Fit for the future

Fit for the future

Silke Frank reflects on the impact of Covid-19 on the global fitness and wellness industry, and the role of FIBO in changing public attitudes to exercise, driving digital innovation, and promoting fitness solutions that appeal to all ages and people.

Whatever our age, there is strong scientific evidence that being physically active can help us to lead a healthier and happier life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and research shows that physical activity can also reduce our risk of anxiety and depression by improving mood, self-esteem and sleep quality.

Being physically active doesn’t have to involve going to a fitness club or gym, but club membership is a great way to measure public engagement. For decades prior to Covid-19, the European industry was in rude health, increasing membership from 39 million in 2009 to nearly 65 million in 2019, a growth of 66 % or an average of almost 7% per year. Given that 46% of Europeans undertake no form of exercise at all, the long-term prospects for industry growth are significant.

For EuropeActive, the European association whose mission is to get ‘more people, more active, more often’ (and of which I am proud to be a board member), our ambitious target of 100 million members by 2030 seemed within easy reach. And then the pandemic struck. Memberships fell as sports and fitness facilities were forced to close their doors, and the public switched to home fitness equipment and virtual training sessions. Meanwhile, physical inactivity was linked to more severe Covid-19 infections, and many people suffered, and continue to suffer, from the debilitating effects of long Covid.

Now health and fitness clubs around the globe are reopening for business and FIBO is returning to Cologne, Germany from 7 – 10 April after an absence of two years.  As the world’s leading trade show for fitness, wellness and health, we believe FIBO has a vital role to play in helping to change public attitudes to fitness and health, and to driving industry growth through innovation and inclusion.

Exercise is Medicine

The overarching theme for FIBO 2022 is ‘For a Strong and Healthy Society’. One way we aim to improve public health is by pushing the topic up the political agenda and presenting the fitness sector as a health service provider. 

A year ago, FIBO became a member of the ‘Exercise is Medicine’ Initiative, making a clear statement about the importance of physicians, politicians and society taking a joined-up approach to exercise and public health post-Covid, with a particular focus on prevention.

Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) is a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Its vision is to make physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care, connecting health care with evidence-based physical activity resources for people everywhere, and of all abilities.

Together with EIM Germany and Europe, DGSP (German Society for Health and Prevention) and EuropeActive we are organising two ‘Exercise is Medicine’ Days at FIBO on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 April. Long Covid will dominate discussions on Friday, which includes a talk from karate fighter Lena Mikulic who shares her experiences  of struggling with the consequences of Covid-19 nine months after infection. On the Saturday, we will look at how Exercise is Medicine works in practice, with a range of solutions from doctors and sports providers in Italy, Poland and Germany.

In fact, fitness has long been become an integral part of healthcare, be it in physiotherapy, the rehab departments of clinics, or health centres. But the potential for combining fitness, wellness, lifestyle and hospitality has become much more apparent post-pandemic. Which is why Hall 8 of FIBO is dedicated to Wellness and Health – a focal point for physiotherapists, sports physicians, corporate health managers, rehab coaches, gym and spa operators, as well as hoteliers to discover exciting new ways to expand and enhance their facilities, and promote healthy living. 

Digital innovation

Covid-19 has been a game changer for the fitness industry, as changing patterns of consumer behaviour have rapidly accelerated the move to digital fitness solutions, from wearable tech, to AI and gamification. Significant investment from big tech companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon highlight market confidence on the future of fit-tech as a grower driver, and FIBO’s Future Forum has its finger right on the pulse of the very latest developments and business opportunities.

We have expanded our partnership with FitTech to present the 2022 FitTech Summit at FIBO, where Presenters Natalia Karbasova (CEO FiTtech) and Stefan Tilk (FitTech Advisory Board member, CEO Anytime Fitness) will be joined on stage by speaker panels to discuss new technologies and future fitness concepts.

We have also partnered with EEC Koln, which will share the latest digital retail and e-Commerce trends in the sports world, including presentations on the biggest new prospects in online sports retail, and the brand building opportunities offered by Instagram, Tik Tok and other social media channels.  And throughout FIBO, keynotes and lectures in the Health and Wellness Hall will highlight exciting new opportunities for digital in specific health disciplines, with a particular focus on physiotherapy.

Game-changing trends

Digitisation is, of course, not the only trend driving post-pandemic growth in the fitness industry. At the opening event of FIBO on 6 April, the European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF), organised in partnership with EuropeActive, will present the European Fitness Market Report 2022, which has become the gold standard for market research in the fitness and physical activity sector. This will be followed by an operator CEO panel on the current status and trends in our sector, a closer look at the ‘game-changing’ certification scheme, and presentations on ‘Inclusion in Action’, and the ‘Future of the Fitness Consumer’.

For more than 20 years now, the FIBO Innovation Award has also been an important indicator of where the industry is headed, drawing attention to numerous pioneering products in the fitness, wellness and health sectors. This is where global trends like Zumba, functional training and EMS made their way into the global fitness community, and we are excited to see what the future will bring.

Fitness for all

Physical and mental wellness has never been more important. And if the pandemic has taught FIBO one thing, it is the importance of inclusivity – of engaging  people of all ages, abilities and walks of life in fitness and wellness.

As always, we will be opening our doors at the weekend to the public enabling them to learn about healthy nutrition, discover new fitness ideas and fashions, join in group activities, meet stars, influencers and athletes, and take advantage of the opportunity to try out the latest trends and technologies for themselves.

FIBO is the world’s largest trade show for fitness, wellness and health, combining innovation, investment, networking and education with an exhilarating live experience. Our vision is for a strong fitness industry and a healthy public. FIBO 2022 takes place from 7 to 10 April in Cologne, Germany.