Fresh Fitness Thinking: 10 Things we Learned in 2022

Fresh fitness thinking: 10 things we learned in 2022
By Jak Phillips

By Jak Phillips


After two years of pandemic-driven turmoil, 2022 saw the dust finally start to settle and the outlines of a new fitness landscape emerge. Spanning cutting-edge tech, societal shifts and evolving consumer behaviors, we look back through the most-read Fit Business articles from the past 12 months to spotlight 10 lessons we learned in 2022.



With a global recession and cost-of-living crisis looming large, consumers are scrutinising all of their direct debits and working out which they can do without. Despite this, numerous 2022 reports have indicated the overwhelming majority intend to stick with their wellbeing outlays.


MindBody’s 2022 Fitness Report – based on insights from 16,000 Americans – found 78% of consumers believe their wellness is more important than ever, with the community aspect of wellness offerings cited as a key driver. Meanwhile, an Accenture report using data from 11,000 consumers in 16 countries found that although 66% of respondents were feeling ‘squeezed financially’, 80% planned to maintain or even expand their health and fitness spending in the next year.


So how can operators capitalize? With budgets being squeezed, clubs can make a compelling pitch for consumers’ full fitness spend by offering an Omnifitness membership that negates the need for a digital fitness subscription to supplement their in-club workouts.


Whether offering digital workouts as a membership upsell in a similar vein to LA Fitness and Esporta, or baking them into your core membership offering to provide added value like these Gold’s Gyms, digital holds the key to increasing yield in a challenging market. By offering members an Omnifitness service that covers their workout needs in-club and at-home, operators build firm foundations for increasing membership prices without overly upsetting members, as they can clearly demonstrate the added value they’re providing.




After years of aspiring to reach ‘beyond the four-walls’ of the club, the digital advances operators made during the pandemic means many now have the ability to truly own their members’ entire fitness journey, whether in-club or out-of-club.


The retention benefits are two-fold. The extended reach from their digital offerings means clubs can do more to motivate members in between each club visit and maintain their exercise habit, while it also reduces the risk that members’ heads will be turned by rival online fitness offerings.


For operators, maximizing this opportunity requires a total reimagination of the member journey and how we measure engagement. Instead of simply tracking club attendances, operators are looking holistically at all the touchpoints a member has with their facility – including home workouts via the club’s digital offering, and even use of the club app – to accurately assess member engagement and take actions to enhance this.


“As fitness providers, we have to cheer for healthy members, not cheer for them to work out a certain way. Whatever way we can cheer for you to do that, we’re going to do it, even if it’s outside the club,” explains Princeton Club President Andy Haugen.


“We have incredible instructor-led programming within our clubs, Video On Demand classes in our studios, and at-home options for members, to really encompass a 360-degree offering. And if you can tie that back to your brand, and members associate their results with the brand, it makes total sense and becomes a powerful retention tool.”




We all know the impact that great Instructors have on a club’s membership, but they’re becoming increasingly hard to find. Amid a global labor shortage, clubs face significant challenges recruiting Instructors, yet HealthQuest in New Jersey, US, has people queuing up to grace their group fitness stages. So what’s their secret?


For HealthQuest Group Fitness Director Linda Romaine, it’s all about culture.


“We place a huge emphasis on having fun and supporting each other as a team of Instructors, and aside from having an awesome time, the upshot is that it creates a joyful environment that people want to be a part of,” Linda explains.


“We’ve got 66 Instructors on the payroll currently, and roughly 80 percent of them were members here who then were inspired to become Instructors.”


Back in May, Linda shared her top 7 tips for recruiting great Instructors and cultivating a culture that empowers them to excel.




In June, a new study compared exertion and enjoyment levels between a live class in the gym and the same workout done at home, bringing hard facts to the hotly-contested live vs digital debate.


Believed to be the first of its kind, the pilot study from the Les Mills Research Lab compared a BODYCOMBAT class in a gym setting with livestream and Video on Demand (VOD) sessions following the same release at home. Participants’ average heart rate was 14 percent higher during the gym class compared to the livestream and VOD sessions, despite being the exact same class format and release.


As well as motivating them to work harder, the in-club workout was rated by participants as being 13 percent more enjoyable and 14 percent more satisfying than the two digital workouts.


Researchers believe the greater intensity and more positive perceptions of a club-based class can be attributed to what they call ‘Groupness’. The term was coined after previous research from Penn State University found that people in live group exercise classes experience increased levels of individual exertion, enjoyment, and satisfaction as a result of exercising together in a studio, particularly when their movements are synchronized.




Now may be the most competitive and turbulent period in club history, but the core principles still apply. Ours remains first and foremost a motivation business – people could exercise anywhere, yet they come to clubs for motivation. With this in mind, providing compelling fitness experiences that give great results is essential to keeping members coming back for more. And if the pre-pandemic rise of boutiques taught us anything, it’s that people still see value in exercise and are willing to pay up to US$30 per class for a truly great experience.


So what are the key points to consider when bringing a boutique offering into your club?


Legendary operator Jaci Griffin, Manager of Les Mills New Lynn in New Zealand and a fitness veteran of 35-years, has first-hand experience in this field. In early 2022 she transformed under-utilized space in her mid-market club into a boutique studio to kickstart a COVID recovery and compete with the string of F45s and other boutique offerings that had sprung up nearby. In June, Jaci shared her 6 key learnings for leveraging boutique demand to build your club back better.



Great studio design is essential for elevating the in-club experience and inspiring members to march through your doors. So what does it take to create an awe-inspiring space that members can’t wait to sweat in?


With more workout options available than ever before, providing compelling fitness experiences that give great results is essential to keeping members coming back for more. Group workouts are the most experiential and motivating activities a club can offer, so creating a killer environment for them is essential to pulling in the crowds. Based on key insights and expert advice, we shared 7 key insights in July for how stunning studio design can drive the success of your club.




Attracting new prospects and driving engagement among current members is getting tougher for clubs. Competition is intense, membership recovery targets are huge, and marketing resources have been stripped back. Fortunately, there’s an easy-to-implement tactic that’s helping savvy clubs to win.


Club operators and fitness professionals across the globe have mastered the art of connecting with members on the gym floor. But in many cases, these deep and valuable connections do not extend beyond the gym’s four walls. There’s been a substantial shift in decision-making behavior and now the majority of purchase decisions begin online – so the need to create strong digital connections is critical.


Using high-quality articles and video assets to grow your brand can fast-track member engagement, retention and acquisition. It can also strengthen your social media footprint and increase your Google search ranking – and it costs less than traditional marketing efforts. Content marketing can generate over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62 percent less.


This type of cost-effective engagement can help clubs overcome dwindling marketing budgets and soaring acquisition targets to navigate the new fitness landscape with aplomb. In August, we shared top tips for getting started.




In September, leading club operators from around the world shared their top tips for driving member motivation by drawing on group workouts, inspiring events, and social media tactics.

What’s the best-kept secret for driving member retention?



As some of the group’s largest facilities in the US, Gold’s Gym Newburgh and Middletown in New York are renowned for embracing innovation to stay ahead. In November, Owner and managing partner Don Murphy explained how his Omnifitness approach is driving growth and attracting younger members, offering advice for how fellow operators can do the same.


“The key is to decide which digital platform makes sense for you,” says Murphy. “I know a lot of fitness facilities are trying to build their own digital offering – literally custom-building the programming, the digital streaming and all the mechanics behind that. But that’s a big undertaking and it’s very expensive to do properly. So we assessed the situation and decided it made better sense to partner with a professional digital platform. One that works best for our members and for us as a business, which we’ll then deliver to a very high standard.


“I often talk to operators who hesitate to offer other people’s products and want to do everything themselves in the name of differentiation. And I tell them that a great fitness operator is someone who identifies best in class across a number of different categories in the fitness world and then implements their systems better than anyone else in the market. It’s not about trying to create everything on your own, it’s about system implementation. That’s what makes the difference – and it’s been key to our success.”




2022 was a breakthrough year for virtual reality (VR) as growing adoption and greater choice of headset helped catapult VR into the mainstream. META’s Quest 2 VR headset remains the dominant player, but TikTok owner ByteDance has recently launched its own PICO headset with a strong focus on the China market, while both Playstation and Apple are expected to launch VR headsets in 2023, fueling further growth.


In just eight months, BODYCOMBAT VR became the world’s best-selling fitness VR game as Les Mills transported the popular martial arts program into the metaverse for a thrilling gamified workout.


In the short term, perhaps the biggest boon of the metaverse will be helping fitness brands connect with new audiences, laying the foundations for future engagement both online and in-club.


By creating a presence in the metaverse, either flying solo or through partnerships, clubs have the opportunity to broaden their appeal and take their services to a much wider (and typically younger) audience. The BODYCOMBAT VR launch was notable for the amount of interest generated among the gaming community, with dozens of Youtubers and Twitch stars reviewing the game on their channels.


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 offer participants 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.


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