Fitness gains

Fitness apps boom in Latin America but will they persist?

The global fitness app industry has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic as innovative health apps have helped people stay fit and healthy during a period of prolonged lockdown restrictions. In 2020, the global market for fitness apps was USD 2.8 billion and is expected to grow to USD 10.12 billion by 2028.

In Latin America, subscriptions to fitness apps rose by 30% in 2020 with Brazil, Mexico and Argentina together accounting for 81% of subscriptions. The increase in demand has led to a greater level of sophistication in the industry with specific segments emerging: weight loss, diet and nutrition, and activity tracking. The latter is forecast to register the fastest growth over the next decade.

A professor of physical education at the University of Sao Paulo commented, “This is a global phenomenon not limited to Brazil. However, I would say that insecurity in certain areas [of the country] and commuting time, due to poor public transportation, limit the number of hours that Brazilians devote to physical activity. Consequently, working out has been associated to a privileged part of Brazilian society, a perception that fitness apps have begun to change. These fitness apps allow everyone to have personal trainers and tailored workouts at home which were previously limited to the clients of private gyms.”

“These fitness apps allow everyone to have personal trainers and tailored workouts at home which were previously limited to the clients of private gyms.”

Professor of physical education, University of Sao Paulo

Activity tracking has proved to be the most popular with Latin American users. In Brazil, wearable devices registered sales amounting to USD 467 million compared to USD 260.2 million in Mexico and USD 86.5 million in Argentina. The sale of wearables is expected to continue rising as it has expanded to all age groups and its use is not limited for specific athletic activities.

Peru has seen a similar boom, as a sports entrepreneur in the country explained, “These apps have enjoyed a huge boom in Peru, even people that had never been in a gym before have been using fitness apps. They have given people motivation, structure and a routine to stay fit at home and let’s be honest, there was no other option!”

The professor had noticed a surprising trend in fitness app usage, “The largest growth in 2020 was from, ‘beginners’ – people with sedentary lifestyles using the apps for modest purposes such as step counting. This segment also proved to be the most committed to the apps and have stuck with them through the pandemic. Users targeting more demanding workouts tended to give up after just a few months.”

Fitness apps are expected to adapt to the re-opening of public spaces like gyms and parks. Their capacity to get new ideas for workout regimes in busy schedules, set realistic fitness goals as opposed to harmful stereotypes, and their capacity to track athletic progress guarantees their continued growth.

Looking to the future, our two sources have differing views.

The professor believes that a hybrid model will evolve, “I can see a system where apps and gyms offer a combined service where you can meet personal trainers in the gym or connect to them through the app, this will become more important as these apps have more data about our bodies, needs and limitations.”

“I can see a system where apps and gyms offer a combined service […] this will become more important as these apps have more data about our bodies, needs and limitations.”

Professor of physical education, University of Sao Paulo

In contrast, the sports entrepreneur sees the rise of fitness apps as a temporary boom, “I think that just as it is a boom, in a short time it will decrease again. As the health situation improves, people who train will want to return to gyms. Even for those that only took it up during the pandemic the apps have become a bit boring and monotonous. 100% of the people I speak to want to get back in the gym.”

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