New Year, New Narrative: How are 2023’s Fitness Trends Turning the Tide?

18 January 2023

January. The tree is back in the loft and a few stray Bountys are all that’s left of the Christmas chocolates; it’s time to get on the treadmill, right? Wrong. Fad diets, gruelling training programmes and celebrity workout DVDs promising you’ll lose 14 pounds in just one week are firmly behind us (thankfully). 2023 brings with it a brand-new outlook on the way we move our bodies and view ourselves, with brands playing a positive role in turning the tide.

Following a period of indulgent festivities for most, the New Year is known to bring with it a manic surge of gym sign ups, people feeling as if they must change their bodies, and ‘undo’ their Christmas snacking. This is problematic. For far too long, the way we’ve seen January has enforced a strong sense of guilt around the free enjoyment of food and the association of exercise and weight loss.

However, recent years have seen a new wave of inclusive advertising with brands responding to consumers wanting to see themselves being represented. Nike paved the way for inclusivity within retail when it unveiled its first inclusive mannequin at its flagship London store in 2019, ‘to celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of sport’[1]; a message that remains deeply relevant following the Qatar World Cup last year. Diversity has become a priority when considering influencer, role model, and imagery selection, which is helping to break down the way we perceive sport and ourselves. As an absolute first point of call, brands need to be confident in their own diversity policies and ensure that all content is as inclusive as possible.

2023 sheds the dated ideology of working out to build a ‘perfect’ body and instead highlights the importance of working out for mental balance and strong body and mind. We’ve seen brands push back against the same ‘New Year, New Me’ this year with a strong campaign from Equinox that banned new members joining on the first of January, and from GymBox’s bright out-of-home campaign slashing through phrases like ‘Sweat Is Your Fat Crying’ with a big, colourful cross. Brands are leading in breaking down everything New Year has meant for us before. As put in British Vogue, 2023 is about ‘working with (not against) your body’[2]. Fitness trends for this year put balance at the forefront as we work out for immunity, mental health, and mindfulness.[3]

COVID-19 changed the way that we operate professionally and personally with the pandemic seeing a sharp increase in stay-at-home fitness. Many turned to Zoom yoga classes, PE with Joe Wicks, and getting good old-fashioned fresh air to cope with the unprecedented anxieties the pandemic brought with it and showcasing the positive impact that fitness has on wellness and fighting disease. These pick ‘n’ mix style workouts and wellbeing focus has ultimately shaped the way we are now talking about health and fitness.

The trends for the year ahead confirm that there is no ‘one size fits all’ for how we should exercise; it is unique and individual. Brands that win this year will pioneer change, celebrate difference, and show diversity through the people they work with, the content and situations they choose to showcase, and the causes they champion. As we enter 2023 in a state of global uncertainty, there is no better time to shine a light on the importance of mental wellbeing with exercise remaining an important factor in achieving this. The future of the way we talk about fitness is bright.


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