The start of the year usually brings with it the usual resolution-based fitness goals and health kicks. But if you’re thinking new year, new goals, you might be wrong. By Delima Shanti
Last year reshaped the concept of health and wellbeing for all Australians. Since the pandemic struck, wellbeing has become much more than trying the latest fitness trend. For starters, a whole fitness industry driven by gym rats, pilates lovers and team sports fans was shut down for much of the year. In addition, the pandemic also brought with it an increased focus on physical and mental wellbeing, particularly when exercise became one of the few reasons we could leave the house at all in some states.
In November 2020, Time Out Australia surveyed more than 2,600 readers about how they felt about life in their city. Part of the survey was on the general topic of wellbeing. Eight months after the first lockdown hit our cities, the majority of those surveyed said that they actively took steps to take care of their mental wellbeing. How were they doing this? The most common ways respondents took care of their mental health were physical exercise and doing hobbies and activities that made them feel good. It’s not surprising that in a year marked by lockdowns and unprecedented life changes, around 1 in 4 of respondents also took part in meditation or mindfulness activities or used mindfulness apps.
Not surprisingly, walking and running were by far the most popular forms of exercise, with 79% of respondents saying they walked or ran for exercise when we asked them in November. Meanwhile, 33% said they usually preferred to exercise at home. Perhaps due to new habits developed in lockdown, 42% also said they typically exercised at least 3 times a week or more – and a quarter of respondents said they did some form of exercise daily.
While lockdown-friendly exercise was the most popular kind at the end of last year, a total of 60% of respondents had had some form of gym or group fitness membership in the 12 months prior. The question now is, while habits have certainly changed in 2020, will those with memberships continue their fitness subscriptions? Perhaps some have gotten used to the more low-cost, DIY methods of keeping the body moving, but others might have missed being part of a gym or fitness studio – it’s hard to replicate the social aspect and access to equipment when you’re taking the hundredth loop around the local park.
All up, 46% of respondents to Time Out’s November 2020 survey said they would sign up to or continue their fitness membership in 2021. For those who said they didn’t want to or weren’t sure if they wanted to join up, 39% said their decision so far was down to budget restrictions, while 32% wanted to continue working out at home for now, suggesting they might not be in a rush to shake off some of the new habits gained in 2020. As for what wellbeing looks like in 2021, one thing’s for sure. Our old habits will still be coloured by the changes the pandemic has brought, and wellbeing now is also about doing things for the common good like remembering to wear a mask, keeping a safe distance from other people and being mindful of each other as well as ourselves.