When the Covid-19 pandemic forced people to stay at home, fitness facilities were some of the hardest hit businesses in Canada and as well as globally. But while physical facilities suffered during the pandemic, the markets for home exercise equipment and digital fitness products grew.

The lockdown measures have been relaxed for a long time now, so how is the fitness industry looking after the pandemic? Have people returned to exercise at gyms and other fitness facilities or do they continue to prefer to exercise in private?

This article includes information on Canadian fitness habits and obstacles to exercise in Canada together with industry statistics of the physical and digital fitness markets.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are in Canadian dollars.

Fitness Industry Statistics for Canadians

  • The global health and fitness industry is worth around $5.5 trillion.
  • 60% of Canadians say they do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, with only 6% saying they get no physical exercise at all.
  • 75% of Canadians say finding the time to exercise is their biggest obstacle to being more physically active.
  • 22% of Canadians say they dislike working out and 29% admit they are too lazy to exercise regularly.
  • 73% of Canadians say they prefer to exercise on their own rather than in a gym or group setting.
  • The revenue from fitness facilities has been the slowest to recover with revenues in 2021 down by 22.5% compared to 2019.
  • The revenue from home exercise equipment and digital fitness sectors was expected to be up by 66.32% by the end of 2021 compared to 2019.
  • The Canadian gym, health, and fitness industry was worth $5.7 billion in 2021.
  • 67% of Canadians had a gym membership in 2021.
  • Ontario has the most fitness establishments in Canada with over 1,700 health and fitness facilities in the province.
  • 33% of Canadians have paused and another 33% canceled their gym memberships following the pandemic.
  • It would take on average four years’ worth of monthly gym membership fees of $50 per month to offset the cost of building a home gym.

The global picture

Globally, the health and fitness industry is worth around $5.5 trillion. The personal care and beauty sector is the largest sector in the industry and amounts to $1.2 trillion. The fitness, mind and body sector is worth $780 billion, while the workplace wellness sector is worth $62.9 billion.

How active are Canadians?

According to Ipsos, 40% of Canadians aged 25-64 say they do less than thirty minutes of physical activity per day, while 6% of Canadians get no exercise at all. 37% of Canadians exercise for 30-59 minutes every day, while 8% say they are physically active for over two hours each day.

On average, people in Quebec get the least exercise, with 64% of the population in the province getting less than 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Obstacles for exercising more

The survey revealed that the biggest reason for not exercising is finding the time, with 75% of the respondents naming the lack of time as their biggest obstacle. 29% of the overall respondents admitted laziness stopped them from being physically active. The age group that was most likely to not get enough exercise because of laziness was the 25-34 age group where 42% of the respondents said they were not physically fit because they were lazy.

22% of the people taking part in the survey said they simply dislike working out and 9% said they would exercise more, but needed help to work out. A further 9% said they needed someone to motivate them but didn’t have anyone to exercise with.

Canadians prefer to exercise alone and from home

73% of Canadians say they prefer to exercise on their own. However, 64% of the respondents said that exercising with other people is a great motivator. The residents of British Columbia are most likely to work with someone or in a group with only 32% saying they prefer to work out alone.

77% of Canadians say they prefer the convenience of exercising from home, while 70% say they would exercise more if they could do it from home. This, together with more time spent at home, could explain why many Canadians said they were getting more exercise during the pandemic.

What is the fitness industry worth in Canada?

Because of the stay-at-home orders during the Covid-19 pandemic, the fitness industry experienced a 32.45% decline in revenue during 2020. By the end of 2021, the industry was projected to rebound to 0.55% pre-pandemic levels. The hardest hit were the fitness facilities, which have also been the slowest to recover with revenues in 2021 still down by 22.5% compared to 2019.

The online fitness market, including fitness apps and trackers and the home fitness equipment market has seen significant growth because of the pandemic. The revenue from these markets grew by 40.61% in 2020 and was projected to be up by 66.32% by the end of 2021 compared to 2019.

The fitness industry in Canada is expected to grow by 171% by 2028. The fastest growth rate will continue to be in the online/ digital fitness sector with an estimated growth rate of 33.1% per year, while the slowest annual growth rate will be in the gym sector with an estimated 7.21% of annual growth.

Revenue from gyms in Canada

In 2019, there were on average, 973.59 members per gym in Canada with each person bringing in about $467.87 in annual revenue. According to a report by RunRepeat, gyms in Canada generated an annual revenue of $2.95 billion in 2019.

Before the pandemic, the gym industry experienced steady yearly growth at 4.1% on average between 2015 and 2020 before the pandemic forced fitness facilities to close. According to the Ibis World report, the Canadian gym, health, and fitness industry was worth $5.7 billion in 2021. The industry is the largest market in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector and the 198th largest market overall in Canada.

Globally, around 2.36% of the population are gym members. Sweden and Norway have the highest percentage of people with gym memberships with 22%. The United States is third on the list with 21.2% of residents having a gym membership. In Canada, 16.67% of the population had gym memberships in October 2021.

Covid-19 and the fitness industry

The Covid-19 pandemic was hard for the fitness industry facilities because of the orders to stay at home. Many were able to maintain some level of revenue by offering live online classes. However, 42% of Canadian fitness facilities have closed since March 2020. Surviving clubs have shown revenue losses between 40 and 50%.

Since the restrictions were lifted, only 15% of Canadian gym-goers have returned to their old fitness clubs and 29% of Canadians say they will not return to gyms. Following the pandemic, 33% of former gym users have paused their membership, while another 33% have canceled them altogether.

The number of Canadians who have returned to the gym is low compared to other areas in the world. In some areas, gym attendance has bounced back to around 91% of the pre-pandemic levels according to a report by Glofox.

However, research from the early pandemic revealed that many Canadians were being more active than before the pandemic. 33% of Canadians who said they had been previously inactive began exercising during the pandemic. 40.3% of already active people said they were becoming fitter and healthier.

Popular alternatives to gyms during the pandemic included fitness apps hosting virtual classes, using household items and DIY equipment for resistance training. Many people also enjoyed free online fitness classes or YouTube videos, and later on, outdoor group exercise classes.

The digital fitness market

Since many Canadians have either paused or cancelled their gym memberships following the pandemic, the digital fitness market will continue to benefit. The revenue from in-app purchases in the health and fitness sector is expected to reach $122 million in 2022, and the revenue from paid apps is estimated to reach $3.9 million during the same time period.

The trends from the digital health and fitness sector show that the number of downloads will continue to grow and is projected to reach 52.5 million downloads by the end of 2022. The average revenue per download is expected to be around $6.92.

Globally, the most revenue in the digital and online health and fitness sector is generated in the United states with an estimated US$3,016.00 million in 2022.

Numbers of fitness and health facilities in Canada

Before the pandemic, in 2020, there were 13,488 fitness facilities in Canada. Majority of these facilities were gyms with 7,398 establishments, followed by beauty and health spas with 4,2024 establishments.

Pre-pandemic, there were 883 personal trainers and 561 fitness consultants working in Canada and 75 businesses that provided gym equipment and supplies. The number of gymnastics clubs was 466 and there were 81 boxing clubs.

Which provinces and territories have the most fitness establishments?

It is not surprising that the number of fitness establishments is closely linked with the number of residents in the province/ territory. Ontario, with 1,727, has the most fitness establishments in Canada followed by Québec with 926. British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba complete the top five with 731, 509, and 164 fitness establishments, respectively.

The biggest gym brands in Canada

The biggest gym chains in Canada include GoodLife Fitness Centres, LA Fitness, Self Esteem Brands, PFIP, and Gold’s Gym. The revenues from fitness centres in Canada range from $30,000 to $5 million per year.

GoodLife Fitness, with 255 locations and over one million members, is the most popular gym and fitness chain in Canada. One in 35 Canadians is a member of a GoodLife centre.

Equinox is one of the most expensive chains in Canada, with membership fees of $235 per month, giving you access to all three of their Canadian gyms. At the other end of the price spectrum are Planet Fitness gyms where memberships start from $10 per month.

The cost of an average home gym

While fitness establishments have suffered because of the pandemic, manufacturers of fitness equipment for home have benefited from it with more people investing in home exercise equipment.

The average home gym in Canada costs about $2,530. For a person on a $50 per month membership, investing in a home gym will pay itself off in four years. Popular home gym equipment in Canada includes adjustable benches and dumbbell sets, squat racks or power racks, and treadmills or bikes.

Yoga is one of the fastest rising trends in Canada

21% of Canadians say they practice yoga regularly and the most active yogis are aged between 18 and 34. The interest in yoga is lowest in Quebec, where only 16% of the residents choose yoga as their daily exercise.

The number of teachers and students of yoga online increased during the pandemic to 86% and 91, respectively. There are over 2,000 yoga teachers in Canada and 72% of them are female.

Conclusions

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, gyms and other physical fitness facilities are struggling to attract people back with two-thirds of Canadians having either paused or canceled their memberships completely. But while the physical fitness service providers struggle, the online fitness providers and manufacturers of home exercise equipment have benefited from the pandemic.

Most Canadians report they are being physically active for at least 30 minutes every day and many say they became more active during the pandemic. This could be because more people had more time at home during the pandemic and found it easier to fit exercising into their schedules.

While the fitness industry is predicted to grow annually, the physical facilities will need to work hard to compete with the range of fitness apps and videos online to attract people back.

Frequently Asked Questions

The physical fitness facilities such as gyms were hit hard by the pandemic, with one-third of users pausing their membership following the pandemic and another third cancelling completely. However, the online fitness sector as well as companies providing equipment for exercising at home, benefited from the pandemic.

Most Canadians, at 60%, exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. However, 6% of Canadians say they do no exercise

Most Canadians, at 75%, find the lack of time the biggest obstacle for regular exercise.

The Canadian gym, health, and fitness industry was worth $5.7 billion in 2021.

In 2021, 16.67% of Canadians had a gym membership.

Sources