Are the group fitness classes at your gym keeping up with the latest trends? We outline nine ways in which group fitness (GX) classes have changed forever over recent years.
Trends In Group Fitness Classes
1. Virtual Group Fitness Classes Go Local
Virtual group fitness classes aren’t necessarily a new way to deliver fitness. The Wexer virtual fitness platform has been helping gyms maximise the yield of their GX studios for over a decade, but we have seen a shift of new trends and nuances in the way they are being delivered in the pandemic’s aftermath.
Members became accustomed to doing their favourite group fitness classes online with their favourite instructors and it also created a demand for content by the fitness club’s own trainers.
The trend began out-of-club, as the likes of Evolution Wellness partnered with Wexer to drive major uptake of its self-produced content via the Wexer ‘any time, anywhere’ digital platform. As members continue to seek the community aspect of their club environment, it makes sense for this self-produced content to find a home on the big screens of clubs’ virtual studios.
That’s why Wexer launched Virtual Connect in 2022, allowing clubs to upload their own content into the Wexer Player alongside the vast library of Wexer Wexer virtual fitness content to enable both on-demand and scheduled use.
Many times, the top GX classes in clubs have waitlists because they are so popular. What better way to ensure everyone gets to take part in your most popular group fitness classes led by your top stars?
2. Mobile Group Fitness Convenience
Even though members are returning to their health clubs, many companies still have hybrid work models. Health clubs and studios need to continue providing a hybrid virtual fitness model by offering members access to both physical or digital fitness. Members should be able to access virtual fitness any time, whether they are working out in the club, at home or on-the-go.
It’s why the Wexer Web Player mobile solution continues to be in demand with the large volume of virtual content. The Web Player has a new user-friendly design where every page is now highly responsive and able to adapt to larger screens, unleashing the content for maximum impact.
Alternatively, with our Wexer API and Wexer SDK, you can take whatever content you want from our library and put it straight into your own digital channels. We have curated a vast library of world-class virtual content with our global partners.
Whichever route you go, it’s about delivering what members expect with the flexibility and convenience of popular group fitness classes in members’ pockets.
3. The Rise Of Wellness
Wellness is arguably the hot trend right now, worth $1.5 trillion (USD) globally and growing at 5–10 percent annually, according to McKinsey research. Wellness is already a category we have been developing in our rich content library. In 2022, we brought in a wealth of new wellness-focused content: a Breathe channel, Stretch and Recover category, meditation, Sleep Stories by Sweat Factor, mind-body classes, and the snackable wellness breaks with Office Fit by Sweat Factor.
The uptake has been phenomenal and indicates a broader shift within the health and fitness industry, where end users now appreciate the value of a holistic approach to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
We’ll continue to place a strong emphasis on wellness in 2023, making the development of this category a key focus of our content strategy this year.
4. Strength And Functional Fitness Classes
A quick glance at the latest global fitness trends by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) shows a strong and continued demand for functional training, bodyweight training, HIIT and free weights.
Over recent years, we’ve seen this demand change the entire face of the fitness floor, with large, eye-catching functional zones being created in highly visible locations. These spaces aren’t just used for personal training and independent workouts: they are also the home of popular small group personal training classes. These classes allow for a higher level of personal attention than traditional group fitness classes and less expense than one-on-one personal training.
In fact, the approach has become so popular, we’re seeing health clubs around the world expand these zones, spawning a new generation of small group fitness classes that reach and even exceed attendance in many GX studios. There really is nothing quite like it for creating a buzz in the gym!
5. Boutique Expectations
When the boutique studio sector reached critical mass a few years back, it challenged big box health clubs around the world to up their game for group fitness classes.
First, boutiques set new expectations of flexibility, selling packages of classes rather than forcing memberships and contracts. They acknowledged people’s busy schedules and their desire to mix and match, and fitness consumers warmly welcomed this fresh approach.
But perhaps even more crucial for the big boxes, boutiques set new expectations in terms of the member experience. They continue to push the boundaries today, investing in wow factor facilities, superstar instructors and jaw-dropping AV systems.
Increasingly, big box clubs are forced to compete or die with signature class launches and branded studios. Apply the boutique level of polish to your group fitness classes to meet member’s workout needs.
6. Data Driven Workouts vs Escapism And Fun
One interesting trend in group fitness classes today is the growing division of member participation and motivation, and the way classes are growing to meet these different trains of thought.
Indoor cycling is a great example of this, where on the one hand we’re seeing an explosion in rhythm cycling as the ‘party on a bike’ approach that SoulCycle trail blazed is now commonplace in studios around the world. It’s all about escapism and fun. The workout is almost secondary to the overall experience, and stats and data don’t get a look-in.
On the other hand, there’s a large group of exercisers who are interested in metrics, seeking performance data and evidence of progression. This has created other GX classes that are incorporating wearables and heart rate monitors, projecting performance data onto big screens, and motivating participants through challenges, personal targets, and leaderboards.
It will be interesting to see if and how this division continues to grow between technical, data-led group fitness classes and classes designed for escapism and fun.
7. Fusion Fitness
Fusion fitness has been around for a while now where group fitness classes bring together multiple disciplines in one workout. For example, there is a combination of pilates and boxing (or ‘piloxing’, as it’s known). We’re talking boutique pioneer Barry’s rolling out its RIDE x LIFT class which is a twist on its traditional class where indoor cycling replaces the treadmill.
Others are sure to follow and develop more varieties of fusion classes. They’re a great chance for operators to create signature experiences for their brands, as well as for members to take part in ‘more bang for their buck’ workouts that keep them engaged, give them a great all-round workout and offer high perceived value for money.
8. Outdoor Exercise
Here’s another one from the ACSM’s 2023 global fitness trends, which ranked outdoor exercise as trend #6.
Of course, the ACSM’s definition of outdoor exercise spans everything from hiking to running, cycling, paddleboarding, and kayaking. But with exercise moving outdoors for much of the pandemic, we saw many gyms take their group fitness classes outdoors. A good proportion of these GX classes have remained, as members have appreciated not just the physical but also the mental health benefits of exercising in the great outdoors.
9. Virtual Fitness Is Hot
Virtual content is where the money now is, so it’s hardly surprising that everyone from celebrities to media networks are generating fitness content, with the focus generally on group fitness classes. In short, group exercise is no longer the exclusive domain of traditional fitness providers.
Yet, as noted in trend #1, clubs still have a major advantage with their in-house superstars. Group exercise instructors have been key to member loyalty and building communities of enthusiastic followers. Now they’ve become even stronger over recent years with the virtual GX classes.
If you’re not taking advantage of virtual and mobile fitness content, move with the times by creating content fronted by your own local instructors. Stay relevant even in this fast-moving ‘me too’ market.
Find out how Wexer can keep your business ahead of the game when it comes to group exercise: email@example.com