Fitness Australia releases consumer research.

While the economic impact of gym closures, including recent lockdowns in Victoria, have been widely reported, research released by Fitness Australia today shows consumers missed going to the gym over any other activity including socialising and seeing family members, highlighting the central role gyms play in the day-to-day life of many Australians.

The Consumer Impact of Gym Closures – Assessing the Essential Need For Gyms Report, which surveyed more than 14,400 gym members from across Australia highlights the essential role of gyms in supporting the physical, emotional and mental health of the gym member population.

Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish said the research was conducted by independent strategic research agency 10 THOUSAND FEET to showcase the far reaching impact gym closures have had on the community, not just business owners and the 35,000 fitness professionals employed within the fitness industry.

Mr Elvish said:

“Gym closures and restrictions have effected people in many ways. We know too well the financial and emotional toll it has had on Fitness Australia members but to better understand the broader impact on the gym member population we commissioned this research, which has uncovered some alarming results.”

“When gym members were asked what they missed the most during lockdowns, going to the gym or their local fitness studio was the most missed activity – with a staggering 59% of respondents selecting it in their top 3 most missed activities. The yearning for a visit to the gym above all other activities, including seeing family members and socialising, highlights the vital role the gym plays in the life of so many people.

“The report also found the key goal for going to the gym was supporting and improving mental health with 83% of respondents rating this as a key goal.”

Analysis of the Consumer Impact of Gym Closures – Assessing the Essential Need For Gyms survey, which was conducted between 4 – 27 September found:

  •  A number of negative impacts on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing including:
  • Physical weight gain (47%), muscle loss (43%), a decreased overall sense of wellbeing (40%), increased stress/anxiety levels (35%), stamina loss (32%), a decreased sense of connection (25%) and experienced feelings of depression (16%)
  • 1 in 4 experienced a decreased sense of connection as a direct result of gym closures while 16% experienced depression
  • Highlighting the essential role gyms play in supporting physical, emotional and mental health
  • Almost 1 in 2 gym members experienced a decrease in the motivation to exercise (48%) during lockdown
  • Highlighting the vital role gyms play in keeping people motivated to exercise and on-track with their fitness goals
  • A significant decrease in training types, most notably strength/resistance training falling from 79% to 57%, followed by cardio and flexibility training
  • However, 77% of people said that their key fitness goal was building muscle/strength
  • A significant decline in the frequency of vigorous exercise during the COVID 19 lockdown period, with 83% engaging in this form of exercise at least once a week, compared to 95% pre-lockdown
  •  Showing concern around the Department of Health guidelines which state it is essential for adults aged 18-64 years to engage in 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity each week for optimal health and wellbeing
  • A significant decrease in the frequency of exercise versus before the COVID-19 lockdown period
  • Prior to the lockdown period 84% of members exercised at least 3 times a week. During lockdown this fell to 61%
  • An impacted feeling of safety when exercising outdoors, particularly amongst shift workers
  • 22% of the sample were shift workers who said the gym offered a safe and secure environment gyms compared to training outdoors.

Mr Elvish said getting people safely back to the gym was a priority for Fitness Australia to ensure better long-term outcomes for the whole community.

Mr Elvish said:

“In addition to the financial benefits of getting gyms back to the ‘new normal’, the essential role exercise plays in our overall health and mental wellbeing cannot be underestimated and it will become more apparent as people start to get back to a regular routine and lifestyle.”

“Gyms and the broader fitness industry will have a vital role in ensuring the ongoing health and wellbeing of Australians in years to come, not just as we recover from COVID-19.”