Are gyms back to pre-pandemic life? This data says no way

Gym attendance doesn't look like it's too swoll right now as the industry battles with consumer concerns over the spreading COVID-19 Delta variant and people continuing to workout at home on everything from connected Hydrow rowers to Apple's new fitness classes to Peloton bikes.

Aggregate spending on gym memberships is running at 67% of the level seen in February 2020, according to new analysis of credit and debit card spending out of Bank America. The research studied spending trends for the seven-days ended July 3. It would appear spending on memberships — while up from the start of 2021 — has leveled off in recent months (see chart below).

BofA's data dovetails with new analysis of gym attendance from Goldman Sachs.

Gym attendance has been more volatile over the last four weeks, Goldman's data reveals, and in fact fell 8% from June 14 to June 20. Gym attendance notched steady gains for much of May, Goldman's research shows.

Gyms continue to navigate a volatile COVID-19 backdrop.
Gyms continue to navigate a volatile COVID-19 backdrop.

The mixed reads on gym health has been reflected in the stock prices of key sector plays.

Planet Fitness shares are down 14% in the past three months, per Yahoo Finance Plus data. The S&P 500 has appreciated 6.5% during that same stretch. Peloton's stock is only down 3% in the last three months.

Analysts that cover fitness center leader Planet Fitness acknowledge the ongoing volatility in attendance.

"We believe that, as clubs stay open longer, membership levels will stabilize, and given Planet's scale and strong emphasis on cleanliness, the company should fare better than peers. According to our data, an avg. traffic index of Planet gyms nationwide was (6%) versus same-day 2019, which is similar to the industry at (5%) nationwide, as of 6/27/21," said Jefferies analyst Randal Konik. "We expect to see evidence of a more health-centered and risk-tolerant consumer for the remainder of 2021, leading to continued upward trends in traffic."

Konik rates Planet Fitness at a Buy rating with a $100 price target, suggesting about 37% upside form current levels.

To be sure, the opportunity for the traditional gym space to rebound remains huge as the pandemic rounds the corner.

About 42% of people polled in a recent survey from the American Psychological Association said they gained more weight than they intended during the pandemic. Of those surveyed, the average weight gain has tallied 29 pounds. Roughly 10% of those surveyed said they gained more than 50 pounds.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

What’s hot from Sozzi:

Watch Yahoo Finance’s live programming on Verizon FIOS channel 604, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Samsung TV, Pluto TV, and YouTube. Online catch Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, and LinkedIn.