The group exercise experts predict what will be hot in the studio and beyond

EMD UK, the national governing body for group exercise, has released its predictions for the ever-growing phenomenon of group exercise in 2019.

Nearly four million more people participated in group exercise in 2018 than in 2016*, with group exercise one of the most popular pathways into physical activity for previously inactive people.

The EMD UK team shares its thoughts ahead of an exciting 2019 for the fitness industry.

1. HOLISTIC CLASSES WILL BE THE MOST POPULAR GROUP CLASS FORMAT

EMD UK’s 2018 National Fitness Survey showed that between 2016 and 2018, weekly yoga participants increased by over half a million.

“People are recognising the need for conscious rest and mindfulness and there is a wealth of yoga options to choose from, just as there is with high intensity exercise classes. Healthy lifestyles are now perceived beyond just physical and mental health and also encompass the more holistic concept of wellness.

As with any exercise, yoga doesn’t present a one-size-fits-all approach and there are options out there to benefit everyone. People associate a gym or studio timetable with being predominantly filled with spinning or circuits classes but there are options right across the spectrum.

We predict that this will become increasingly significant throughout 2019 as yoga and meditation allow people to find an escape from their time-poor lives and an opportunity to relax and de-stress.

Pilates is just behind yoga in popularity and also offers a range of options with the focus more on physical exercise to build core strength and enhance flexibility. With such wide-ranging benefits, we would encourage everyone to include a holistic option in their regular training programme.”

2. FITNESS IS BECOMING MORE OF A LIFESTYLE CHOICE AND THE NEW ‘GOING OUT’

2019 could see a further increase in gyms and studios being created in less traditional environments. High street retailers such as Sweaty Betty have introduced in-store studios to enhance the appeal of stores and this is all part of the movement of fitness becoming a lifestyle.

“This is a particular trend among younger audiences, indicated by the fall in popularity of the famed Club 18-30 holidays. Instead, people are increasingly going on active holidays, fitness and wellness retreats or simply saving money to go to a group exercise class and have a smoothie with their friends.

In many ways, fitness is becoming the new ‘going out’. You can’t go into a high street coffee chain without the option of healthy smoothies and it shows that fitness isn’t just about going to the gym four or five time a week, it’s a complete lifestyle which impacts throughout our day-to-day lives.”

3. VIRTUAL TRAINING WILL SECURE ITS PLACE IN THE MARKET

EMD UK believes virtual training will assert its place in the industry as a starting point for people beginning their fitness journey. In the era of ‘on-demand’ it also negates the issue of instructor-led classes being at a time that doesn’t suit someone’s lifestyle or being fully booked.

“The main benefit is convenience and with so many people embracing wearable technology and having a library of workouts available on their smartphone, the prospect of more people getting active is very exciting for us.

While it may look like its coming at the expense of a live, instructor-led class, it could also be seen to complement this. Initially working out in a virtual environment in their home gives people the confidence to transition into live classes and embrace the benefits of personal feedback on form and technique which they can’t access virtually.

Virtual also offers a solution for operators with empty studios during off peak times and participants who can’t or prefer not to access facilities at peak times. There is definitely a key role for virtual training in the market but in our view you can’t beat the experience of a live class led by a great instructor.”

4. OVER 50s MARKET WILL THRIVE

EMD UK’s 2018 National Fitness Survey also showed that the over-45 market was by far the fastest growing age group, with an additional 1.1 million weekly group exercise participants between 2016 and 2018.

“This age group is now the ‘core’ of the group exercise market and as the population as a whole is living and being active longer, operators and brands need to consider how they market their age specific options. Over 50s fitness is mainstream fitness and this age group arguably doesn’t need its own offer or identity. Age specific offers can be viewed as outdated and in some cases discriminatory. Consider instead a suitable beginner group exercise offering and a generally wide and therefore inclusive timetable.”

5. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EDUCATED FITNESS PROFESSIONALS

A view which is shared by the recent 2019 ACSM Survey of Fitness Trends is the growing importance of employing qualified and skilled group exercise instructors. Both from an enjoyment standpoint for participants and a gym’s insurance point of view, it’s vital that members are being given correct guidance.

There are more fitness qualifications available than ever, including the new Level 2 Group Training Qualification, developed by EMD UK, which equips instructors with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively deliver the diverse range of group exercise experiences currently on the market.

“We predict that gyms and fitness facilities will place a greater emphasis on this to enhance their members’ experience. Good quality group exercises instructors and varied class timetables are a key differentiator in a crowded market and recruiting the right people will be key in setting them apart from their competitors.”

* EMD UK (2018) – Group Exercise National Survey