The Future of Fitness
Tamara Moule proposes the potential for a new normal in the health and fitness industry post-lockdown.
Much like embracing the ‘work from home’ way of life, ‘workout from home’ has also become the new normal. Whether running outside, going for a walk or embracing the challenge of a home-workout, engaging in lockdown exercise has become nearly as much of a trend as baking banana bread or binge-watching Netflix. What’s more, with gyms and sports centres likely to be one of the last types of public places to reopen post-lockdown, it is looking increasingly likely that Brits will have to be creative with their exercise routines for some months yet. So, what does the future hold for the health and fitness industry, and will these temporary changes have a long-lasting effect on the way we keep fit?
Working out from home certainly has many positive aspects. Using online training guides is often free, with fitness influencers and personal trainers providing inspiration in the form of home workouts and exercise ‘challenges’. Many are now posting schedules of live workouts thanks to platforms like Zoom and Instagram Live, or streaming on Youtube to their thousands of followers, allowing them to follow along from the comfort of their homes. No need to pay for a gym membership, or even any fancy equipment – online PT’s can show you how to use the weight of your body to work out from home.
Online sessions provide the closest thing to pre-lockdown gym classes, even re-creating a sense of community
What’s more, much like working from home, the ability to exercise in your living room eliminates time spent travelling to and from a gym or sports centre, making the home-workout not only cost-effective, but time-saving too. At least for now, gone are the days of queueing up to get into a Zumba or yoga class, the same routines can now be accessed at the click of a button, all that is required is some floorspace, a phone or laptop and a decent internet connection.
While high streets in the UK remain closed, the fitness industry has certainly been trying to take hold of this new trend by storm. Big brands that have had to freeze their gym memberships for thousands of gym-goers during the lockdown period are now offering online incentives. For example, Puregym, Britain’s largest chain of gyms, have recently made their at-home fitness app free for all current and past members, while the fitness brand Les Mills have recorded a huge 900% increase to their online fitness platform since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many users, these sessions provide the closest thing to pre-lockdown gym classes, even re-creating a sense of community when streaming live. For those that are unable to join live sessions, access to an online library of classes to complete at their convenience gives them the flexibility that even the most accommodating gym schedule never could.
For smaller business owners and self-employed fitness instructors, online classes are a way to stay in touch with their communities, and in some cases a means to continue to make some income while their centres remain closed. However, facing competition from large fitness chains and celebrity influencers, embracing the online world to spread their message and share classes is for many a very new and perilous domain. And while some tech-savvy instructors are using online platforms to their advantage, others that are unable to do the same simply wait to hear when they may be able to offer some form of physical classes once again.
It is clear that although the home workout offers flexibility and is cost effective to the consumer, it is probably not a sustainable option to the small health and fitness business owners that rely on their weekly class attendees for their income. Even the large chains that are profiting from their online monopoly have yet to figure out how to teleport their gym equipment into people’s homes – home workouts are effective if they are based on bodyweight, but many budding gym goers are rearing to be back in the gyms to have access to larger equipment that it would be impossible to have at home.
Routines can now be accessed at the click of a button, all that is required is some floorspace, a phone or laptop and a decent internet connection
Certainly, the need to exercise from home is currently accelerating a home-workout trend that was already underfoot, with increases in technology and better online platforms meaning that home-fitness is now a widely accessible alternative to working out in a gym. However, as Martin Franklin, CEO of Les Mills, affirms, “The biggest part of exercise activity is entertainment, engagement and social interaction. The live experience is never going to go away”. Technology may offer alternatives and flexibility, but for those that look forward to their weekly class or rely on equipment or their community, this experience will not soon be replaced by a screen.