Jenny Radke, a Broadway and television actress, was never big on joining health clubs or taking fitness classes. With a background in dance, she has long known how to keep herself fit.
But the new Life Time health club in Lower Manhattan won her over with its Kids Academy, a 10,000-square-foot space where she can drop off her 19-month-old daughter for puzzles and other developmental activities while she does Pilates, jogs on the treadmill and winds down with a hydromassage.
“She has a little yoga mat and can do what Mommy is doing,” said Mrs. Radke, known professionally as Jenny Laroche. “I get in some ‘me’ time.”
As people return to in-person activities with the loosening of coronavirus pandemic restrictions and a fall in reported Covid cases from last year, they are making a beeline for the gym, eager to shed extra pounds they gained during lockdowns. And the $32 billion U.S. fitness industry is greeting them with some new tricks.
Monthly visits to gyms from March through August rose more than 18 percent from the same period in 2019, according to data from Placer.ai, which tracks retail foot traffic. New memberships also increased, with sales per square foot at gyms up 34 percent in August from a year earlier and almost on a par with 2019, said Mark Sigal, chief executive of Datex Property Solutions, a software company that tracks retail properties.
The enthusiasm reflects fatigue with solo workouts coupled with a quest for communal experiences, at a time when some at-home exercise equipment that became popular during lockdowns — like Peloton bikes — is falling out of favor.
Health clubs and gyms — slammed with mandated closings at the beginning of the pandemic, followed by occupancy limits and then waves of variants that made people wary of huffing and puffing in the vicinity of others — are positioning themselves for this moment. Well-capitalized chains are expanding, taking advantage of pandemic-depressed rents, and operators are reconfiguring their spaces, adding accommodations not only for children but also for aging baby boomers.
Space that is newly occupied by fitness centers increased to more than 4.5 million square feet in the first three months of this year, from about 2 million at the end of 2021, outpacing other types of retailers, according to Brandon Isner, head of retail research for the Americas …….