How Has COVID-19 Affected the Fitness Industry in MENA?

Published November 30th, 2020 - 03:00 GMT
How Has COVID-19 Affect the Fitness Industry in the MENA?
The fitness industry has been devastated by closures and lockdown rules imposed in many countries around the world. (Shutterstock: sutulastock)

Ever since the coronavirus triggered a global outbreak earlier this year, many people anticipated an increasing interest in healthy lifestyles amongst individuals wishing to protect themselves from the current pandemic and any future viral outbreaks. Yet, the fitness industry has been reporting tragic losses despite many attempts to cope with the crisis.

There is no doubt that leading a healthy lifestyle has become amongst our top priorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as the disease has been heavily impacting people with obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Exercising has no longer been limited to those who wish to look nice in their outfits, but is increasingly becoming popular amongst people worried about their health and immunity in the future. However, the fitness industry has been devastated by closures and lockdown rules imposed in many countries around the world, that many gyms have been forced to file for bankruptcy or close permanently.

In most of the MENA countries, gyms, restaurants, and many other "unessential" public venues were forced to close their doors last March, in line with government decisions of partial or full lockdowns that tried to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

During that time, many gyms tried to keep their members active through months of home-stays, using online platforms and live broadcasting classes over the internet, particularly for exercises that don't require special workout equipment.

Several months later, as infection numbers were slowly under control, gyms were open with certain conditions to maintain social distancing rules and protect as many lives as possible.

The Dubai government decided in late May to allow gyms and fitness centers to reopen for the public, but only for limited group classes, disinfections carried out after each session, sanitizers made available to visitors, temperature checks, and of course with every individual in facilities wearing face masks and gloves.

Similar rules were imposed in gyms in other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and others. In Jordan, authorities had allowed gyms and fitness centers to operate again last June, responding to pleas of more than 2500 centers that reported massive financial struggles. However, as Jordan suffered a more severe second wave during the fall, gyms have been ordered to close again.

Last June, Arabian Business reported that at least 5 of Dubai's gyms had made the difficult decision to close permanently, after failing to meet their financial commitments, due to the spring closure.

Meanwhile, the digital fitness industry has witnessed an unexpected surge in paid memberships, especially by individuals who found home workouts a more preferable and effective option.

In a report published last August, Mobile Marketer reported a 67% jump in global installs for health and fitness apps during March and April 2020, compared to the same period of 2019.

In the MENA region, such apps were downloaded 55% more during the first half of 2020 compared to H1 of 2019, and had the second-largest growth of users on average, with 28%, a report by the World Economic Forum highlights.

Have you been able to workout in the local gym during the pandemic? Have you considered switching to a digital platform? How can fitness centers recover post the pandemic?

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