The online fitness industry has seen a major boom since the COVID-19 outbreak, but is it here to stay? For brick and mortar gyms, franchises and boutique fitness studio’s, the damage has been devastating. 24 hour fitness is contemplating bankruptcy while Soul Cycle is now selling their bikes for $2,500 to compete with Peloton amidst their studio closures.
The almost $100 billion fitness industry has quickly shifted into a virtual world for those who have been able to quickly adapt. However, those who haven’t implemented a digital strategy may not make it out alive and if they do they may never be able to fiscally recover. Now the spotlight has come down to at-home equipment, streaming services and virtual trainers. With no one leaving their homes a $1,495 mirror that doubles as your personal trainer doesn’t seem so bad after all. “Sales have more than doubled since the advent of Covid-19,” MIRROR CEO Brynn Jinnett Putnam told CNN Business. She added that MIRROR’s team has been “working around the clock to launch our digital product earlier than originally planned.”
Smaller boutique fitness studios such as The Studio (MDR) have taken to Zoom to replicate their in their studio Lagree Method experience with booty bands, gliders and light weights. Gyms and studios that have adapted to the online space realize things won’t be going back to normal anytime soon. For instance, Gold’s Gym is planning on setting markers on the floors of their gyms to keep people at least six feet apart and only operating their classes at a 50% capacity. This past week gyms in Beijing City were forced to re-shut down due to fears of a resurgence. That fear of a resurgence is very probable in the states which will prolong gyms and studios to getting back to their status quo. Frankly, until proper nation-wide surveillances are set up and a vaccine becomes readily available, life won’t be going back to normal. Until that normalcy returns, which could take a couple years, many will stick to at-home workouts for their own health safety. The other factor that contributes to the online fitness boom is cost. People can now find free workout routines with little to no equipment on IG Lives and Youtube plus streaming memberships cost significantly less than a yearly gym membership. With many finding themselves unemployed a $200 monthly gym membership isn’t quite as feasible.
Many fitness experts and trainers that started their streaming services or apps long before COVID-19 have seen unprecedented growth in the last two months while others have quickly shifted their strategies to keep up with the demand. They weigh in on how the online fitness boom has impacted their businesses.
Alo Moves of Alo Yoga has been around since 2012, but in the last few weeks, they have seen a 300%+ increase in engagement their platform and their YouTube channel where they host free classes for the community at large has seen an increase of over 40% in views and up to a 50% increase in watch time. “With everyone’s schedules and routines shifting, people seem to be looking for variety — they want a platform that can meet all of their wellness needs. Now that we’re spending increased time at home, people are feeling less constrained by their usual schedule and might be willing to try longer classes, commit to a larger goal (such as handstands), or try a new style of class or workout as a fun activity. This global situation has also increased stress for so many people, and they’re looking for online platforms that offer more than just fitness. People are seeking out stress relief through yoga, meditation, and sound baths, classes that we are proud to offer to the community on Alo Moves,” says Paul Javid, CEO of Alo Moves.
Javid has had to adapt new tools to enhance user experience due to demand. For example, the site released a new feature that recommends daily classes to each user based on their goals and preferences. Users can take a survey anytime to customize the classes recommended to them. Additionally they just released visual meditation journeys, relaxing audio meditations layered over scenic video from around the world, and a selection of free community classes on the Alo Moves YouTube channel. “With more people aware of the virtual options for maintaining their fitness and wellness, I think people will continue to include online classes and workouts as a part of their overall wellness routine. The key factor here is variety — people want their workouts to work for them, and they enjoy being able to customize their classes to their ever-evolving lifestyle. It’s also a great way to keep people connected to their favorite instructors and world-class teachers that they might not be able to practice with in real life,” added Javid.
Melissa Wood Health
Melissa Wood started her platform four and a half years ago right after she had her first son because she wanted to create a motivating at home solution to getting workouts in. Since quarantine started, Wood has seen an increase on her platform of 48.7% in March and 28.9% in April to date so far. “People are looking for workouts using your own body weight because there’s a delay in ordering props right now due to the current situation. I believe people are also looking to workout with a teacher that they connect with that makes movement approachable at all levels,” Wood says.
She is doing more live-stream workouts to stay connected with her members and community in real time. Since the frequency of her users has gone up, Wood’s also increased the amount of content in her library from 60+ workouts and meditations to 100+ videos available to users at all times. “I believe people have now realized how efficient, yet effective working out from home can be. I think digitally guided at home workouts will continue to be a part of people’s daily routines,” she says.
Although they had to shut down their in person studios, since March, P.volve has seen a 160% increase in sales and double digit growth in online subscriptions. They don’t see that slowing down anytime soon. “I think now, more than ever, people are looking for ways to move their bodies at home that fit within their new schedules. For instance, if you have young kids at home or you’re on calls all day, schedules vary from person to person and finding a solution that works for you with your time is what people need. People are also looking for platforms that don’t require a lot of space to do the exercises—low impact workouts that don’t make a ton of noise (like jumping up and down) so you don’t disturb your family in your home or your neighbors in an apartment,” says Rachel Katzman, CEO co-founder of P.volve. “That type of flexibility is what people need right now, as they try to create some type of structure that works for them in their unique situation. We allow our streamers to filter their workouts by how much time they have (we have workouts that vary from 10 minutes to 1 hour), body focus, and which equipment they have access to, which makes it very easy to log in and find the perfect video to fit your needs at that specific day and time. Our main goal is to help people move on their schedule.”
After stay-at-home orders started coming in, Katzman immediately opened up P.volve’s streaming services for 30 days free to all new streamers throughout March and April. They also started pushing out free content on their social channels at different hours of the day and are offering Live classes that you can sign up for through Mindbody that are taught via Zoom twice a day. Instead of launching their health coaching in studio they are now offering it virtually. Katzman anticipates to reopen their studios dropping down the number of people in a class so that everyone can stay six feet apart while they focus on growing their streaming platform even more. “The reality is there is definitely a large portion of the population who never considered or thought it was possible to workout and focus on their health from their home. This pandemic changed that and has given many the insight that you can have the flexibility to focus on your health on your own time and on your own schedule—and that’s extremely powerful,” she says.
The Sculpt Society
Megan Roup is a celebrity trainer and fitness expert that only recently launched The Sculpt Society in November of 2019. “Since we launched relatively close to the pandemic, I never got a great baseline for comparison. If we accept that it is almost impossible for me to completely separate the two events, it is safe to assume that my 700% positive growth has been affected, exponentially, from the rise in at ‘home fitness as a necessity’,” says Roup.
Roup is focusing on community more than ever now. With thousands of #TSSfam members her private Facebook, members get to connect and have a deeper more meaningful sense of community. “To foster this community I also go LIVE on the TSS App multiple times a day, giving members consistency and accountability that they are craving. I also make time at the end of every Live workout to have a coffee chat with everyone tuning in. They can comment on the video and we can have a Live chat and get to know each other better,” explains Roup.
Instead of using a studio or gym to record her workouts for The Scultp Society, Roup decided to go live from her small NYC apartment instead. “A lot of other apps record their workouts in a studio or gym, but I think my community prefers to see these live workouts done in my living room. Not only can they relate, but It shows them that they don’t need a lot of space or fancy equipment,” says Roup. She is confident the online fitness industry will continue to boom as quarantine has proven to the skeptics that you can get a fantastic workout at home. “There will always be a place for IRL fitness classes, but online fitness will continue to grow as we are able to connect virtually. Plus, online fitness is so much more cost effective. If a member uses my app 3 times the entire year it pays for itself, as 1 class with me IRL is $35,” she says.
Y7 Studio is a hot yoga studio known for their candlelit music-driven practice, but once COVID-19 hit they had to close down their New York, Chicago and Los Angeles studios. Sarah Larson Levey, founder and CEO of Y7, had to quickly pivot and build an online platform from scratch.“We had been looking at online platforms before this all started and were taking our time as we were focused on expanding our physical locations. The shutdowns and quarantine motivated us to up our timeline to get Y7 Online to launch which is exactly what we did in order to adapt to our new situation,” explained Levey. Y7 Online launched April 14th and Levey is certain digital/online platforms are here to stay.
What about fitness accessories? Bala bangles are one pound weights that can be used on the wrists or ankles to enhance body weight exercises. The brand has seen more of an increase in sales since quarantine than after their appearance on Shark Tank. “Though Bala was already growing, we’ve seen a 600%+ increase in YTD sales relative to the same time last year. We aired on Shark Tank on February 28th, weeks before the world began sheltering in place. Anecdotally, we’ve seen more interest in the brand during quarantine than we had in the Shark Tank-fueled weeks just prior,” shared co-founder Natalie Holloway. “If you’re trying to stay fit, you’re likely looking for products that can amplify the intensity and benefits of the exercises you can do in relatively close quarters. Interestingly, Bala Bangles are the perfect compliment to an at-home workout. Many of our customers that might normally use Bala at the gym have instead incorporated Bala into their daily at-home online fitness routines. We are also seeing people go on daily walks to destress and enjoy the outdoors.”
Bala has had a difficult time keeping up with demand as global supply chains have been disrupted. The brand has introduced Bala-fueled workout videos at shopbala.com/workouts and is hosting IG live workouts a few times a week while they work hard to develop new products set to be launched in June. Holloway believes that many of the habits of quarantine will endure. “Online fitness has proven to be an invaluable outlet and we’re quite certain it will continue. At first, folks will be timid to go back to the gym, but we’ve also realized that we can push ourselves from the comfort of our own homes, sweatpants and all,” she says.
Tone It Up
Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott launched the Tone It Up app in 2018 and since quarantine downloads have increased by 950% and they continue to grow. “Now more than ever, community is key. As we’re all isolated at home, women can connect with an entire community of supportive, inclusive, and empowering girlfriends through the Tone It Up App. We can work out together, hold each other accountable, and cheer each other on. Community has always been the foundation of Tone It Up, and that has been a major reason why even more women are turning to our app during quarantine,” explained Dawn and Scott. The pair also launched a brand new mood channel in the On Demand section of the app. These categories are curated by themes such as Energy Boost, Chill Vibes, and Focus + Driven, which include a variety of workouts and meditations. “We want to provide a place where women can easily find whatever serves them in the moment. We’re excited to support our community during this quarantine and long after!” exclaimed the pair.