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Covid-19 and the subsequent pandemic responses were devastating to people around the globe and to many industries. It also brought many changes to the fitness industry and shed light on old problems. Therefore, gym owners and fitness professionals need to adapt to these changes. This blog highlights the challenges and opportunities facing the fitness industry.

Current Challenges

There are several challenges that the fitness industry is currently facing. For one, Americans’ state of health is a total disaster. Not only that but COVID worsened the chronic disease epidemic and made people more reluctant to attend fitness facilities. Here are the top challenges facing the fitness industry:

Americans’ Health

Chronic Diseases

A main challenge facing the fitness industry is the pervasiveness of chronic disease. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory conditions are major health challenges that are linked to lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking.

  • 60% of U.S. adults suffer from at least one chronic disease
  • 40% suffer from multiple chronic conditions.

Overweight and Obese Population

The U.S. faces an epidemic where three-quarters of the population is considered overweight or obese. This contributes to a range of health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

  • 20% of children and adolescents are considered obese
  • 42.4% of adults are obese and among those, 9.2% are severely obese
  • Another 30.7% of adults are overweight

[People who have a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, those with a BMI between 30 and 39.9 are obese, while those with a BMI of 40 or higher are severe obesity]


Another challenge is sedentarism. Most people know that they should follow the recommended Physical Activity Guidelines in order to avoid disease but the lack of physical activity is pervasive across all genders and ages.

Mental Health

Nowadays, more people than ever report feeling mental distress. Not only that but the Surgeon General has declared that we have an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. Plus the number of people with mental illness keeps growing:

  • 34% of young adults (aged 18-25 years), 28% of adults (aged 26-49 years), and 15% of people aged 50 and older have a mental illness [a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that impacts their life mildly to severely]
  • 11% of young adults (aged 18-25 years), 7% of adults (aged 26-49 years), and 2.5% of people over 50 years of age have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness [a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment]

Fitness Industry’s Approach

A huge challenge facing the fitness industry is its own approach. Over the years, the fitness industry’s approach has been stuck in just addressing the body through exercise. This widespread trend has been influenced by societal perceptions of beauty. This narrow emphasis sets unrealistic definitions of the “perfect body,” often portraying the exemplary male with a lean and muscular body and the female with a skinny body.

The fitness industry’s approach has mainly been to concentrate on body aesthetics. This perspective has neglected other factors involved in having a fit body such as mental wellness and overall health. It has led to the promotion of extreme dieting, excessive exercise, and even unhealthy behaviors in pursuit of this ideal, leaving the consumer disillusioned, unfulfilled, frustrated, with unattained goals, and not physically or mentally well.

Changes in Consumers & the Fitness Industry


A more current challenge facing the fitness industry has taken place due to Covid and the lockdowns, which created many changes in consumers’ behavior. On one hand, people have become more aware of the importance of being in good health. On the other hand, people were unable to attend fitness facilities and engaged in online fitness solutions. Later on, people who continued to be fearful of the virus or got comfortable exercising from home remained unwilling to exercise in public places.

  • According to health club industry data & consumer reports, 90% of Americans who regularly exercise increased their physical activity from home during the pandemic.
  • Nearly 38% of consumers started using online workout services during COVID and plan to continue using them in the future.
  • 75% of fitness consumers use at least one health and fitness app.

The Fitness Industry

Covid and subsequent lockdowns not only affected consumers but gym owners, fitness professionals, and the fitness industry overall experienced tremendous changes.

  • 47% of the fitness labor force in the U.S. lost their jobs due to lockdowns
  • 58% of trainers lost some or all of their income unless they shifted to training clients online
  • Gyms and fitness studios across the country were shut down for months and more than 38,000 facilities closed

COVID intensified consumer demand for connected health, preventive, & chronic disease solutions.

Opportunities and Solutions

The challenges delineated above also represent opportunities for personal trainers, coaches, gym owners, and others involved in the fitness industry. Having so many members of our society who are overweight, deconditioned, and chronically diseased means that there is a huge pool of people who needs help. At the same time, the changes seen in consumer behavior and the fitness industry mean that solutions require the incorporation of connected health, preventive care, and online technology.

Here are some solutions for the fitness industry:

  • Body Positivity: The industry should stop focusing on appearance – an ideal body type and unrealistic beauty standards. The opportunity here is to emphasize self-acceptance and the adoption of healthy behaviors.
  • Functional Fitness: The industry should continue to promote fitness as a means to improve overall health, functionality, and quality of life, rather than just aesthetics.
  • Personalized Plans: Due to our uniqueness, the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Goals should be set taking into account each individual’s needs and current states of health and fitness. The fitness industry’s opportunity is to focus on individualized objectives for clients. Plus, they should be encouraged to concentrate on personal progress and celebrate small improvements rather than comparing themselves to unrealistic ideals.
  • Mental Health: More professionals are aware of the connection between physical and mental health. Recognizing this association is essential for overall well-being and the long-term accomplishment of goals.
  • Online Technology: Due to the virus and lockdowns, consumers increased their engagement in online platforms. The online fitness industry is expected to experience a 171.75% growth between now and 2028, with an average growth rate of 33.10% per year. The global online/virtual fitness market size is expected to grow from $11.39 billion in 2021 to $79.87 billion in 2026. This demand is a huge opportunity for the fitness industry.
  • Shift Towards Health: Due to the global health scare, there has been a noticeable shift in the fitness industry’s approach. The opportunity and solution for fitness professionals and organizations are to concentrate on promoting health, preventative care, and overall wellness.
  • Holistic/Integrative Approach: Ultimately, the solution for the fitness industry is to incorporate a holistic approach to fitness. This considers not only the body and exercise but health and overall well-being, taking into consideration mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. This approach involves detoxification, organic nutrition, hormonal balance, supplementation, mindfulness, recovery, and stress management alongside traditional fitness routines.

The fitness industry is facing more challenges than ever since the world has been rapidly changing. Personal trainers, coaches, gym owners, and the fitness industry as a whole should view these challenges as opportunities and evolve accordingly. As a result, they should stay up to date on consumers’ behaviors, current trends, and best practices in order to help facilitate long-term change in their clients. By incorporating a holistic and integrative approach the fitness industry can have a positive impact that promotes overall well-being through the adoption of client-centered coaching, health and preventative tools, and online technologies.

To a Fitter Healthier You,

Adriana Albritton

The Fitness Wellness Mentor

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