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What Does the Year Hold For India's Fitness Sector? India's fitness industry is rapidly transforming and is expected to reach $32 billion by the next year

By Amaresh Ojha

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The viral outbreak threw the importance of maintaining one's physical as well as mental wellbeing into sharper relief. As people across the country grew conscious of their health and immunity, this newfound focus motivated people to consider fitness as an essential ingredient to ensure a better, healthier life. Amid the extended lockdowns, they shifted their stance towards exercising in favour of sustainable fitness by incorporating any form of activity into their lifestyle. Even those who did not commit to a rigorous fitness regime, opted for mini-workouts, yoga, walking, or jogging to stay fit.

Market research corroborates this evolution in the mindset and sensibilities of the Indian populace. Compared to the 2019 survey wherein only 26 per cent of Indians pursued yoga, 11 per cent cardio exercises, and 10 per cent body-weight exercises, the 2020 data showed an almost 60 per cent increase in all the activities. Besides the surging consciousness to look after one's health, the pandemic-indued boom of convenient and on-demand virtual services also contributed to this development.

As gym owners and fitness centres took their services online, they made it easier for Indians to include fitness as a part of their weekly schedules. The result? 84 per cent of Indians tried online fitness classes at least thrice during the first lockdown; in the pre-pandemic days, only 29 per cent of the population preferred an online fitness module. Recent studies suggest that Indian millennials are spending an average of INR 4,000 every month on wellness services and products.

Owing to factors like convenience, flexibility, and accessibility, virtual fitness services are expected to stay in the game in the long run. However, the future is undeniably hybrid. Modern fitness centres in India are expected to combine the best of physical and digital modules to deliver enhanced and easily accessible experiences to fitness enthusiasts. This trend will see Indians take their fitness journeys to the next level. Here's looking at some of the top developments that will dominate the industry in the coming years.

Mind and body training

Staying indoors and working through screens during the extended lockdowns has been a suffocating experience universally. To tackle the frustration and exhaustion, people began to accommodate fitness and wellness activities into their schedules to focus on both physical and mental wellbeing. This change in focus has both been enabled and facilitated by advanced fitness and wellness apps.

These easily navigable AI-based apps helped fitness enthusiasts to design and follow personalized fitness plans, including nutrition plans, High Intense Interval Training (HIIT), workout modules, sleep cycles, and meditation schedules, among others. Market research shows that such apps were downloaded the most by Indians between Q1 and Q2 of 2020, amounting to a 156 per cent increase in downloads. Going forward, as more people make space in their schedules for fitness and wellness, this number is only going to increase.

In-person training will make a strong comeback

Despite the exponential growth of virtual fitness, in-person training is unlikely to be fully replaced. Even as people transitioned their focus and attention from physical fitness to online wellness, people crave the experience of face-to-face engagement and coaching that no technology can simulate. Market research has noted the recovery of sales growth at physical gyms since June 2020. The verdict is clear. People still favour going to fitness centres to pursue their fitness goals. Some of the reasons for this preference include the presence of equipment at gyms, the ability to directly ask fitness professionals for guidance, and the joy of working out with fellow fitness enthusiasts. Not just that, at-home personal training may become a thing as people who don't want to opt for personal training at gym can continue at their home gym set-up or community gym.

Virtual and immersive fitness

Besides tech devices to improve personal fitness, 2022 will see people engaging with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)-based technologies for more immersive fitness experiences. This breakthrough will largely be accelerated by the launch of Metaverse, a shared virtual space created by Meta Platforms. Through its interactive training games, fitness enthusiasts will be able to pursue a mix of fitness exercises such as boxing, dancing, meditation, and sword fighting, without compromising on upbeat music and refreshing ambiences. Moreover, while exercising in the Metaverse, users will be able to schedule group workout training, cycle events, and running sessions with friends from all around the world.

India's fitness industry is rapidly transforming and is expected to reach $32 billion by the next year. With a new variant of the virus projected to reach 1.5 lakh cases by February 2022, the industry is poised to witness another spike in the adoption of digital and virtual fitness services. These trends will encourage fitness enthusiasts to pursue their fitness goals from both the comfort of their homes and on the go, taking fitness towards a more personalized and immersive future.

Amaresh Ojha

Business Head, RoundGlass Gympik

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