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8 Massive Fitness Industry Trends in 2021

The world of personal fitness is constantly changing.

You've got new exercise equipment. Cutting edge fitness apps. Changing nutritional habits. And more.

Which is why we put together this list of the 8 biggest fitness industry trends of 2021.

Read on to see what people are doing to get in shape this year. And the opportunities it's creating in the industry.

1. Biohacking

biohacking searches

Searches for "biohacking" have been increasing over time.

Biohacking is the process of improving one's body or mental facilities using diet, exercise, mindfulness practice, technology or drugs.

In other words, almost any science-based approach to performance enhancement.

It's a trend that has been on the rise for over a decade.

But it's been accelerating lately.

Why?

First, the technologies that support it are advancing.

From continuous glucose monitors to help people lose fat, to implantable sensors used for other purposes like NFC or RFID chips.

In fact, some analysts believe the "human augmentation" market will grow to over $200 billion by 2024.

Second, the healthcare system is embracing some of the more natural approaches to biohacking.

Practices that were previously considered nothing more than relaxing hobbies are now being prescribed to help improve physical fitness.

For example, forest bathing - walks in nature, essentially.

There is evidence that forest bathing may promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure and even improve cardiovascular and metabolic health.

As a result, some doctors are beginning to prescribe time outdoors

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Finally, many companies and startups have stepped in to provide advanced dietary supplements.

As well as nootropics.

Often called "smart drugs", nootropics have traditionally been used for cognitive enhancement. But now they're being used more and more to improve physical fitness.

The opposite is also happening:

Physical workouts themselves are being used as mental performance enhancers.

Studies show that exercise may help with concentration, memory and more.

So productivity-minded people who only care about their brainpower are nonetheless using physical exercise as a way to improve it.

All of those factors combined make biohacking one of the biggest - and most overlooked - fitness trends this year.

2. Wearable Tech

Oura ring searches

U.S. search volume for "Oura Ring" has grown 7,000% over the past 5 years.

The fitness wearables market is projected to reach $17.83 billion in annual revenue in 2021. 

This represents a major part of the longstanding self-tracking or “quantified self” movement.

People use wearables to measure their physical activity, sleep patterns, heart rate variability and more. The Apple Watch even has an electrocardiogram feature.

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The Apple Watch's ECG app.

As the market for fitness wearables expands, they are becoming:

More powerful, collecting more types of biometric data with more detail.

Cheaper: the Yamay smart watch costs just $40.

Smaller and more comfortable: the Oura Ring is small and light enough to wear on your finger every day.

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The Oura Ring, a wearable fitness and sleep tracker in the form of a ring.

It will be exciting to see what new devices are introduced this year.

3. Home Gyms

Home gyms were a slow-burning fitness industry trend. But they spiked in 2020 - and that growth has been maintained into 2021.

Over the past 5 years, U.S. Google searches for the phrase "garage gym" have increased by 174%. (The first wave of virus lockdowns caused the biggest peak.)

garage gyms searches

The Google search trend for the phrase "garage gym".

In fact: industry revenue for gym, health and fitness clubs has declined by $1.7 billion between 2019 and 2021.

All of that is good news for home workout equipment retailers.

Consumers are jumping on the garage gym trend. And turning to brands like Rogue Fitness to do so.

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Rogue Fitness provides heavy-duty equipment for home gyms.

Home gyms are also going high-tech.

Peloton is probably the most famous recent example of high-tech home gym equipment.

Their exercise bike features a large touchscreen for streaming video spin classes (at the additional cost of $39/mo).

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The Peloton exercise bike.

Zwift is based on a similar concept, but using your existing bike.

It uses your real-world pedaling to place you into a multiplayer video game.

To use it, you need to attach your bike to a smart trainer (or a regular trainer or set of rollers, combined with a power meter or speed sensor).

Then get set up on the Zwift app, and start racing your friends online.

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Zwift lets you train with friends from your living room.

If you prefer to run, you can also use Zwift with a treadmill.

4. Mobile Fitness Apps

Mobile apps are another way technology is influencing the personal fitness industry.

With over 800 million users worldwide, fitness apps are expected to rake in $4.025 billion in revenue this year. And that's forecasted to grow to $5.27 billion by 2024.

fitness app searches
More people search for "fitness app" each year. January is usually the peak - but the term hit a 5-year high in the first Covid-19 lockdown.

There are a few main categories of these apps.

First are activity trackers.

iOS and Android phones all come with free built-in fitness tracking functionality. 

How can app publishers compete with that?

Well, one approach is to make it social. 

That's what Strava does.

Using this app, runners, cyclists and swimmers can join multi-person challenges, connect with friends, and engage with a community of athletes.

And of course, share all their workouts on social media.

This approach seems to be working. People search for "strava" 165,000 times per month in the U.S. alone.

And that number is only climbing.

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Strava offers advanced features for paid subscribers.

Charity Miles sets itself apart in a different way. 

Users of this app can earn money for charities each time they exercise.

Another type of fitness app is the guided workout app.

These apps offer streaming or on-demand workouts, often guided by professional athletes, coaches or personal trainers.

Zwift and Peloton are two advanced examples of these, which we talked about above. But they both rely on special equipment.

The Nike Training Club app is another popular app for guided workouts and coaching.

It runs the gamut of exercise types, from calisthenics to weight-training, yoga and more.

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The Nike Training Club mobile app.

And a final fast-growing category is diet apps.

Including meal planners, nutrition trackers and calorie counters.

MyFitnessPal is among the largest in this category.

This app is both supported by ads and also offers a premium version, bringing in estimated revenues of $4M per month on iOS and $1.2M per month on Android.

But interest in the weight loss app Noom has exploded in popularity the past 2 years, with search volume up 170% since January 2020.

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Noom's homepage.

Positioning itself as the "weight loss app for millennials," Noom's growth is showing no signs of slowing down.

5. High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is another longstanding fitness industry trend.

This might be surprising.

Because CrossFit helped popularize HIIT -- and interest in CrossFit has been shrinking for years.

But as a fitness focus of its own, HIIT is only growing.

HIIT searches

High-intensity interval training is another fitness trend that tends to peak in January. But it enjoyed a big Covid spike.

Weight lifting has gotten more popular too, with increasing interest in resistance training maneuvers like the overhead press.

These trends have brought on a slew of related products and workout approaches.

Squat-proof leggings are one example.

These are leggings that won't become see-through when stretched during a squat exercise. 

Another example is powerbuilding: powerlifting plus bodybuilding.

6. Flexibility and Functional Strength

Everyone wants to look good. If they didn't, the fitness industry would be a LOT smaller.

But while lots of people want to lose weight and gain muscle for aesthetic reasons, there's a parallel movement happening.

A focus on pure physical performance.

Strength through a full range of motion.

And gymnast-like flexibility. (To be able to go through more ranges of motion in the first place.)

As well as proper form and posture.

One example of this trend is the number of people learning to do the "bridge" back exercise:

Bridge searches

Search interest in the bridge exercise remains higher than pre-Covid levels.

Yoga mats have been flying off the shelves lately for the same reason.

Of course, some folks always want a shortcut.

Which is why interest in posture correctors has also been exploding.

posture corrector searches

Google searches for posture correctors over time.

Will 2021 be the year "nice posture" becomes a bigger compliment than "nice abs"?

Time will tell.

7. Extreme Diets

When was the last time you heard someone talk about paleo?

Or raw food?

New fad diets come and go every year.

But a few that are popular now may have a bit more staying power.

One example is going plant-based.

Removing meat from your diet has been a very long-term trend.

vegan searches

Search volume for the word "vegan" has increased 288% over the past 10 years.

More and more people are turning plant-based.

Whether for health reasons, ethical reasons or environmental concerns. 

And companies like Beyond MeatImpossible Foods and Laird Superfood are making it easier than ever to go meatless.

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The vegan Impossible Burger.

America's "plant-based meat" industry is growing rapidly and expected to be worth $27.9 billion by 2025.

There's even a vegan version of the super-low-carb ketogenic diet.

But for the most part, keto sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from veganism.

So is keto here to stay?

Answer:

Probably not.

At least, not if search trends are any indication:

keto searches

Searches for "keto" have peaked and are declining.

The even more extreme carnivore diet looks like it may be fading fast, too.

Intermittent fasting had more staying power.

Its search volume had been rising steadily for years. But it looks as though we may now be past the peak:

intermittent fasting searches

Searches for "intermittent fasting" are down 33% over the past 2 years.

8. Recovery equipment

Back in the day, exercise recovery could be summed up with one word:

"Rest".

But thanks to emerging research into workout recovery, it's clear that rest is only part of the equation.

Which is why there's a growing market for exercise recovery equipment. One of the most interesting new products in this category are "massage guns".

massage gun searches

Searches for "massage gun" took off in late 2019.

Massage guns work by delivering strong pulses to a specific area of the body. Proponents claim that the products shorten recovery times and loosen up tight knots.

Theragun initially put massage guns on the map. But there are plenty of new players in this emerging space.

Vibrating rollers are another growing product in the recovery equipment niche.

vibrating roller searches

Searches for "vibrating roller" are up 63% over the last 5 years.

Vibrating rollers are like traditional foam rollers... that vibrate. Research published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy discovered that foam rollers can aid recovery times

Adding vibration to traditional rollers is designed to help make rolling out tight muscles more effective.

There You Go

That wraps up our list of the top fitness industry trends of 2021.

Fitness trends have always been fast-changing. And as technology influences this industry more and more, those changes will happen even faster.

Which makes this an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the space.

Whether as an industry professional, investor, app developer or fitness enthusiast.

Last Updated: 
January 6, 2021
Kyle Byers
Co-founder of Exploding Topics and GrowthBadger.

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