Consumers are finding new ways to seek a healthier lifestyle

By our News Team | 2022

Gym-going habits have fallen due to the pandemic, but more people seem determined to pursue physical activities.

Two years into the global pandemic, there has arguably never been a greater emphasis on the value of a healthy lifestyle. However, lockdowns, social distancing and other protocols have seriously curbed people’s abilities to routinely go to gym and to participate in activities that keep them healthier and physically active on a regular basis.

In South Africa, as was the case globally, gym memberships crashed and there were widespread closures and resultant job losses in the fitness industry. 

But now there are new trends to unpack for marketers and brands targeting the health and fitness market – whether it be equipment, apparel, different training options, or club memberships.

BrandMapp, a comprehensive survey of middle-income South Africans has captured the Covid-era routines and opinions of people living in households with a R10 000-plus (US$650-plus) monthly income.

Lifestyle Trends

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Brandon de Kock, BrandMapp Director of Storytelling says: “Since we started measuring the lifestyle of middle-class-and-up South Africans, the gym has always played a significant role in the pursuit of healthier living.  Pre-pandemic, in 2019, we measured 31% of adults being ‘interested in gym’ with 22% actually partaking in gym activity. We also found that 31% of people didn’t do any exercise. 

Less gym-going, but more exercising

“Fast-forward to the beginning of 2021, and we found 26% of adults said they were ‘interested in gym’ with just 19% actually taking part. However, the percentage of adults who say they do not do any exercise dropped to 26%.”

According to De Kock, these changing habits could well become future trends for the health and fitness sector in the country.

“This data reveals a ‘Covid moment’ where we wanted to stay fit and exercise in some way. Adding to the challenge for gyms was that we were already in an economic downturn when Covid hit and many mid-income adults took an economic beating,” he says.

“It stands to reason that a monthly gym contract would be easy to live without, even temporarily, if you’re trying to trim down a household budget. And you can replace it with free physical activities, such as walking out the front door into the sunshine or hiking in the fresh air.”

BrandMapp’s trended view of the active sports undertaken in 2021 shows clearly how walking and hiking leapt in popularity. Gym training has yet to its former popularity and sports such as golf, which allow for better social distancing than team games like soccer or rugby, were on the rise.

De Kock says this is another indication that mid-income South Africans were open to what was available during Covid in order to maintain their physical activity.

“Drilling down into the details of gym membership over 2021, we can see that despite Virgin Active losing members across its worldwide markets during the Covid-era, it remains the leading gym brand in the country, claiming 34% of gym memberships,” he states.

 “However, it should be noted that, together, the independent and private gym operators dominate with a combined 42% of the market.”