The Pulse

What the Move From Gym Fitness to Home Fitness Means for the US Fitness Industry

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After spending a year cooped up at their home and getting little to no exercise, New Year’s resolutions for several people might have focused more on physical activities. And, the fitness industry is the perfect testament to that. Even though coronavirus restricted gym capacity and shuttered most of them entirely, the traditional spike in memberships continued in January 2021. In fact, in some ways, the number of new memberships has exceeded. Since fitness studios and gyms were closed for months and even the commute to work was disappeared for people, many started to work out at home. In fact, people were exercising more frequently than they did before the pandemic. One of the reasons behind this is the increase in online classes and the move towards improving one’s physical as well as mental health.

Effect of pandemic on the Fitness Industry

The fitness industry today is more about just getting a bikini body because no one knows when they will be able to vacation again. Because of COVID-19, people are now thinking about health as something more elastic. In fact, the MindBody company matched its typical 30% increase that it sees during the New Year, mainly because of more and more people choosing virtual workouts. Also, about 50% of the virtual bookings on the platform are for yoga as people want classes that are focused on mindfulness. Apart from physical wellbeing, people have started to prioritize their mental, spiritual, and emotional fitness.

Before COVID-19, working out meant carving out time from a busy schedule to visit a job, something that was challenging for many people. But now, thanks to apps and streaming services, bringing workouts into people’s homes has become easier, often at a cost significantly lower than a gym membership. In 2019, a survey of MindBody users showed that only 7% of them used fitness streaming services weekly. By April 2020, this number had grown to over 80%. The necessity to get some exercise in a work-from-home routine prompted people to use fitness streaming services. In March 2020, several popular chains with nationwide locations like Gold’s Gym, SoulCycle, Equinox, and LA Fitness, closed their doors and complied with the lockdown orders. In response to the global shutdown, the downloads of health and fitness increased by 47% in the second quarter alone. The demand for streaming services increased dramatically.

During last March, when the gym closures were at their peak, class bookings fell to about 85%. In the United States, the opening of in-person studio classes is still uneven because of varying local and state restrictions. For example, in California and New Work, bookings were about 50% of the 2019 numbers and in Georgia and Arizona, the numbers were down by only 15%. Because of the pandemic, the adoption of a hybrid model (in-person/online) of workouts has accelerated. This is something that the gyms will like to retain even after the pandemic has receded. According to ClubIntel, a fitness research firm, out of the fitness club owners who were grappling with reduced memberships and were able to catch on with the home fitness trend, about 72% want to continue offering live stream and on-demand group workouts. This number was only 25% in 2019.

The fitness regimes were upended by the sudden sedentary lifestyle that includes no travel, no commuting, and lots of remote learning and working from home. A study named ‘The U.S. Member Journey in the Era of Covid-19’ conducted on 2,000 gym members from the US by ClubIntel revealed that 54% of them either cancelled or froze their memberships. For people who continued having some form of exercise routine, the key was virtual fitness. Even before the pandemic, home workouts were starting to gain traction led by companies like Mirror and Peloton.

In December, Apple released Fitness+, a virtual fitness subscription service that was built for Apple Watch and was compatible with Apple TV, iPhones, and iPads for $79.99 per year or $9.99 per month.

According to ClubIntel, even though 87% of the fitness clubs opened across the US by September, 60% of people didn’t go back to the gyms and 20% stopped exercising altogether. The change in their commuting patterns led to the change in their workout patterns. Even though the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is slowly underway, people are still fearful of the in-person fitness experience and will most likely not go back to the gym for quite some time. The ClubIntel study found that of all the respondents who didn’t go back to the gym, 57% were not confident that the coronavirus was under enough control to warrant their return.

Future of fitness industry

The pandemic caused a drastic shift from gym fitness to home fitness. And experts believe that this $32 billion worth industry will be experiencing some permanent changes. Even though 75% of consumers said that they will be returning to the actual gym ad their pre-pandemic routines, several indicated that they will also be retaining a virtual component which sets forward broad implications for this sector. Technology has driven fitness brands to connect with their members and serve them during the pandemic. Here is a few examples of what is in store for the future of the fitness industry:

  • Fully immersive experiences

Some gyms have take workouts to the next level by creating an immersive fitness experience for their customers. In order to produce a better workout, they are using innovative lighting and imagery that enhanced their class. Things such as terrain, colour, temperature, and lighting are now a part of workouts. As technology continues to advance, the ability to build a fully immersive experience becomes stronger. Les Mills, a global fitness program uses cinema-scale sound and screen for THE TRIP. This is 40 minutes long completely immersive stationary cycling session taking the customers on a journey through the digital worlds. The interactive games motivate the users to do better and achieve results, even if they are at home.

  • AI-enabled technology

The future of the fitness industry will depend on technology. As the innovations continue, AI (Artificial Intelligence) has the power to transfer the industry even further. AI-powered gadgets, fitness equipment, software, and mobile apps have already transformed the industry. This type of technology can be used in all the different aspects of the business From marketing and sales to customization, technology is getting smarter and changing people’s daily habits. There are already smarter wearables, performance enhancements, and AI-based personal trainers, but this is only the beginning. This is especially advantageous for people who want to continue working out at home. With AI, there is a potential to use a ton of services and products that can optimize and grow the virtual fitness industry.

AI also can help with seamless customer transactions which are key to attracting new members and retaining current ones. An efficient booking experience is crucial for an efficient fitness experience. Industries have to use AI in order to provide a seamless experience to their customers, especially the ones working out at home, through chatbots. Companies like ClassPass have made their booking experience very simple. More businesses are leveraging AI for analyzing the history of members, making smart suggestions, and providing a smooth experience for the customers.

AI also powers wearable technology. Even though this technology has been around for years, many will be surprised on hearing the growth of this trend. In 2019, the market share of wearable technology was more than $50 billion. Since 2014, the market size has doubled. What began as a simple Fitbit band has now transformed into an industry helping people live a more efficient and healthier life. When considering the future of the fitness industry, wearable technology is the one with the potential of optimizing exercise and performance fully. This includes using real metrics for delivering the most effective exercise program that can be customized.

  • Combining fitness and wellness

As per the Global Wellness Institute, the Wellness industry is valued at $4.5 trillion. This includes everything from spas and boutique fitness clubs to personal and nutrition training. It is a broad term, but the simple definition is the activities promoting physical and mental wellbeing. More and more people have started to incorporate wellness into their lifestyle and are merging fitness and wellness. Businesses have capitalized on this by offering premium services that have a holistic fitness approach. During the pandemic, people who continued their fitness regime at homes shifted to a more holistic regime that worked on their physical as well as mental wellbeing.

  • Digital platforms

Because of the coronavirus, there has been an accelerated growth in the field of digital fitness. Consumers that are health-conscious want to turn to at-home fitness. This is where digital fitness comes into play. Over the past year, this field has massively increased and is looking towards a fast-growing future. Using such digital fitness platforms, traditional gyms have transformed themselves into a hybrid model. By running physical as well as digital parts of their business, they can increase their audience and have multiple streams of income. Another aspect in which digital fitness can help is the increased demand for on-demand fitness. Modern society needs flexibility and convenience in every area including fitness. They want the choice to work out whenever and wherever they want. In a world where any information is a few seconds away, people are not willing to use something that is difficult and slow. Digital platforms can help satisfy the flexibility and convenience requirements of the consumers. Through virtual workout sessions, they will be able to work out at a time that suits their schedule.

  • Home gyms

For people who prefer working out at home, an efficient gym is a must. With high-tech and smart fitness equipment, the future of the home gym is a bit different. Thanks to long working hours and busy schedules, consumers are choosing home workouts that don’t require them to commute or wait in line. Combining digital technology and innovation with space limitations increases the demand for smart and effective home fitness technology. Several brands have already started to capitalize on this need for home fitness equipment. The perfect example of this is the home-fitness technology start-up Mirror purchased by Lululemon for $500 million. As per Lululemon, in 2021, Mirror generated $100 million in sales.

  • Virtual Fitness

This is one of the most exciting areas of the fitness industry that has the potential to transform home fitness. New technologies are taking this industry by storm. Even today, true virtual reality has barely scratched the surface. But, this industry is growing very fast. Thanks to the VR headsets, users can track their health metrics easily through virtual reality technology. VR has the capability to gamify fitness and offer an immersive experience benefitting users by encouraging exercise and movement.

Home fitness has significantly increased in popularity because of the coronavirus pandemic. With so many people trying to find a way to work out in their home, the downloads for fitness apps significantly rose. By combining apps, technology, home fitness equipment, and wearables, people can work out effectively from the comfort and safety of their homes. It is unclear exactly how many people are willing to step back to the gym, especially now that the situation is under control. During the lockdown, people turned to online streaming platforms, in-home gym solutions, and fitness apps and they have gotten used to it. Some of these people will continue to choose home fitness in the future and some of them will get back to the gym and their pre-pandemic workout routine.

It is not possible to exactly predict what the fitness industry will look like in the next five to ten years. As technology advances, it is possible that in the next decade, the fitness industry will have completely transformed. The pandemic has already accelerated digital fitness and home fitness in a way that has transformed the industry forever. Technology will continue to have a major influence on the market and will make home fitness more achievable and effective for everyone. With new trends coming and going regularly, it is the consumer mindset that will drive the fitness industry in the future.

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