The virtual at-home fitness boom is here to stay, and will usher in a new era of exercising that will last long after the pandemic subsides

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The pandemic has drastically changed the way Americans exercise, and now experts say it will have lasting effects on the long-term digitization of fitness. 

With gyms and fitness studios temporarily shuttered earlier this year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, consumers found alternate outlets to break a sweat — namely virtual, on-demand fitness programs.

According to Matthew Schopfer, head of research at investment management firm Infusive, while it is true that the pandemic was integral to this shift, the coronavirus ultimately served to accelerate a push toward digital fitness that had long been in the works. 

Much like how Netflix and Amazon disrupted the way Americans watch television and shop, Schopfer says the on-demand fitness boom is another example of digitization infiltrating all aspects of our lives.  

“We’ve seen this across all sorts of different industries and categories, whether that’s e-commerce or digital entertainment or food delivery, and also of course on-demand fitness,” he told Business Insider. “The rising penetration of digital consumption was already an ongoing global secular trend.” 

Infusive’s early research also indicates that there will be a “permanent consumer behavior change” regarding how Americans exercise over the long term, Schopfer added.

“We’re less of the view that as soon as the economy reopens everything goes back to normal,” he said. “[Virtual fitness] may decelerate from the current growth level, but broadly speaking, we think this shift toward things being more digital at the consumer level is really here to stay.”

Gyms and studios find their virtual footing 

For Retro Fitness — a chain of 150 gym locations across the US — wading into virtual programming during the pandemic ultimately helped to accelerate the company’s pre-pandemic push towards becoming a “lifestyle brand,” according to Chief Marketing Officer Victor Bao. 

“The virtual component was already a big deal for us as a brand,” Bao told Business Insider. “And then as the pandemic shut down every single business in the world, we made a big thrust into virtual.”

He added that this effort included streaming classes taught by Retro instructors, but also mental health and nutritional content. Just last week, the company launched “Retro Fitness Kitchen,” a series of healthy cooking videos available to members. Bao said that while on-demand exercise platforms are now ubiquitous, the market is still not oversaturated leaving an opportunity for Retro Fitness to capitalize on the trend.

“Luckily enough, for now, it doesn’t feel like it’s a fragmented market. We’ve got one clear leader, and I think that’s Peloton,” he said, adding that there is enough differentiation in fitness programs for multiple types of platforms to thrive and prosper. 

Indoor cycling chain CycleBar was itself already in the process of building out a virtual platform — which includes a partnership with the fitness curator company Xponentional Fitness — when state-mandated lockdowns began.

“We had to have a way to stay connected with our customers and virtual is the perfect way to do that,” CycleBar President Trevor Lucas told Business Insider. “So we fast-tracked something that we were already working on.” 

Lucas said that though …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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