Developments in the fitness sector: gym and fitness centres design and construction

The fitness sector is recovering after two years of closures and restrictions due to the pandemic. National and international gym chains are gradually recovering their turnover and are resuming their expansion projects with the construction and renovation of their gyms and fitness clubs.

However, the comeback is taking place with a different perspective. The rise of home fitness has become evident, as well as the need to integrate online-offline services, offering all services to the user. All this without forgetting the importance of the design of gyms and their spaces, with safe, comfortable and attractive areas for athletes. The pandemic has shown that sport is essential for physical and mental health care. Gyms are an essential lever for improving health and, as such, their services must be safe.

In this article, we analyse the evolution of the fitness sector to date, the impact of covid-19 and the sector’s growth prospects. We also discover the latest trends, such as the inclusion of the hybrid model, the personalisation of the offer and other aspects to take into account when designing and building gyms.


Evolution of the fitness sector and forecasts for expansion in 2022


The fitness industry has grown exponentially in recent decades. According to data from the Palco 23 spanish report ‘Fitness: industry, evolution and operators’, in 2019 there were more than 210,000 gyms in the world generating $96 billion and with more than 184 million members. The United States is the largest fitness market with almost $38 billion turnover in 2019. It is followed by Europe with $31.527 billion in turnover. Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy are, in order of importance, the largest European markets, accounting for 65% of the total business on the continent at the end of 2019. 

In Spain, the market had been on the rise for up to five years until the arrival of the pandemic. Undoubtedly, the fitness sector has been one of the hardest hit by the covid-19 crisis due to the imposition of restrictions and closures of gyms and the consequent drop in membership. Even so, and despite the fall, as of April 2021, gyms had managed to keep more than 60% of their members, although some with their quotas frozen according to data from Stadista. In total, Spain has around 2,600 gyms, 4.3 million members and a total turnover of 1.34 billion euros.


2022, on the road to full recovery in the fitness sector


After overcoming 2021 as a year of initial uncertainty, many fitness chains agree that they have faced recovery in the last quarter of the year. According to Palco 23’s fitness thermometer presented at the end of January, 73% of operators increased their revenues in 2021 compared to the previous year and more than half are planning to expand early this year.

Still, 62% of respondents say it will take more than a year to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Many experts agree that 2022 is the year of recovery and moderate growth. New gym models, driven by digitalisation, will coexist with traditional gyms and private chains to face full recovery.


Gyms, a key lever for health

The pandemic has undoubtedly boosted citizens’ sporting habits. According to the Survey of Sports Habits in Spain, at least 59.6% of the population practised sport in 2020, 9.1 points more than in 2015.

Until 2020, the fitness user had a young profile with an average age between 15 and 35. However, in the wake of the pandemic, the practice of sport has reached other older generations and those seeking to follow a healthy lifestyle. 

Josep Viladot, general director of Eurofitness, in the framework of the Sports Business Meeting sessions organised by Palco 23 last November, reflected the following: “We have to manage to modulate the message and that sport, and especially fitness, reaches everyone, especially those audiences that it does not currently reach, teenagers and the senior sector (+60, +70)”. “We are a key lever for health and must be perceived as such,” he reminded.


Integrating the hybrid model in gyms and fitness clubs


Home fitness has been the biggest winner of the pandemic. Both in the times of total confinement and in successive waves, many people have tried the virtual gym and embraced its advantages. Whether for convenience or greater flexibility, the use of this modality has skyrocketed, as have its long-term business forecasts. A report by Allied Market Research puts the virtual fitness business at $6.04 billion and will continue to grow at an average of 33.1% to reach $59.32 billion worldwide by 2027. 

With the pandemic’s moment of social distancing behind them, many users are gradually returning to physical gyms in search of a safer, more entertaining and accompanied fitness experience. Remote sport will remain once normality is restored and current gym trends indicate this. Still, the use of technology should facilitate access for users and improve the service and diversity of offerings.

“In the future we will continue to move towards a hybrid gym model in which incorporating more technology will allow us to personalise the service,” Josep Viladot reflected for Palco 23. 


Better technology to personalise the offer


In recent years, gyms have focused on incorporating new activities, renewing cardiovascular equipment and strength equipment. Segments such as boutique gyms focus on offering personal training, crossfit boxes, SGT studios or Pilates studios combining leisure, health and socialising and with all the technology integrated.

Today, there are already a wide variety of sports formulas, wearable technology tools and operator apps or virtual fitness content platforms that amplify the offer with streaming sessions, on demand and in virtual format on the gym’s website or app.

Virtual content platforms such as Les Mills on Demand offer solutions to connect physical spaces with the digital environment applicable both inside and outside the facility. With solutions such as The Ultimate Fitness Solution, facilities have access to Les Mills training content to offer their members on the facility’s website or app. They also have the ability to live stream sessions by club instructors or project a virtual version of Les Mills classes in the facility, customisable as desired.

Offering an integrated fitness experience increases the value of the user experience in the club, provides experiences through gamification and generates a sense of community, even when training from home. The possibilities of technology within the fitness world go even further. A few weeks ago, Trib3, the boutique studio chain, announced that it had launched an agreement with OliveX, the fitness company in the metaverse, to offer its workouts in the video game The Sandbox to virtually experience the brand.


Things to consider when designing and building gyms


Efforts to improve and integrate the digital world and enhance smart fitness centres and gyms cannot neglect the customer experience in the physical space. In addition to expanding the digital offering and increasing omnichannel, the design must take into account the look & feel of the interior space, which is defined in the pre-design strategy.

Today, the elements and uses of spaces, whether in offices, shops, optical centres or gyms, are undergoing a transformation. Offices are being redesigned as meeting and socialising spaces and shops as experiential spaces to connect with the brand. 


Design of open, attractive and comfortable gyms


Following the path of office and workplace trends, well-designed gyms through materiality, texture or colour evoke a sense of comfort and a sense of value and satisfaction for users as well as employees. Examples that also apply to the gymnasium sector include space-adapted lighting or active greenery that promotes concentration in sports practice and individual and collective performance. 

Aspects such as the distribution of spaces, the use of vinyls and architectural graphics are equally important to keep users comfortable and motivated and to build brand loyalty. 


From the design of spaces to your turnkey contract 


At Grup Idea and Abessis we are specialists in the design, project management and construction of projects for different sectors. We have carried out the project management of shops for leading retail brands in the sector as well as the construction of commercial premises for different brands. In the fitness business, the Fitness Park chain of gyms has already relied on our services for the preparation of feasibility reports for premises and the interior refurbishment of its premises in Spain. With regard to construction work, we have recently carried out the comprehensive site management for the first Basic Fit gym in Spain. 

The integral management of the work covers the complete cycle of the work. To begin with, we carry out the feasibility report of the premises and calculate the cost of the work. Once the client approves the space, we manage the building licenses, activity licenses and present the final budget. Our Project Manager, the client’s trusted contact, permanently monitors the execution of the works until the premises are ready on the opening day. 

After years working in the retail sector, we are aware of the need to comply with the agreed budgets and the timetable set for the works. In the retail sector there are many changes that occur from one day to the next and we have the capacity to react to any modification or unforeseen event. Our experience tells us that fluid communication between our technicians and brand managers is part of the key to success. Discover now all our design, project management and construction services or contact us if you need our services.