While convenience and access to fitness prove important, findings from MyFitnessPal shows that fitness buffs who leave their houses to attend exercise class are leaning toward “upgraded fitness experiences” -- such as SoulCycle and Barre -- which tend to cost more than a gym membership, says Glennis Coursey, coaching lead at Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal.
(SoulCycle costs upwards of $34 a class, and Barre goes for typically $35 per class.)
According to MyFitnessPal findings from 2014 to 2015, use of the ballet-inspired Barre grew 3 percent, SoulCycle grew 38 percent and high-intensity impact training rose 14 percent. Orange Theory Fitness is in a whole category on its own, growing 170 percent. One of the reasons for this rapid growth, says Coursey, is that the small group sweat sessions where participants wear heart monitors are targeted toward men and women -- unlike Barre and SoulCycle.
So why the rise in boutique fitness? Well, look to the customer.
“Millennials are very focused on living healthy lifestyles and crave unique, personalized experiences, which the larger clubs cannot provide,” says Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at The NPD Group.
Also, the overall retail market trend is that “more and more consumers aren’t just looking at the product but the connection,” tells Bruce Cohen, senior partner of strategy at Kurt Salmon, a consulting firm in the retail industry, speaking on the trend of boutique fitness growth.
Of course, with some exercise trends on the rise, others must fall. Yoga has seen a 13 percent user decline -- possibly due to boutique fitness eating up some of the market share, speculates Coursey. However, it remains the 11th most popular activity for 2015.
While these numbers are worth paying attention to, remember they don’t tell the whole story, says Meredith Poppler, vice-president of publicity at International Health, Racquet & Sports Association who tells namaste-lovers to fear not.
According to Poppler, yoga, while not experiencing the rapid growth it did a few years ago, continues to have a strong presence in niche studios (the fitness industry’s fastest growing segment) and traditional gyms.
While certain exercise classes saw a bump in popularity, walking and running remain the most popular fitness activities, says Rebecca Stillman, MyFitnessPal's director of communications. Also, not surprising is that wearables and fitness apps are on the up and up for 2016.
The rapid growth of MyFitnessPal itself speaks to the growing trend of fitness apps. Its user base has grown from 65 million users to 100 million over the past year and half, says Stillman.