European fitness clubs were forced to shut down during multiple lockdown periods in 2020, in some cases for between 40 and 50 percent of the operational days, and this caused a major dip in attendance after decades of continuous growth. According to a new report by EuropeActive, compiled as usual in partnership with Deloitte, memberships dropped by around 10 million members or 15.4 percent, from 64.8 million in 2019 to 54.8 million by the end of 2020. The European gym operators’ revenues dropped by 32.9 percent to around €18.9 billion. The 20 largest companies saw their memberships decline by 7 percent to 12.3 million as compared to 2019. The number of fitness clubs decreased by only 1.4 percent to 62,775, a moderate decline due to the financial support that many governments provided throughout the pandemic.

These and other key findings are unveiled in the “2021 European Health & Fitness Market Report,” which was first presented by EuropeActive at a virtual pre-event on June 23, live-streamed from the FIBO show’s headquarters in Düsseldorf, as part of the build-up to the 2021 European Health & Fitness Forum. The 8th edition of the report covers the calendar year 2020.

Introducing the report, Herman Rutgers, the former European head of Life Fitness and member of EuropeActive’s board who acts as “international ambassador” for Reed Exhibitions, the organizer of FIBO, said that he remained optimistic about the sector. He said its should be possible to reach a goal of 100 memberships in Europe ten years from now.

The report highlights the acceleration of digitalization in the health and fitness market in 2020, similarly to what happened in many other sectors. This process translated into significant growth in home fitness equipment and accessories, digital products and services and outdoor solutions.

Despite the rough patch due to the pandemic and related forced closures, investors have displayed ongoing confidence in the sector, though. Large sums were invested in the fitness ecosystem through existing companies and start-ups, both online and offline, during 2020. The resulting situation proved particularly fluid, with 16 major merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions involving a total of 854 clubs in 2020, according to the report.

The ”2021 European Health & Fitness Market Report” (128 pages) is available for purchase on the EuropeActive website.