How COVID-19 is changing the exercise industry
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital fitness solutions, pushing the exercise industry toward a hybrid model. People will still attend brick-and-mortar gyms when the pandemic is over, but digital fitness classes will have increased their foothold in the market.
Digital Fitness Trends
More people turned to digital fitness solutions when quarantine orders closed fitness centers in March. Companies that had previously made a stir in the digital fitness space experienced a surge of interest at the onset of COVID-19, and businesses that had offered passes to brick-and-mortar fitness studios before COVID-19 shifted to provide access to virtual, pre-recorded, and live studio classes.
For example, according to Evercore ISI analyst Lee Horowitz, Peloton app downloads were five times higher in March than February. Peloton also reported a 77% increase in quarterly revenue at the end of December.
Likewise, Mindbody, a tech platform that connects people to exercise, health, and wellness solutions, launched a proprietary solution to allow users streaming fitness classes to bypass Zoom. According to their research, 46% of survey participants plan to keep taking virtual classes after gyms reopen.
Just as COVID-19 accelerated and forced the adoption of telemedicine in healthcare; it seems that it will also accelerate the adoption of at-home digital fitness.
Of course, the adoption of digital fitness solutions is not surprising. Many experts believed that the future of fitness was headed this way anyway, with pioneering companies like Peloton, MIRROR, Mindbody, Tonal, and NordicTrack paving the way.
The Aftermath of COVID-19 for Brick-and-Mortar Gyms
Not all fitness centers weathered the pandemic well. Likely, anyone who has a YMCA membership received several emails asking them to donate their membership payments throughout the epidemic.
The YMCA lost $800 million in revenue between April and May. Several branches have shut down, with at least two closures planned for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and more likely to follow.
COVID-19's impact on the YMCA is a major one, as many parents rely on the Y for child care. The YMCA is an essential provider of preschool and before-and-after school child care programs, and a program that offers child care during school breaks.
But, the Y wasn't the only fitness center to take a hit during the quarantine.
Gold's Gym and 24-Hour Fitness suffered severe blows. Both companies filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy between May and June and cited COVID-19 as the reason for their filings. Gold's Gym is likely to close 50% of its nonfranchise locations, and 24-Hour Fitness plans to close about 30% of its studios permanently.
New York Sports Club and other companies also ushered financial concerns during the quarantine.
COVID-19 led to an increase in digital fitness classes. It pushed much of the health and wellness space online, with health coaches, personal trainers, and doctors offering more virtual consultations than before. But, now that gyms have the green light to reopen, what's in store for fitness?
The forced break for gym-goers prompted a variety of responses. Some claim they'll never go back to the gym, and others are delighted to be back now that gyms are open again.
Chances are the future will remain a hybrid of digital and in-person fitness solutions.
Digital classes have made exercise more accessible for many. Yet, there are still certain aspects of in-person fitness that digital fitness has yet to replicate. For instance, despite many strategies to replicate community in online fitness classes, there's still something special about meeting people in-person for a workout, and some things, such as swimming laps, will always be challenging for most people to do at home.
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