It’s no secret that exercise is essential for a healthy life. Some of the major benefits of physical activity includes supporting weight management, reducing health risks like cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, strengthening bones and build muscles, as well as supporting cognitive functioning and brain health. As more people are conscious of their physical appearance and health, physical activity is a major area of attention. A large percentage of individuals go to gyms to satisfy their exercise needs. With the wide range of amenities available like group classes, personal training, and a wide variety of equipment and weights, gyms are seen as a one-stop-shop for your fitness needs for the 9.7 million Britons who have gym memberships. With such demand, there is a large supply. There are roughly 6,700 health and fitness clubs in the UK and the industry had a revenue of $5.5 billion in 2018.
Everything was going great for the gym industry but much like every other industry, 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic caused massive disruptions which will change the future of fitness. As gyms all over the world have shut down due to the lockdown measure, people have had to find unique and innovative ways to workout. Fitness apps and in-home gyms are capitalizing on this unique time.
Recently Lululemon announced they had an agreement to purchase the in-home exercise startup Mirror for $500 million. Mirror’s product allows individuals to watch their form during exercises and participate in classes in their own homes. While their product may not appeal to the average person at $1500, without tax and installation fees, and at $39 a class, it’s at home accessibility and innovation will appeal to many who do not want to go to the gym. In-home gyms merge with technology offering personalized tools to evaluate your fitness, Mirror comes with an app that monitors your heart rate and calories burned.
The view of fitness is constantly evolving and with personalization as important as ever, the fitness industry is adapting. Mirror CEO, Brynn Putnam, when discussing the future of in-home fitness said, “Fitness is just one of the many content experiences in the home.” This content experience is being replicated by other in-home gym startups such as Peloton, Tonal, NordicTrack, and FightCamp. Each of these products offer unique and innovative services such as guided workouts, real-time feedback, smart technology, and many others. Similarly to Mirror, the products cost thousands of dollars, and that investment may be unrealistic when developing your own workout inside or outside can be free or of minimal costs. For individuals who enjoy the organization of classes and need guided instruction, these products offer perks the gym doesn’t.
If you’ve been in the position where you had a yoga class at 7:00 pm and you just get out of work and you have to commute to the gym or if you have to stop by your home first to get your workout gear, you know the stress that can create especially if you take a class that punishes you for tardiness or missing a class. In-home workouts are more convenient where you don’t have to worry about running late to a class and everything revolves around your schedule. It’s already hard to be consistently motivated to workout but if you can work out in the comfort of your own home with the right resources, it’s much easier to stay dedicated. Additionally, in-home gyms are a safe space to grow and learn new exercise routines without feeling insecure or judged. Gyms can be intimidating places where you might feel uncomfortable practicing new things around people who may have more experience or expertise. In your home, you have all the comfort to express yourself and make as many mistakes and adjustments as needed because no one else is watching you.
2020 hasn’t produced an increase in physical activity with global lockdowns and other restrictions. In a June 2020 research paper written by the Annals of Internal Medicine found there is a global reduction in step counts with countries like the US seeing over a 20% decline. Though this year has brought great importance to our health, exercise is still something people are not fond of. In the US, only a quarter get enough of it which the government defines as 2 strength training workouts and 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Digital and remote exercises may be the future of fitness as individuals can engage with it from anywhere and it can be tailored and personalized to your specific needs. This may not appeal to everyone but as gym memberships decline and fitness centers around the world struggle to stay afloat, an opportunity arises. Mindbody, a SaaS company that works with wellness companies on business management including scheduling found significant increases in consumers accessing virtual content. The company surveyed their consumers which revealed 46% of respondents indicated they planned to make virtual classes a regular part of their workouts.
It is too early to tell if gyms will be replaced by at-home workouts but as this year has shown us, adaptability is everything. With convenience, accessibility, and especially safety the main priorities of people, the digital fitness industry is ready to be the future.
Written by Tariq Ahmed
University of College London | 2019
MSc Global Health & Development