Five key trends in health and fitness apps in 2021

It’s no secret that 2020 was a huge year for health and fitness apps. 

Some reports claim as much as a 150% increase in health and fitness app downloads. However, after the lockdown boom in healthcare and fitness that we covered a few weeks back, we’ve been wondering “what’s next” for the sector.

Apadmi is the UK’s leading mobile-first agency, boasting a strong portfolio of work with top sport, health and fitness brands including Chelsea FC, Wattbike and SailGP. As trendsetters and trailblazers in these industries, we’re keen to find the growing trends, so we can help our clients flourish in the coming months. 

With these goals in mind, we began a two-pronged approach to look into the future of the health and fitness industry, pooling the knowledge of our mobile experts while seeking out several external resources to back up our predictions. 

Here are the five key trends we discovered within health and fitness apps in 2021.

1) Market saturation and the importance of differentiation 

Analytics and mobile data provider App Annie estimates that 71,000 health and fitness apps launched in 2020. That’s an unprecedented number of fitness solutions. 

When we polled our staff, we found they could name 78 different health and fitness services across several different types of platforms and business models. 

This research suggests that the market is reaching saturation. If you’re a business entering the health and fitness sector right now, you need to think long and hard about how you’re going to stand out from the competition and ensure that you’re offering something unique. 

Even if you’re an established health and fitness provider, it’s key that you’re constantly accessing both your app and the market as a whole, to ensure that both well-established and growing businesses aren’t undercutting you or offering a stronger proposition. 

The functionality of your app is key, so factors like UI and UX design may make or break your business. It may be time to consider an app refresh

2) A viable alternative to gyms

At the height of lockdown, gyms were inaccessible and they still are in many parts of the world. This has created a gap in many people’s lives, as they’re no longer able to get the support and motivation they normally received from a personal trainer or gym buddy. 

According to Apptopia, 60% of the most successful health and fitness apps include video content for guided exercises or motivation. They offer a human touch. From polling our staff members on the pros of paid health and fitness apps we found a similar trend emerging:

Positive themes

The positive themes that our staff identified included ‘dedicated, favourite trainers’, ‘personal/interactive’ and ‘good variety of classes’ – all of which are traditionally advantages associated with gyms rather than phone apps. 

This indicates that apps have reached the point of offering enough support to be used as an alternative to gyms and personal trainers – a trend only set to continue, with the companies who move closer to ‘gym experiences’ winning out in the future. 

This is an area we know a lot about, given our recent work on Perfect Play with Chelsea FC’s innovation arm. The Perfect Play app guides users through professional Premier-League training sessions offering guidance and feedback through augmented reality.  We worked with industry experts in athletic training to create a platform that was both informative and motivational.

Learn more about our work on Perfect Play

3) Investment in health and fitness apps will grow over the next five years

In a recent report from GVR, the health and fitness app market was predicted to grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.6% from 2021 to 2028. 

This means that there will be as much as $5.9 billion in the market by 2025, approaching $10 billion by the end of the decade. This tracks with growing concerns around the obesity crisis and the mainstream adoption of fitness tech. 

With so much investment and spend coming into the industry, we expect to see much research and innovation underpinning the wider market. 

Apadmi believes that there will be an opportunity not only for health and fitness providers, but for physical and digital solutions that can be integrated across multiple health and fitness platforms, such as smartwatches and fitness tracking APIs that allow users on multiple platforms to compete with each other.

Want to know which smartwatch is the best?

4) A growing requirement for gamification

Pokemon Go. Zombies, Run! Peloton. 

These apps have seen widespread success through gamification by reframing fitness. A research paper on Pokemon Go from the US National Library of Medicine found that Pokemon Go users increased their daily activity by 25% on average (and much more in some cases). 

Gamification opens up health and fitness apps to a much wider audience, overcoming many of the negative associations users have with health and fitness apps. We asked our team at Apadmi about their negative associations with paid fitness apps, and pulled out several common themes:

Negative themes

Trends like ‘lots of free options available’, ‘doesn’t suit my exercise style’ and ‘lack of variation’ can be overcome through gamification, as a gamified model can offer alternative funding methods, a range of different rewards for different exercise styles and variation through randomisation. 

We see this aspect of the market as a growing opportunity to bring more users into health and fitness for the first time.

5) User experience more important than ever

With massive market disruption, competition, investment and growth, we believe that the most important quality for health and fitness development in the next few years will be experience. 

It’s more important than ever to ensure that every stage of your mobile solution’s definition, design, development and launch go to plan, as the competition is tougher than ever.

At Apadmi, we’ve found success multiple times within the health and fitness sector, working alongside industry titans against world-class competition. 

If you’re considering a health and fitness development project in 2021, contact us below to find out how we can help you secure success.

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