Most residents are concerned about contracting the virus in a gym and consider cleanliness a top factor when selecting a gym
Amidst lockdowns and movement restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, health and fitness became homebound giving a boost to virtual workouts. Although restrictions have been eased and public venues are more accessible now, YouGov’s latest research shows more than half of UAE and KSA residents (56%) strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, ‘Remote workouts and events still appeal and are here to stay post Covid-19’.
When asked about their most preferred way of exercising, 25% of residents in both countries said they prefer home workouts. The proportions of those who prefer exercising at a gym or indulging in outdoor exercises were lower- at 19% and 16%. Notably, home workouts are more prevalent amongst females as compared to males (35% vs 20%), while the latter are more likely to prefer working out at a gym (21% men vs 17% women).
At present, a quarter of UAE and KSA residents (25%) have a gym membership, and three in ten (31%) are considering taking one, with a higher appetite among adults between 18-24 years. Between the two countries, affinity towards a gym is higher among KSA residents as compared to UAE residents, and they are more likely than the latter to be both a current or future member of a gym.
When asked about the factors considered while choosing a gym, cleanliness came on top along with membership cost, with 40% of residents in both the countries considering each of them to be the most important factors. They are more important than available facilities, quality of staff and other factors, highlighting that safety and hygiene remain a key concern for people, as much as the cost of seeking membership at a gym. Women appear to be more price and value-conscious and are more likely than men to consider cleanliness and cost important. They are also more likely to emphasize factors such as variety of classes (18% women vs 13% men) and entertainment facilities (16% vs 12%) when selecting a gym.
Furthermore, when asked about their concerns about contracting Covid-19 from a list of locations, residents showed the greatest concern about contracting it in gyms (with 56% saying this), followed by indoor sporting events (49%), theme parks (45%) and outdoor sporting events (43%). Notably, the fear of contracting the virus at all these locations is much higher among UAE residents as compared to the public in KSA.
The data also shows that nearly three in five residents in both the countries (58%) said the pandemic and subsequent remote working have changed their exercise habits. The ease and convenience of doing home workouts, and not the accessibility (as 59% said they have too many gyms in their area) could be discouraging people from joining a gym.
The onset of the summer season could be another obstacle as 54% said they exercise less during the Middle East summer (May-Oct) than other times of the year. Having said that, people want to stay active and three in five residents (61%) wish to exercise more than they currently do during this period. Providing a safe indoor experience- whether remote or in-studio, can help people meet their fitness requirements during the intense summer heat.
As revealed in the research, worry about contracting the virus is prevalent among respondents and they are hesitant to fully step out into public places- especially closed spaces. While virtual workouts may be dominant in the near future, addressing the concerns of people and educating them about the benefits of taking a physical class may make them more confident about joining or returning to a gym.
Data was collected online among 2016 respondents in the UAE and KSA by YouGov’s Omnibus between May 12th-18th, 2022 using YouGov’s panel of over 20 million people worldwide.