Have you found yourself wanting to get away from the yoga mat or Peloton that sits in your dim basement? Is the scene at home a bit too crowded with family working remotely, or young children trying to nap? Do you find yourself passing by a gym or pool and telling yourself that tomorrow is the day you join?

Well, you’re not alone. Turns out, the Peloton or your yoga mat did not replace the gym.

If we use the average monthly workouts of Peloton subscribers as a proxy for how many times people work out at home, it becomes clear that home workouts peaked at the height of the pandemic. But this is now dropping, and those who have paid a good penny for home equipment are gradually going back to the gym.

The latest research from Empathy and Vividata suggests that the pandemic has caused fitness to become a necessity for most folks. Many respondents (53 per cent) say the pandemic has increased their desire to spend money and time on physical fitness. What’s most interesting is that this desire has happened across all socio-economic classes. For example, it is true for those who have identified themselves as being financially precarious (66 per cent versus 47 per cent of those who say they are comfortable in their finances).

This presents the biggest opportunity for the fitness industry. I believe the industry is at the cusp of a major boom—despite the looming economic downturn. Yes, people will tighten their belts as the economy slows, but after two years of the pandemic, fitness—mental and physical—has now gone from a luxury to a necessity.


The pandemic has changed how we see and value our physical and mental health. For many, fitness is indispensable, based on three motivators.
Physical: Enhancing appearance; losing weight; gaining strength
Emotional: Managing stress; improving sleep
Social: Meeting new people; being part of the community

“The last few years have changed the way we look at our health and the role the gym plays in our lives,” says Sara Hodson, President of Fitness Industry Council of Canada. “Beyond a doubt, we place tremendous value in how social connection positively impacts our health.”

As much as fitness has become an essential part of everyone’s life, the choices for keeping fit have never been greater. At-home programs and equipment at various investment levels now directly compete with gym memberships. Some have already invested in a home gym and are comfortable with it, not wanting to return to fitness centres.

People seek fitness for three primary reasons: physical, emotional, and social. To cater to their clienteles’ needs, gyms must first understand their motivations and which factor is of utmost importance. For example, our research shows that people who feel insecure about their finances—especially as the economy turns around—indicate “fulfilling their emotional needs” as the top priority to be fit (31 per cent said yes versus 17 per cent said no to fulfilling their emotional needs. The balance had no comment).

Conversely, folks who feel secure about their finances prioritize physical reasons to go to the gym (64 per cent of financially comfortable folks prioritize physical motivators).

The issue of competing with home-gyms is at the top of the to-do list. Once again, our research suggests that there hasn’t been a gold rush towards home-gym purchases: investment in health/fitness equipment among Canadians just rose five points (from 25 per cent to 30 per cent).

But people have different motivations to leave the house and go to the gym. It all depends on their circumstances. For example, most people seeking a new partner have missed the fact that gyms are better motivators to work out and potentially meet someone. While most of those who are worried about their finances just want to get out of the house, they welcome the distraction.

“We know that what you can get at the gym is more than a workout. You get community, accountability, and human connection. All of these are core values we have realized are essential for not only sticking to a routine but improving our lives,” adds Hodson.

It goes without saying that fitness is an important part of our lives, and the research suggests that more people are coming to this realization. As a result, we can expect fitness options—gym or at home—to become even more accessible and customized
to individual preferences and lifestyle. Along with hybrid memberships, classes that are focused on holistic wellbeing—focusing on the mind and body—as well as “fun” group classes that incorporate a community vibe will become more prevalent.

You May Also Like

For more information about Empathy’s research visit empathyinc.ca 

Read This Story in Our 2022 Fall Fitness & Food Digital Edition

Featuring Brendan Brazier, athlete and pioneer in the plant-based sports nutrition industry. Trail Running 101 – plus this year’s Trail Running Shoe Review. Travel around the world to the top vegan-friendly destinations, recipes and much more!