Do gyms need to change their ways to survive?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the health and fitness industry undergo drastic changes. Suddenly the most common way to exercise, the gym, was closed. People had to try and recreate their usual gym experience in their own homes.

Certain companies did very well out of this, such as Peloton and Strava. They maximised the newfound attention on their products with discounts and group events. Peloton is launching new models of their exercise bikes and treadmills in order to accommodate new customers. That being said, the manufacturers are struggling to meet demand and waiting times for delivery are high.

With the absence of machines in many homes, products such as resistance bands and free weights have soared in popularity. Online workouts and classes have become the new normal and for many people, it’s quite plausible that going back to the gym isn’t a very attractive option.

By working out at home with the equipment they already own, people can start whenever they want, and once they are finished, they can immediately get on with the rest of their day rather than travel back home. Platforms like Instagram and YouTube are starting to undercut companies that have been providing online classes. There are thousands of home workout videos available out there, completely free of charge. Not only are they free, but they also fit more effectively around people’s busy personal lives.

It’s worth noting that there will always be a large number of people who like to separate their fitness life from their home life. The gym might be a social occasion for them, or perhaps they work from home so travelling to the gym is a welcome escape from that world. More and more people are becoming poorer though as a result of the pandemic, and that could lead to some regular gym-goers to sacrifice their memberships.

This shift means that gyms might not be at the centre of the fitness industry anymore. This doesn’t mean they all have to close though. They do need to adapt though. They need to see how they can make online fitness work for them.

One potential idea is to rent out equipment for members who like to work out at home sometimes. Of course, proper weight machines would be impractical to rent out, but exercise balls, free weights, etc could be a possibility. In reference to online classes, this is something many gyms have started to provide during the pandemic. This is something they should definitely keep going with as they’re certainly popular.

A way to maximise the use of these online classes though would be to run them live once where people can interact with the personal trainer, but then also record them and place them on a streaming platform. Your gym membership not only gets you access to everything it did before, but if you fancy doing a Pilates or yoga class at home you can either join in live or use the recording whenever suits you. Think Netflix for class workouts. The internet has meant fitness has been a 24-hour industry. This is something else gyms may have to jump on board with. Many do of course, but not everyone.

It’s certainly not the end of the road for brick-and-mortar gyms, but many of them may have to embrace the online fitness world rather than resent it and hope the problem just goes away.

Euan Burns is a features editor at Origym Centre of Excellence, which provides high-quality personal training courses and packages.

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