How COVID-19 changed fitness regime of Indians; Here’s what a survey revealed

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The social isolation enforced during the lockdown has had a major impact on the mental health of India’s fitness enthusiasts.

By Amaresh Ojha

The novel coronavirus outbreak has had a drastic impact on every aspect of daily life, whether personal or professional. But how has it impacted the health and wellness landscape? Gympik, answers this question with its the latest survey entitled COVID-19 Fitness Behaviour Survey. One of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, the survey draws insights from the responses of over 50,000 fitness enthusiasts from multiple regions. It maps the changes brought by the pandemic upon the fitness behaviour of the Indian consumer. The survey reveals several interesting trends related to holistic fitness, as well as novel challenges that the Indian fitness industry faces in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The paradigm-changing shift towards digital fitness

A significant finding of the survey details the future shape of a post-pandemic reality. The survey highlights how consumers have adopted digital fitness solutions to counter the physical restrictions posed by the pandemic.

The extended lockdown drove a massive surge in the demand for virtual classes for yoga (87%) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio workouts such as Zumba (72%), aerobics (67%), and pilates (22%). Moreover, an overwhelming 84% of fitness enthusiasts tried live-streaming fitness classes at least thrice during the lockdown – marking a significant increase over the corresponding numbers in 2019, which stood at 29%. During the lockdown, 77% of Indians also tried to stay fit by combining household chores with virtual classes and DIY home workout routines.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, it was the younger audiences who led this charge in the demand for virtual fitness. Consumers between 25 and 34 years of age were the most willing to adopt digital fitness solutions, with female users (60%) being more open to virtual classes than male users (40%). Major urban centres such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi/NCR dominated the country’s virtual fitness landscape, with 58%, 46%, and 42% of their surveyed residents working out at least 3-4 times a week, respectively.

Going back to the gym: Concerns, possible solutions, and the way ahead

The survey also analysed consumers’ enthusiasm toward resuming gym workouts – with strong sanitisation, social distancing, and spot temperature checks emerging as the key areas of concern.

While 20% of the respondents were eager to return to gyms, only 8% felt it was safe enough to do so in the current situation. Around 93% of the surveyed fitness enthusiasts also expressed their doubts about sanitisation measures taken at physical fitness centres after the lockdown.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of members said they would be more comfortable at the gym with additional sanitiser dispensers in the workout area, while 87% felt regular temperature check-ins along with contactless payments and attendance systems would make them feel safer.

As gym owners gear up to resume operations, implementing better on-premise sanitisation can help them allay such concerns and get their business back to pre-pandemic levels. With customers also open to continue paying for digital fitness post-lockdown, they can also look at implementing hybrid physical/digital memberships to make their business more viable, sustainable, and future-ready.

Holistic health in the pandemic: The challenges and solutions

The social isolation enforced during the lockdown has had a major impact on the mental health of India’s fitness enthusiasts. Almost two-thirds (64%) of the respondents felt that the COVID-19 situation has worsened their mental health, with 45% of them admitting to being more anxious and 37% feeling more sadness than before.

But Indians are also proactively working to address these challenges. Meditation and mindfulness apps have found favour with fitness enthusiasts across the country during the lockdown, with 42% of the respondents using them at least once every two days.

More than half of the surveyed audience (55%) were also exercising at least 3-4 days a week – a big change from their pre-COVID-19 exercise behaviour. A significant majority (74%) worked out to build their immunity, while 53% of working professionals exercised to reduce health-related risks.

“We are living in extraordinary times, with the entire world in the grip of an unprecedented healthcare crisis. It is only natural that holistic wellness has become a non-negotiable priority. Through this survey, we wanted to understand how Indian fitness seekers are dealing with the physical limitations imposed by the lockdown. We have also dug deeper into the larger fitness landscape, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic, to identify the challenges it faces, as well as possible solutions. Through these findings, can empower owners of gyms and fitness centres with the insights they need to strengthen their business,” The survey claimed, adding it will help building a diverse and value-driven fitness ecosystem that caters to the specific needs of all stakeholders and paves the way for a fitter and healthier India.

(The author is the Founder & CEO of Gympik. Views expressed are personal.)

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