The Pandemic Has Forever Changed the Fitness Industry. Here’s What to Know.

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Home workouts are not exactly a new fad. Jane Fonda made workout videos wildly popular decades ago, and countless brands have followed suit over the years by releasing streaming services aimed at helping busy people quickly get their routines in for the day right in their own homes or offices. But for many, having a gym or studio to go to keeps them in check. 

The global -club industry raked in nearly $98 billion in 2019, showing little to no signs of slowing down. That is, of course, until the Covid-19 pandemic forced millions and millions of businesses to close their doors in early 2020. With over one in five Americans belonging to at least one health club or studio in the U.S., you can only imagine the devastation felt by the fitness industry when studios could no longer host in-person workouts. 

With nowhere to go, fitness enthusiasts and hopefuls alike found new ways to get their fix. The almost $100 billion fitness industry quickly shifted into a virtual world, and the studios that couldn’t make that transition may never be able to recover fiscally.  

Related: How Planet Fitness Grew in 2020, Even While Its Gyms Were Empty

The resurgence of the at-home workout

Last summer, Peloton announced it generated $607 million in revenue in just a matter of months. The absurdly trendy company doubled its membership base, inspiring other brands to offer their own streaming services. Barry’s Bootcamp now offers at-home classes starting every 15 minutes, and gyms such as Equinox offer their own online streaming classes for members. 

Alo Moves of Alo Yoga, an at-home fitness streaming service, launched nearly a decade ago. In just a matter of weeks, Alo saw a 300% increase in engagement on its paid platform as well as on its YouTube channel, where it hosts free classes for the Alo community. Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott launched the Tone It Up app in 2018, and since quarantine, downloads have increased by 950%. 

So, now that gyms and studios are opening their doors again, will at-home workouts become a thing of the past again? All signs point to no. People may be heading back to their offices and returning to a more normal, pre-pandemic lifestyle. Still, they’ve seen just how beneficial it is to have flexibility in their schedules. 

Related: Rise of Virtual Fitness Classes During Lockdown

A hybrid approach

While virtual workouts seemed to gain popularity throughout the pandemic, almost half of consumers opted out of streaming their workouts. Now, along with offering their in-person workouts, gyms, studios and trainers will need to seriously consider at-home options for their members. The convenience and flexibility of online fitness can no longer be ignored as people strive to keep physical activity levels up, even as they head back to the office either full or part-time. 

While many Americans invested in various streaming services during the health crisis, demand appears to be fading. Online searches for “gym near me” accelerated in May relative to April, returning to all-time-high levels dating back to January 2020. This doesn’t mean the home workout craze is ending; many are opting for studios that offer both in-home and in-person sessions. 

“We believe that people will employ a hybrid approach, using the plethora of digital concepts and traditional gym experience,” Jefferies analyst Randy Konik said. “Gyms that champion this model will emerge as winners in years to come.”

Health and fitness coach Ariel Belgrave says, “I actually think that the future of fitness will be a blend of in-person and virtual workouts.” Belgrave goes on to explain many people are still working remotely. While they enjoy the flexibility of at-home workouts, that doesn’t mean they won’t also want to hit a physical gym or studio one or two times a week. “Many brick-and-mortar gyms are already finding that members have a preference for a hybrid experience of being able to attend classes in person and virtually,” she said. 

Related: In 2021, Gyms Will Bet on a Hybrid Model to Survive

Employers need to make changes as well

Now that so many people have seen the benefits of a remote lifestyle, employers will need to adapt. Many businesses simply can’t offer a remote lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find ways to support their employees’ desire to remain active and healthy.  

Recent findings showed that 51.5% say their employers do not currently offer fitness benefits, and 63.4% wish that they did. With fitness being instrumental not only to peoples’ health but also to overall , employers must invest in the right tools and resources.

When you use company resources to promote healthy behaviors, you invest in your most important asset— your employees. In addition to addressing health problems, these initiatives improve work culture and employee morale. When properly implemented, workplace health programs can contribute to a 25% reduction in health-care costs. This is in addition to equivalent reductions in workers’ compensation and disability-management expenses. 

While the pandemic forced many fitness studios and gyms to close their doors permanently, those who have been able to adapt to the changes are reaping the benefits. The fitness industry’s transformation only means more options, whether in-person or at-home, for people looking to stay fit and healthy even on their busiest days — and that trend is here to stay.