 across North America, Europe and Asia. Other key headlines from the report include:

  • 72% of regular Gen Z exercisers do gym and out-of-gym workouts
  • 81% of all gymgoers are doing group training
  • 44% of regular exercisers use paid fitness apps outside of the gym

 

Given the myriad ways Gen Z engage with fitness, operators have plenty to ponder as they plan how to maximize this major opportunity for member growth in 2024.

 

THE CATEGORIES GOING FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

Having been crowned the most popular workout of 2022 and Gen Z’s favorite way to workout, strength training continued to make impressive gains in 2023. Operators across the world were swapping out cardio equipment to make way for extra weights stations on the gym floor, while a raft of strength-based classes quickly came to prominence.

 

But for all the fitness industry buzz around younger members’ insatiable appetite for weights (81% of those currently exercising use free weights at their facility), strength training certainly isn’t the only thing they’re interested in. The 2023 report Gen Z Fitness: Cracking the Code found that 64% of Gen Z exercisers have a strong preference for choosing different workouts, as well as discovering new ones.

 

Gen Z enthusiasm for strength and conditioning workouts has led to sculpt workouts – such as Stretch, Yoga and Pilates classes – experiencing a resurgence in clubs as a complementary training modality for building and toning muscle. The Cracking the Code report showed strong appetite for sculpt workouts, with 63% of Gen Z exercisers enjoying Reformer Pilates, 57% doing Yoga, and 55% taking part in mat Pilates.

ELEVATED EXPERIENCES BRING BUMPER RETURNS
ELEVATED EXPERIENCES BRING BUMPER RETURNS

Matching the ability of boutique studios to serve up highly-curated experiences that give great results is essential to keeping members coming back to your club. And a popular play for clubs of all sizes in 2023 was to offer elevated group training experiences. These combined on-trend programming with personalized coaching and fixed-term courses to provide a more personal club experience that gives members a heightened sense of community and value.

 

And the approach is generating serious extra revenue for operators like Lifestyle & Health Club Magic. The Dutch operator’s founder Scott Elder says: “We offer LES MILLS STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT as an exclusive 12-week program, which members purchase for €249 on top of their membership fees.

 

“We run each session with a maximum of 12 members per class. That way it allows us to personalize the coaching based on what each participant requires. It helps make the process more personal, in addition to the floor coaching.”

 

US multi-site operator The Edge Fitness also reaped rewards from its trial of STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT in 2023. The program outperformed national averages for classes across all clubs, including non-Les Mills programs. 92% of participants came back for more after their first session, whilst 80% of members said they were very likely to recommend STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT. Acknowledging movers’ appetite for this training style, the chain is now rolling out STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT across almost 30 clubs. Jenny Au, Director of Fitness Operations notes: “STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT makes a great 8-12 week challenge for members who want to set a goal, shake up their routine, or try something that might be as “sticky” as your favorite Netflix series.”

 

TIKTOK INSPIRES THE DANCE REVIVAL

Dance’s inseparability from pop culture has seen it triumph in 2023. The irresistible rise of TikTok has pushed dance fitness firmly back into the mainstream, breathing new life into the category. The joys of recreating the latest viral choreography has seen dance become the unofficial language of TikTok, with everyone from sports stars to senior citizens getting in on the action. And it’s creating millions of young dance fitness fans.

 

As club operators expand their presence on TikTok to convert this huge captive audience, dance fitness offerings are a promising pathway for pulling new fans into the studio. When dance is done well, the results can be spectacular. Clubs can build a buzzing and hugely committed member cohort around their studios, as dance tends to attract the people who bring the noise (both in-club and on social media) and love to bring their friends. Expect to see more operators putting their best feet forward with expanded dance fitness offerings in 2024.

HACKING INFLUENCER CULTURE TO DRIVE MEMBER GROWTH
HACKING INFLUENCER CULTURE TO DRIVE MEMBER GROWTH

In an increasingly fractured media landscape, there are endless routes to market. But this year, and next, there’s one approach you can be sure will catch Gen Z’s attention whatever channel you’re using: influencers. Gen Z consider an Influencer to be any representative of a brand they’re interested in. Over half (55%) of Gen Z agree that promoting trainers and Instructors as local fitness influencers is a high-impact way to create a strong sense of community – meaning gyms have significant opportunities to amplify their own star Instructors to drive awareness and win fans.

 

55% of Gen Z spend 8 hours online each day, using their phone for 5+ hours a day. Growing up with instant information at their fingertips has created a generation highly confident in its decision-making, bolstered by the speed at which they can obtain information and substantiate it. Positioning your club and teammates as sources of credible insight increases their ability to become influencers – both online and IRL (in real life). Instructors are already your in-house influencers, providing motivating and joyful experiences to hundreds of loyal fitness followers each week. And by making smart use of their appeal on social media channels, clubs can win even more fans online and funnel them into the facility to drive member growth.

 

FITNESS FINDS A NEW DIMENSION

The launch of LES MILLS BODYCOMBAT XR on the META Quest 3 headset broke new ground for fitness gamification. META Founder Mark Zuckerberg spotlighted the BODYCOMBAT XR app as an example of next-level innovation during his launch of the META Quest 3 headset in September, highlighting how tech has the potential to take fitness to a whole new dimension.

 

The headset’s new functionality enables users to choose between fully immersive VR and innovative MR (Mixed Reality), bringing high-octane gameplay into a real-world setting like never before. The emergence of MR fitness brings together digital and real-world workouts, fusing the user’s real environment with the virtual training space to provide a previously unimaginable workout experience.

 

As the fitness gamification trend continues to take hold, expect to see an inspiring new wave of immersive workouts where music, visuals, wearables and Instructors combine to grow the market and entice new participants with an exhilarating fitness experience.

Les Mills is a global leader in group fitness, with 20 programs currently available in participating gyms and fitness facilities worldwide. Les Mills programs include the world’s first group exercise resistance training workout BODYPUMP™, BODYCOMBAT™ (martial arts), RPM™ (indoor cycling), LES MILLS GRIT™ (30-minute high-intensity interval training) and the revolutionary immersive cycle experience, THE TRIP™. Each workout is refreshed and updated with new choreography and music every three months.

 

Founded in New Zealand in 1968 by four-time Olympian Les Mills, the company has grown over the past 52 years to become a world-leader group fitness. Les Mills workouts are delivered by 140,000 certified instructors in 20,000 clubs across 100 countries and are available as live, virtual and immersive classes, as well as via the LES MILLS™ On Demand streaming platform.

 

 For more information visit https://www.lesmills.com/

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