As Coronavirus forced gyms to close, home workouts were a necessity. For many, they are now the ideal choice. Lockdown has spread an even greater awareness of the role of exercise in mental health. In even the darkest, dreariest months of the Irish winter, a brisk walk around the neighbourhood was a lifeline. During the pandemic, many have shifted their focus to a more holistic picture of wellness, opting for cheap and accessible fitness like hiking, walking, and running. At the same time, just as we mass adapted to digital behaviours like Zoom calls and online shopping, many people have established a habit of incorporating technology into their workouts.
According to a 2020 survey of Irish adults, 37% now wear a fitness tracker, compared to only 13% in 2017. We have also seen a momentous uptake in the ever-expanding choice of smart equipment and virtual classes. Purchases of Peloton bikes famously have gone through the roof, as the company reported a nearly 100% increase in sales from 2019 to 2020. However they are far from the only player in this market.
Nowadays, you can find a smart version of most traditional exercise equipment. JaxJox, for example, offers a connected dumbbell, kettlebell, and foam roller, which all monitor performance in real time. However, brands like JaxJox are also stepping up their offering with subscription-based training to complement their products. NordicTrack has a series of interactive training features across their treadmill, bike, elliptical, and rowing machines. Even kickboxing can now be a digital experience.
Weightlifting is also no exception. Tempo counts your reps, gives guidance on your form, with classes that give you the one on one feeling of personal training. Tonal is similar, except instead of free weights, it is one unit that can withstand up to 200lbs of resistance. Mirror, on the other hand, is designed to create none of the clutter of a home gym. Through its full length screen you can tune into hundreds of classes as varied as bootcamp, ballet and Tai Chi, as well as virtually workout with friends. When not in use, it blends into your home, disguised as an ordinary mirror.
To understand the direction digital home fitness is trending, consider the name that has become synonymous with the category: Peloton. Peloton has evolved from a single connected fitness product, their stationary spin bike, to becoming a complete solution. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Netflix of Fitness,’ the Peloton app has thousands of classes for off the bike, guided audio runs, and an integration with Apple Watch. The brand has created a cult following, and online community and even partnered with Beyoncé this year. They don’t just want to be a component of your fitness regime, they want a hand in all of it.
For well over a year now, our homes have become self-contained centres of our world. Many people will have made significant investments in adapting their spaces to serve as home offices and gyms. After finding the silver linings in this new way of living, a lot of people won’t be rushing to return to the ways things were. Mintel leisure analyst, Lauren Ryan, told the BBC that gyms ‘would be foolish’ to expect to revert to their old ways. As US chain Equinox has, Ryan urges gyms to consider a hybrid model. “They need to start thinking about their brands as not just location-based, but as wellbeing focused, that have locations but can deliver to the comfort of your own home or outdoors. And have something that differentiates them from digital fitness products. I think that’s where we will see a lot of innovation.”