How has COVID-19 Impacted the Health and Fitness Sector?

Gyms in the UK opened up again (after what felt like FOREVER!) on 12 April 2021, but how has a year of social distancing and lockdown closures affected the health and fitness sector?

Pre COVID-19

Cast your minds back to January 2020, when the world had started to become aware of COVID-19 but the impacts were not felt in the UK yet. Leisure facilities were reporting a strong start to the year and in fact found that weekly participation was reporting higher levels than the equivalent weeks (week 1 – week 8) in 2019. However, from week 9 those participation levels started to reduce and by week 11 (when the first full lockdown was announced) there was a 45% reduction for swimming and 56% reduction for gym.

During the lockdowns

So, what happened next? Well, as most will remember, the nation started buying gym and fitness equipment for their homes. Sales of weights equipment were four times greater in week 13 (early April) than the weekly average for 2020. If you weren’t quick enough, you soon felt the sting of sold-out messages on most online sites.

Activity levels reported to remain quite stable through the first lockdown which was largely helped by the availability of online classes and only being allowed to leave your house for physical activity. Walking became the most popular activity (helped by the fabulous weather we had), with cycling also growing in popularity and of course the trusty home workout.

However, from July 2020 it has felt like a game of hokey-pokey in the UK… we’ve been in and out of tier restrictions and lockdowns more times than anyone would have liked. Just as you get your fitness routine back on track again, it’s back to our homes we go! With the decline in weather over the winter months it is no surprise that most of the nation have felt unmotivated this year.

All is not lost though, for the first time in 2021, the leisure centres and gyms can FINALLY open their doors again! Let’s hope this time it’s for good.

So where does that put the health and fitness sector now, one year on?

Well according to IBISWorld’s analysts, due to frozen memberships during the periods of closure, it is expected that revenue will decline by 40.2%.

With 1.7 million people reported to now be unemployed (the highest figure for five years) according to the Office for National Statistics, household income reductions can also be an attributing factor to anticipated revenue decline within the health and fitness sector.


Pre COVID-19 and during the lockdown statistics taken from ukactive’s COVID-19 Impact report:

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