The post-COVID-19 way forward for health facilities | Holland & Knight LLP


When the economies closed in 2020, gyms and fitness centers had to adapt by offering fitness options for the home. Melina Cordero, director of institutional real estate and retail for the CBRE Group, said, “The same thing happened with the fitness that has happened in virtually every other category of retail that is omnichannel.” The move to a mix of digital and personal options was certainly escalating in 2020, but many of the larger fitness chains already had online offerings in the works. As states resume their COVID-19 vaccination efforts, experts are debating whether fitness centers will revert to prepandemic methods or whether they need to innovate.

Some media found strong evidence that home fitness routines might persist due to the investments individuals made to exercise at home in 2020 (e.g. buying expensive equipment), but others found that 75 percent of consumers said they were returning to pre-pandemic routines, including physically going to a gym. In addition, Cordero noted that the markets that have reopened more aggressively have seen a strong propensity for consumers to return to the gym in person. Despite optimism about the reopening, online training was predicted by the American College of Sports Medicine as the # 1 fitness trend for 2021.

After the pandemic, Cordero predicts different reactions will occur in different markets. Boutique gyms may become less attractive to consumers because they are often offered at a higher price than large gyms. With many retail stores closed, Cordero points out that large gyms have the option to use some of this space. For example, some population groups are moving to the suburbs, which creates more prospects for new fitness centers.

In addition, Cordero assumes that the security and hygiene adjustments for COVID-19 will likely continue in the long term, but that the gyms will gradually be re-occupied before the pandemic. Because of the health benefits of such adjustments, Cordero predicts that the configurations and size requirements will remain largely the same for large gyms. However, one fitness center said its gyms will cut down their store fronts. Others believe that fitness centers need to innovate by adding more amenities and other community value in order to maintain memberships.

Another impact on the future of fitness centers will be office worker trends. In urban areas, it is a growing trend for an office building to offer a gym as a convenience to its office tenants. Cordero explained, “Sometimes people have gym memberships next to their office, or sometimes they have memberships next to their home. So if we move to a more flexible model where the majority of people work from home a few days a week and Working in the office a few days a week will also change the habits or frequency in the gym. “Like Cordero, several experts agree that the likely outcome is a mix of personal and virtual offerings tailored to individual needs can.