Health & fitness apps continue to trend upwards in 2021
Nationwide lockdowns and social distancing rules over the past 18 months changed the way we use apps. All verticals saw a massive increase in installs and sessions in 2020 - but health and fitness performed exceptionally well. Following the first lockdowns in March 2020, swathes of users transitioned from going to the gym, to working out at home with the help of fitness apps. Our last article on the growth of health and fitness apps reported that installs boomed by 67% in March 2020, followed by a sessions boost of 48% in May.
Over a year later, as gyms and fitness studios worldwide are slowly re-opening, we’ve examined the vertical’s growth in 2021 so far. Although installs are not as impressive as last year, sessions are trending upwards, showing that apps have performed exceptionally well in retaining the users they acquired during 2020’s peak.
2021 is looking strong for health and fitness
As we’ve come to expect, the New Year’s Resolutions spike of early January took place again this year - with installs up 10% YoY as more people than ever opted to kick off their fitness journey on mobile. And those who already had their favorite fitness apps downloaded seem to have ramped up their exercise routines as sessions climbed 57% YoY in January.
So far in 2021, installs are down 24% compared to the first half of 2020. Sessions, however, have increased 31% YoY, indicating that even though gyms are welcoming people back, users are sticking with apps, preferring home workouts and the experiences they’ve become accustomed to.
The most sessions per week are logged on Sundays, showing that it is still everyone’s favorite day to work out, while Fridays log the lowest number of sessions. The best performing week in 2021 so far in terms of global sessions was the first week of March — sessions performed 9.1% above the average for the first half of 2021.
A different case Down Under
In Australia and New Zealand, lockdown restrictions weren’t as persistent as in most other markets, resulting in gyms and studios remaining open more consistently, albeit with temporary lockdowns in between. That’s why it may not be a surprise that health and fitness app installs haven’t performed as impressively — posting a 52% YoY decline in the first half of 2021, with sessions also dropping by 11% (January sessions were up 30% YoY, however). This indicates that people in Australia and New Zealand didn’t experience the same degree of disruption. Marketers and developers should take a different approach to UA and retention in these markets, centering their apps as appealing alternatives while highlighting their unique selling propositions. They aren’t just solving a problem, but are offering specific features that present a holistic approach to wellness.
Future of the health and fitness industry
Our data indicate that apps have done a fantastic job in retaining their users, resulting in large numbers of people opting to stick with mobile to stay in shape. In addition to restrictions still influencing user habits, it’s also the abundance and diverse range of health and fitness apps that are likely inspiring this sustained usage. Many apps offer more than just workouts and routines - integrated equipment, wearable technology, and mindfulness/meditations are now standard.
When countries started closing down, demand grew, app developers found gaps in the market and reacted by creating new products. Even established brick-and-mortar gyms were driven to produce their own apps. App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 Report estimated that in 2020 over 71,000 health and fitness apps were launched globally (24,000 in the Apple App Store and 47,000 in the Google Play Store).
Existing apps that had been steadily growing before March 2020, such as FitOn, one of the top-rated apps in North America, which features workouts and wellness classes, saw massive growth. Since last year, they have gained six million users, and they’re projected to have 20 million users by the end of this year. In 2020, FitOn users finished 450 million minutes of workouts, and they are set to complete one billion minutes by the end of 2021. This alone shows how prominent at-home workouts are becoming in peoples’ lives.
eMarketer’s Principal Analyst at Insider Intelligence, Andrew Lipsman, weighed in on how the fitness industry will digitally transform.
“Digital fitness is an emerging megatrend, and not just because of the pandemic. The combination of increasingly sophisticated wearables, personalized health tracking, and integrated digital media experiences—all led by the most aspirational consumer brands—already pointed toward a reimagined consumer fitness landscape. The pandemic simply accelerated these trends as consumers adapted to fitness experiences without gyms as the focal point.”
The continued growth of sessions in the health and fitness apps in 2021 demonstrates the sustained success and popularity of this vertical. Marketers and developers have worked proactively to retain the users acquired during lockdowns - showing that their solutions are not only a Plan B, but a flexible, integrated and multi-dimensional option for health, fitness and wellbeing. The growth of health and fitness apps is set to continue, but the key challenge for apps is to gain the competitive edge and acquire more high-LTV users.