This is it! The week that gym and leisure centres doors re-open. But there has been some significant changes in exercise habits through the pandemic, will these step changes hold into the long-term? Or will the lycra and spandex-wearing masses be battering down the doors to the treadmills and weights in a return to normal?

writes Planet Earth Games founder Chris Broadbent

Healthy body

Change was forced on us all in the pandemic and plenty of new trends emerged. Virtual classes became the new norm, turbo-charged by the effervescent Joe Wicks. Where people gained time back from commuting, they used this wisely for their health. They made their homes their new gyms, converting spaces and thinking creatively for workouts.

HIIT and Tabata also became go-to forms of exercise for those seeking intensity and maximum impact, conveniently. While the biggest trends for fitness in 2020 were outdoor gyms and hybrid models. With park boot camps and outdoor 1-on-1 training also rising in popularity, as personal trainers had to adjust to meet COVID-19 guidelines.

Healthy planet

Individual outdoor fitness also grew, with cycling, running and walking rising in participation.With indoor facilities out of action and team sports placed on pause, people took this opportunity to connect with nature. In an awful time, exercise and nature provided a more holistic experience for many.

With this connection comes appreciation. For many getting outside was one of the few ‘escapes’ from lockdown, and we were treating to some of the most stunning scenes of natural beauty and clear skies as pollution levels dropped.

‘It has become our sanctuary’, a National Geographic article stated, capturing nature from around the world. The Environment Protection Agency reiterated this saying “There has been widespread indication people of all ages are re-engaging with their environment, enhancing their appreciation for nature and benefiting from access to it”.

With appreciation – we hope – comes consideration. A BCG survey found that in the wake of the pandemic people had heightened environmental awareness and are more committed to changing their own behaviour to advance sustainability. We’ve got to see these things as linked – it’s central to our thinking at Planet Earth Games that through a connection with nature the health of people and the health of our planet is improved.

Healthy mind

And there’s a further benefit. With mental health under threat in the most challenging year in modern times, yoga, pilates and mindfulness have also seen surges.

We were forced to slow our pace and many took the opportunity to embrace slower fitness. Yoga for Adriene has become an internet sensation with many trying yoga for the first time in lockdown. Or turning to meditation or mindfulness with guided meditation apps skyrocketing.

Should we even want to return to the “old normal”?

Comparing this holistic approach of fitness that nourishes body, mind and planet to where we used to be, should we really be rushing so quickly back? I have been a member of many gyms over the years, and admittedly there have been times when I would have driven to the gym, plugged in the white earphones, scanned myself in, exercised and then left without having spoken to anyone.

Good for the body, maybe? But is it good for the mind, soul and also planet?

It’s early days yet, but I’m guessing that gyms will have to adapt in the post-pandemic world, continuing to offer hybrid solutions of virtual classes and outdoor classes alongside their traditional gym settings. Green gyms were growing pre-pandemic, and we hope to see a resurgence.

We are looking at the world differently as we emerge from the pandemic, not just looking at ourselves in wall-length mirrors.