FITNESS: Is the fitness industry mortally wounded?

Fitness at home has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic

These are challenging times for the fitness industry, writes personal trainer Ron Cain. (

These are challenging times for the fitness industry, writes personal trainer Ron Cain. (

Ron Cain | Contributed

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the entire economy very hard, and now the advancing fourth wave has delivered another blow to the fitness industry.

A massive movement working from home, with the potential for permanently changing the characteristics of the workforce, has led to an unprecedented number of resignations as a result of people wanting to focus on quality of life.

Fitness at home has exploded to the point that exercise equipment is often back-ordered. Advancements in computer technology and interactive programming have led to an explosion in the use of high-tech bikes and treadmills where users can tap into live classes while in the comfort of their own homes.

ALSO READ: Building muscle is more important than cardio for older adults

Have all of these changes been positive for everyone? I don’t believe that because going to the gym, especially for older adults, has always been a social event. For more than a decade, I trained at the YMCA, and everyone knew each other and helped each other. For another decade as YMCA staff, it was a fantastic social milieu where members genuinely bonded with each other and created mini support networks.

Is working from home and exercising from home too much isolation? In my opinion, for most people, it may contribute to anxiety and depression.

Exercise is more than the science of sets and reps or how many miles you can run on a treadmill. The social benefits are often overlooked.

When I managed the YMCA marathon clinic, we had close to 300 participants and 30 volunteer leaders. To me, the highlight of the day was getting together at Smitty’s for a Grand Slam breakfast.

For many, however, they are unlikely ever to go back to the gym. More than 20 per cent of gyms will close or already have. The big chain gyms such as Golds are shuttering many of their locations with no plan to re-open. A study in 2021 reported that 20 per cent of gym users have no intention of ever going back.

Has COVID changed everything? Absolutely.

Older adults are the most cautious about returning to their gyms for two reasons: the reluctance of gyms to require proof of vaccination from their members and the high percentage of people 18 to 35 that use gyms – the age group seeing the most significant increase in COVID cases.

Adults over age 55 often have the resources to equip their homes with a gym. Older adults are typically cautious about getting back into group situations.

The fitness industry will recover, fewer gyms to choose from, and how they conduct business will be changed forever. In the meantime, manufacturers of exercise equipment and retailers are smiling.


Ron Cain is the owner of Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at or find him on Facebook at Sooke Personal Training.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

FitnessSookeWest Shore