This year, the fitness industry changed radically. So did the way we work out — we went from sweating in The Red Room to sweating in our studio apartments, while peering at a Zoom window on our computer screens. The move away from physical gyms has had huge repercussions on our exercise habits, and ClassPass's 2020 Trends Report, which is based on data from 30,000 studios, gyms, and wellness centers in 30 countries, calls out some of the most significant shifts.
The obvious: Streamed workouts are huge. But that's just the beginning. The class booking platform reported a giant increase in the number of people who claimed to workout at noon. In fact, lunch was the most popular time to exercise during the workweek — a first in the history of the ClassPass report.
The reason for this jump: More people are working from home and working out online, notes Julia Healey, director and head of account management at ClassPass. This combo eliminates all the barriers to a nooner. Virtual fitness classes allowed people to exercise steps away from their "offices" (read: WFH setups), without having to worry about coworkers seeing them all sweaty. “So many people have had to develop new routines during the past year, but a bright spot has been the option to sleep in a bit later and use commute time for activities such as fitness or spending more time with your kids at home,” Healey says.
There are some study-backed benefits to working out mid-day. Since you’ve probably already eaten breakfast, your blood sugar levels have had time to rise post-meal, making it easier to do high-intensity workouts, according to Anthony Hackney, PhD, professor of exercise physiology & nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in a previous interview with Refinery29. Plus, it can help you refocus. “[An afternoon workout] can help you get back in gear and be more present later on in the day,” health and fitness strategist Jay Cardiello previously told Refinery29.
The kinds of workouts people were most likely to book changed this year as well. Yoga's popularity rose by 25% compared to 2019, making it the most popular digital workout of the year. Healey says this shift probably occurred because folks were looking for something to decrease the pandemic stress.
“Yoga has been especially popular during the pandemic due to its restorative properties,” Healey says. “Many people say yoga relieves anxiety, puts a spotlight on controlled breathing, and helps to establish a routine. With so many people looking for ways to balance pandemic stress, it makes a lot of sense that yoga increased in popularity.”
In 2019, megaformer Pilates topped the charts, illustrating how much things have changed; few people have access to a megaformer these days, with many studios closed.
It's impossible to say whether any of these trends will continue into 2021; hopefully we won't still be cooped up in our own homes for the majority of next year, but if 2020 taught us anything, it's that we should expect the unexpected. Until then, exercise offers a great way to blow off some steam and stay centered — whether you're sneaking in a short run between conference calls, getting into down dog as the sun rises, or finishing your day with a quick whole-body workout. The most important thing? Do what feels good to you.