While a classic movie night can still be a fun way to unwind, there’s a growing trend toward experiential and active leisure activities that provide more immersive and engaging experiences. From floating in sensory deprivation pods to mastering parkour, a new category of activities is gaining popularity across the country and the world. But why the sudden shift? Experts suggest more people are seeking out novel and effective outlets for anxiety and stress, and these fun experiences are filling the gap.
What distinguishes these activities from traditional forms of leisure is their emphasis on providing unique experiences that promote physical exercise, social interaction, and mental well-being. As consumers become increasingly aware of the importance of maintaining both physical and mental health, these activities offer an innovative way to manage stress, connect with friends, and escape from the demands of daily life.
Since the pandemic, consumers have sought new ways to stay healthy; that trend is converging with another major consumer trend, personalized experiences and products and more playful ways to stay active. With 27.5% of adults and 81% of teens failing to meet physical activity recommendations weekly, this renewed focus on playful well-being may explain why experiential and active leisure is exploding. In this article, we’ll explore some of the new leisure trends meeting consumers’ expectations for activity, experience, and physical and mental well-being.
Inspired by the extremely popular American Ninja Warrior TV show, ninja gyms have popped up around the country as new way to stay fit while having a unique gym experience. With various areas that include trampolines and obstacle and parkour courses, there’s something for everyone. In fact, according to Parks and Rec Business, many Ninja gym memberships are family memberships, with parents and kids sharing the experience and getting fit together. Ninja gyms have also become a popular way to spend time with friends and family. The facilities are also extremely popular destinations for children’s birthday parties.
Axe throwing is another popular entertainment option that has proliferated over the last several years. Axe throwing grew out of competition at the lumberyards of the 1800s. Modern axe-throwing leagues started in Canada around 2011, but have since sprung up all over the globe. According to Heber Hatchets, axe throwing is a fast-paced, friendly way to relieve stress and get off the couch. Friends gather to relieve stress, socialize, and get some physical activity.
In the last few months, “rage rooms” have opened all across the country. “Anger management in a safe setting” is how the Anger Clinic in Dickinson describes itself. At BreakThru Rage Rooms in Eau Claire, people can work out their aggression on glassware, flatscreen TVs and monitors, microwaves, desks and lamps, file cabinets, windows, and more. TVs and microwaves have been the most popular items to break, according to the owners.
Salt pods (float pods), salt caves, and zen rooms are another wellness trend growing in popularity as consumers become more health-conscious and focus on wellness. Two forms of salt therapy – wet and dry – are both growing in demand. Surfcoast Wellness Rooms Owner Bianca Liberatory explains the float tank as a way to “turn your brain off and your mind off and let your brain have a moment to think what you’ve got to think, for that one hour when you’re in there.”
Salt caves offer the benefit of breathing in small particles of salt, which can “reduce inflammation and is also antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial,” according to Glam. Halotherapy (salt therapy) “may help relieve asthma, allergies, sinus inflammation, coughs, and respiratory infections.”
From summer parkour camps for kids to parkour at the gym, this extreme physical challenge is all the rage. Parkour – a physically challenging exercise in which a person creatively runs, jumps, and climbs, using their body and body strength to move from obstacle to obstacle, has been around since the 1990s, invented by Frenchman David Belle. It has risen in popularity thanks to its inclusion in movies and video games. Gyms advertise it as a way to “make fitness fun,” and a modified version has been recommended for seniors to help them avoid falls. Parkour clubs are projected to grow substantially by 2030.
Sport simulators like Topgolf are expected to grow to $30.69 billion by 2033. The advances in AR, VR, and 3D technology have helped to advance the popularity of simulation games, which allow people to be physically active and play their favorite sports in a bar or club setting with friends. From football to soccer to golf and more, these games offer an opportunity to get physical and exercise while socializing.
Indoor skydiving is more than just a way to stay fit; it’s become a competitive sport growing in popularity around the country. According to Chron, there are five disciplines in competitive indoor skydiving: Formation Skydiving (FS), which takes a belly-to-earth orientation inside the flight chamber; Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS), where competitors fly in vertical orientations; Dynamic Flying (D4W / D2W), which involves fluid flying and can include artistic routines; and Freestyle/Artistic, where competitors train and design an artistic routine.” The sport is expected to grow +4.4% by 2029.
Consumers Are Focused on Health
As people strive to maintain a balance between physical fitness, mental wellness, and social connections, the demand for experiential and active leisure activities continues to surge. The appeal of these unique experiences lies in their ability to offer a break from the stresses of daily life, provide a sense of accomplishment, and foster connections with others.
Whether it’s swinging an axe, conquering parkour obstacles, or immersing oneself in salt therapy, these activities have redefined the concept of fun by combining entertainment with personal growth and well-being. With consumers prioritizing their health and seeking out personalized experiences, the experiential and active leisure industry is poised for growth and innovation in the years to come.