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Why experts say the pandemic-led virtual fitness boom is here to stay

  • Much like how Netflix and Amazon disrupted the way Americans watch television and shop, experts say the on-demand fitness boom is ushering in the next wave of digitization in our lives. 
  • While the pandemic was integral to the rise of digital fitness, Matthew Schopfer, head of research at Infusive, said it ultimately served to accelerate a push towards digital fitness that had long been in the works.
  • “The virtual component was already a big deal for us as a brand,” Retro Fitness Chief Marketing Officer Victor Bao told Business Insider. “And then as the pandemic shut down every single business in the world, we made a big thrust into virtual.”
  • We talked to leaders in the fitness industry and analysts about why they think virtual fitness is here to stay, even when the pandemic subsides. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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

Fitness and nutrition studio is making most of telehealth boom, expanding operations

Since the coronavirus began threatening people’s health and wellness, Jim White has seen a boom in telehealth and fielded more clients than ever before.

In this down and up year, the founder of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios is celebrating its 20th anniversary and opening a new location on First Colonial Road in Virginia Beach.

The expansion — planned pre-COVID — will take care of the growing pains the business had over the last 10 to 15 years and enable White and his team to help more people.

“This gives us the opportunity to streamline our processes and recreate our brands,” White said.

Two of the Virginia Beach studios – Hilltop and Great Neck – will relocate to the new space which White said is geographically in the middle of both. The one in downtown Norfolk will remain and White said he’s looking at other areas of Hampton Roads to invest in.

“When we first started we only had one dietitian and now we’re employing up to eight,” he said. “We realized when they come back – maybe November or December – we needed to have a bigger space.”

In April, White bought the almost 8,000 square foot building for $1.175 million. Approximately half the space will be rented to an eye doctor’s office. That still will leave him with more space than the other two Beach studios had combined.

Located on “medical row,” the new location will enable the business to more easily connect with physicians to help clients through nutrition and fitness.

“It’s going to open up a lot of creativity,” White said of the space that will be outfitted with new equipment.

An accomplished fitness expert and leader in the field, White’s resume touts a lengthy list of credentials, awards and honors, interviews (print, television, web, and radio), and public speaking engagements.

And even during the pandemic, White has remained dedicated to helping clients through the difficult days.

After closing the doors to his facilities for 70 days at the start of the pandemic, he said they were forced to diversify very quickly.

“Our registered dietitians were approved with telehealth so they’ve been working at home since March,” White said. “It’s been really big because a lot of people feel safe in their homes.”

One-on-one and small group virtual trainings were enabled so people could be at home while the trainers were at home or in the studio.

Outdoor training was also incorporated in March, April and May.

In June, when the governor lifted some of the mandates, White said they picked up a record number of clients over the next two months.

The boutique fitness studio attracted more attention than they did before the virus because many people were apprehensive about going to the big box gyms.

“Our nutrition side hasn’t slowed down since we started telehealth, in fact, we’ve had less cancellations,” White said.

White employs 27 people, including certified fitness and nutrition experts that provide tailored personal training programs for individuals

11 virtual fitness companies vying to compete with Peloton’s winning membership model and cash in on the at-home exercise boom

  • On-demand and virtual fitness has never been more popular, as the pandemic drastically changes the way Americans stay fit. 
  • While Peloton continues to dominate the at-home fitness market, several digital fitness programs — both new and existing — are looking to cash in on the on-demand exercise boom. 
  • We took a closer look at 11 of the most popular virtual fitness membership programs. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

 

Gone are the days of traditional gym memberships, as Americans enter the era of the virtual, at-home fitness movement buoyed by the pandemic.

On-demand fitness platforms have never been so popular, nor so ubiquitous. Though digital fitness has been on the rise in recent years, the coronavirus outbreak has put fledgling virtual companies on the map while prompting the rise of a slew of new platforms designed to help Americans stay fit while cooped up at home. 

These programs vary in price and types of workouts, but most are designed to bring streaming fitness classes directly into living rooms, with little to no additional equipment required. And while past decades have brought the likes of Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, and Billy Blanks into our homes, today there are more options and different types of classes at consumers’ disposal than ever before. 

The breadth of new options, however, hasn’t stopped Peloton from dominating the virtual fitness market, with sales skyrocketing by 172% year-over-year and overwhelming demand for its stationary bikes causing mass delivery delays.

Companies ranging from tech giant Apple to StretchIt — an emerging app dedicated entirely to stretching — are vying for a piece of the at-home fitness market. We took a closer look at 11 virtual fitness membership programs looking to cash in on the at-home fitness boom.

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