Insights Article

The Impact of Inflation on Consumer Health & Fitness
14th November 2023
apples, trainers, a measuring tape, a water bottle and a mobile phone with headphones placed on a wooden floor

Rising inflation is creating increased levels of polarisation between high and low incomes, affecting consumer confidence and the way we shop. Purchasing habits, needs and priorities are shifting, dividing the consumer landscape and affecting the way we define traditional consumer groups. As a result, brands and manufacturers will need to adapt their messaging and strategies to effectively respond to these evolving needs.

In this article, we look at how the current period of sustained rising inflation is affecting consumer health, from the foods they buy to the ways they maintain their physical fitness.

How is Inflation Affecting Consumer Health & Fitness?

In a survey we recently conducted across the UK, we found that 13% of respondents have reduced their spending on fitness because of the cost-of-living crisis. Many people feel like they are having to choose between their fitness and the necessities – and with physical activity not being considered an essential for many people, spend on the health and fitness category is frequently being cut from weekly budgets.

35% of respondents claim to be spending less on gym memberships compared to last year. Similarly, a third of the sample said they were exercising less at professional sports centres such as gyms or leisure centres this year. This could be because people are finding ways to keep active for free – 25% said they’re exercising more at home this year, and 60% of 40 – 65yr olds said they’re taking up walking or hiking – but personal health checks such as visiting a dentist or optician have also fallen victim to cutbacks, as 15% of respondents claim to be spending less on this category.

This is in spite of the fact that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns underscored the significance of physical activity for both physical and mental well-being. Rising costs as a barrier to physical fitness could exacerbate health inequalities and have a detrimental effect on people’s overall health and well-being.

So, how can brands navigate this challenging landscape and effectively respond to the demand for cheaper alternative methods of keeping physically fit to maintain their competitiveness?

How Should Fitness Brands Respond?

Consumers will be looking to invest in products and equipment that will help them to stay active outside of gyms and sports centres. This might include items such as running shoes, exercise bikes, treadmills, weights, skipping ropes and hula hoops. In fact, 84% of 18-34yr olds said they would make a fitness-related purchase, indicating a huge opportunity for brands.

Brands can support consumers by creating a seamless omni-channel strategy that marries the online and offline worlds to always meet consumers wherever they’re engaging in fitness. This could include offering online workout classes via dedicated apps, or by partnering with popular streaming services. Similarly, brands can take advantage of the gamification trend, integrating their apps into popular health trackers that also allow people to compete against their friends and family, such as Apple Health, helping to keep consumers engaged throughout their fitness journeys.

While novelty can create buzz and short-term demand, the long-term focus should be in developing a worthwhile experience which feels like it centres the consumer and is invested in their health. It’s important for brands to communicate all the benefits of their product or service beyond pricing, to illustrate how they bring value to consumers and play a more meaningful role in people’s lives. This in turn increases brand loyalty – in fact, consumers are 3.5x more likely to buy from a brand if they believe it addresses inequalities (Edelman, 2021).

How Can Brand Tracking Help?

To do this effectively, brands need to have a clear understanding of consumers needs, perceptions, brand usage and preferences, to paint a holistic view of their overall brand health. Brand tracking is an important resource which allows you to measure the impact of your brand-building efforts, helping you to accurately track and evaluate your brand equity among your target audiences. It brings together thousands of data points from multiple sources, to understand how wider trends are impacting consumers purchasing decisions, and where the opportunities lie for your brand.

Contact Clusters today to find out how we can help to develop your consumer insights in UK and international markets.

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