Many Canadians Won’t Return to Gyms Despite Vaccine: 25% of Gyms to Close Permanently Says Expert

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Despite beliefs that the COVID-19 vaccine would bring us back to normalcy and save the gym industry, it is becoming clear that that is not the case, says a new survey released recently by RunRepeat, a website that reviews running shoes.

“While countries work on vaccine manufacturing, distribution, and administration, gyms continue to struggle. Our previous report showed that a fifth of gyms were still closed as of September of 2020, which aligned with the IHRSA’s report (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association) predicting that 25 percent of gyms may be permanently closed by the end of last year,” said the report.

“As we continue into Q2 of 2021, the struggle to remain open, keep members engaged, and retain members will continue. Even as vaccines are distributed, it is clear that just the individual being vaccinated will not be enough for all members to return, seeing how nearly a quarter of members are waiting for their friends, family, and loved ones to also be vaccinated.

“The longer the vaccination process takes, the more likely we are to continue seeing people move away from gyms, gyms shutting their doors, and a new normal in the fitness industry to arise.”

The report surveyed 11,193 members from 142 countries to learn how many gym members plan to return to working out at the gym when vaccinated, how their membership status has changed, and how many are currently going to the gym.

In Canada, it found that 84.68 percent of Canadians are still not exercising at their gyms while only 15.32 percent are actively using their gyms.

The survey found that 32.22 percent of Canadians have cancelled their gym memberships while 33.33 percent have paused them.

When asked if they would return to their gyms after being vaccinated against COVID-19, 28.72 percent of Canadians said they would not; 43.62 percent said they would; and 27.66 percent said they would only when family and friends have also been vaccinated.

Nick Rizzo

When those that cancelled were asked if they planned to return to the gym after being vaccinated, 42.47 percent in Canada said no; 28.77 percent said yes; and 28.77 percent said yes when family and friends were also vaccinated.

Canada had the highest membership cancellation rate and was second to the U.S. in people’s intentions of returning after their cancellation.

Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat, said he has been involved in many conversations over the past year about the plight of the gym industry, taking note about what gym owners and members are saying.

“There’s still a very large group of people who are very excited to be back in the gym. That’s still a given,” said Rizzo.

“There’s a large group of people who are very, very passionate about the gym. They want to be there.”

But there’s no doubt there is a trend out there with more people continuing their exercises and fitness workouts in different ways today — perhaps virtually or at home or outdoors. They are liking the convenience of it and the safety. They may also be saving money by not buying gym memberships.

“It’s really important to note that a lot of gyms rely heavily on a vast majority of their membership not using the gym. That’s a massive stream of revenue,” said Rizzo.

“In the past year, moving in this direction of home fitness has exploded.”

Companies are taking advantage of that and making accessible fitness equipment, previously only available in gyms, for people who want to work out in the comfort of their homes.

“There’s a major shift happening there. There’s a lot of money in advertising and marketing going in that direction to take away the market share from gyms. Right now it’s really dependent on are gyms going to realize that it’s not going back to normal,” said Rizzo. “There has to be some change. You have to listen to your customer base and identify what it is they’re looking for, what is it I’m not delivering on, how do I need to change.

“Gyms are going to have to operate a digital component to stay relevant. They’re going to have to offer some other solution that doesn’t require people to come into the gym because they can get that elsewhere.

“There’s too much momentum. There’s too much money. There’s too much already happening.  There’s too much out there that the gym can’t stay the same way and expect to maintain the same level of domination of the health and fitness industry.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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  1. The problem has nothing to do with vaccines. People who actually go regularly train in gyms aren’t usually afraid of the virus.

    But with all the “safety” requirements in place, a lot of people will not go train if they canot do so in peace. And being forced to sanitize everything, risking being refused entry (due to limited capacity limits), having to wear a mask, showers not available, etc. To many, all these are not worth the hassle and they’ll train elsewhere.

    It has nothing to do with vaccine or fear of the virus.


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