For most of us, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to workouts at the gym. While some chose to give up exercise altogether, others have been subscribing to online classes to maintain their fitness routine. And while more and more gyms are opening, virtual classes seem to be as popular as ever.
Josh McCarter, chief executive officer of the fitness platform MindBody, has seen an increase in bookings of virtual workouts this year. Plus, he says that around 50 percent of the platform’s bookings have been for yoga classes. “In addition to physical well-being, one’s emotional, mental, and spiritual fitness has become a bigger priority.”
In the US, fitness is a $32 billion industry. In Germany, fitness market revenue has reached 5.51 billion Euros, the highest such revenue in Europe. With so much money at stake, gym owners have had to be resourceful.
According to the research firm ClubIntel, 72 percent of fitness club owners are currently offering online classes in addition to in-person workouts. These include live-stream group classes. This number represents an increase from 25 percent in 2019.
In the US, where over 80 percent of gyms had reopened by September last year, 60 percent of members did not return. This has been mainly due to changes in lifestyle patterns and fear of contracting the virus. In fact, according to ClubIntel’s research, 57 percent of respondents said they have stopped going to the gym because they did not believe covid-19 was yet under control.
“A legacy of the pandemic is that people know how to juggle various things at home now. When the pandemic dies down, digital options will be a substitute they’re familiar with if they don’t have time to make it to the gym. It’s ingrained in habits now,” said the CEO of the gym chain Planet Fitness, Chris Rondeau.
“The majority of online workouts can be accessed on laptops, iPads and even mobile phones, making them an incredibly appealing and convenient option for those strapped for time,” says the founder of the fitness platform fitforBeach.de. “Most classes are on-demand, which meanest that users can stop them and rewind. Then there are the live-stream classes that let people feel like they are exercising in a group.”
Despite the fact that over 2000 of its gyms are now open, Planet Fitness has decreased its marketing of gym memberships in favor of a fitness platform it has been working on with iFit. A subscription to the online platform does not require a gym membership.
“It’s not as much a cancelation issue as it is a join issue because we weren’t driving sales,” Rondeau says of the decision to scale down marketing of the brick-and-mortar gyms. “The first four months of the year are always really important for us. We’ve seen people excited about returning, but we’re still going to have to claw our way back.”