WORK / Expertise Female Home Fitness –
An underwhelmed market

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New expectations

Advanced exercise equipment for females is arguably the biggest untapped opportunity for home fitness. There is huge potential for brands to innovate, but this market’s needs and motivations are complex. We decided to delve deeper, surveying over 1,000 people about their relationship with home fitness, the gym, and the technology they use (or wish to use). The resulting ‘New World of Home Fitness’ report, in conjunction with The Shopper Agency, lifts the lid on the specific home fitness needs expressed by women. 

Sadly, exercising at home can be an underwhelming experience, with almost 90% of women saying they do not exercise happily at home because of the barriers. On a functional level, the most significant of these are not having the right equipment, not having enough space, and too many people getting in the way. On a psychological level, however, women are more likely to find self-discipline a barrier to exercising at home. How can the fitness industry respond with experiences that inspire the female market and match their expectations? 

Connected, guided experiences

Our results showed that women miss guidance from an instructor significantly more than men and are also keener on tracking their fitness progress. Almost 75% use or want to use fitness watches and over 75% fitness apps. Moreover, women prefer to exercise more socially than men – over 77% are adopting streamed fitness classes post-lockdown, and over 65% seek gamified fitness workouts. They are seeking a digitally connected, social experience with guidance built-in (85%). This is surely why brands that look good in the home while providing socially driven content are flourishing. Lululemon, an athleisure brand built on a strong female focus, is on the pulse with their recent acquisition of Mirror – a connected home-fitness start-up. High-end, community-driven gear from brands like Peloton, Fightcamp, and Tonal have also all thrived during lockdown. 

By contrast, men are significantly more likely to prefer exercising on their own (but still want that competitive element). During lockdown, men’s motivation to compete against themselves increased (+9.4%), while women’s decreased (-12.4%). Where women don’t want home-fitness gear that reminds them of a gym, Men generally want to replicate gym equipment in the home but without needing the same degree of expert guidance. 

Women didn’t want home-fitness gear that reminded them of a gym

A weave of complex needs

So, what do women look for when it comes to home gym gear? What brands are facing is a complex array of needs that overlap and sometimes conflict, requiring an innovative approach to balancing them. Professional-grade gear is important yet being compact (89%) and quickly set-up(86%) is crucial. Something that looks good in the home is a must, but also something that is easy to clean(84%). This requirement may be Covid related but also points to a factor that can be easily overlooked by brand manufacturersWomen are certainly craving fun(85%) in home-fitness experiences, yet 70% also want a brand that is serious about what it does. Of course, this all represents something of a balancing act for brands, but the expectations are clear. 

A winning formula

Our research shows that women are particularly underwhelmed by the current home fitness experience. Pandemics have always been a possibility, although not something industries ever truly anticipated. So, design has not yet filled that gap. With women particularly expressing the benefits of streaming connected fitness classes from home instead of paying extortionate gym memberships, this trend is set to continue long after the pandemic subsides. “At-home fitness had been a growing segment of the wellness market before the pandemic, and the lockdowns have only accelerated that growth.”, said Calvin MacDonald, CEO Lululemon. To target the female market, make it more social, fun, and build in expert guidance throughout. The brands that deliver this via compact, pro-grade equipment will win.

To learn more about these insights or to get the full report, get in touch.

Design Partners and The Shopper Agency will be presenting further insights from the report in October at Europe’s leading digital conference on fitness technology and the future of wellbeing & healthy lifestyle – FitTech Summit.


*Respondents were recruited using an independent research platform. Gender identity was asked in an inclusive manner (including ‘prefer not to answer’). All respondents in this study identified as either male or female.

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