Future of Fitness May Be in Hybrid Model

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After an unprecedented year that saw mandated closures and apprehensive customer bases hesitant to come to their facilities, the fitness industry is looking to turn the page in 2021.

Bloomberg reports that despite the challenges the industry has faced since the start of the pandemic, virtual workouts and an increased consciousness around physical and mental health could help the industry bounce back.

MindBody, a platform for booking fitness classes, is on track to match the 30 percent increase it typically sees around the new year, CEO Josh McCarter told Bloomberg. About half of the company’s virtual bookings are for yoga classes, as people start thinking about their health more holistically.

"In addition to physical well-being, one's emotional, mental and spiritual fitness has become a bigger priority," McCarter told Bloomberg. 

Moving into the new year, a hybrid approach blending in-person and virtual workouts could be the way of the future. Bloomberg reports that the trend for virtual workouts was developing even before the pandemic struck, but the demand for online classes only accelerated that trend. A survey found that 72 percent of club owners are now offering some form of online or virtual classes, a figure that jumped 25 percent from the previous year. 

Brands such as Planet Fitness shifted strategies, noting that in-person workouts were declining, and quickly invested in digital content. Today, Planet Fitness consumers can pay $5.99 a month for a subscription to an app that hosts the company’s digital content.

"A legacy of the pandemic is that people know how to juggle various things at home now. When the pandemic dies down, digital options will be a substitute they're familiar with if they don't have time to make it to the gym," Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau told Bloomberg. "It's ingrained in habits now."

Jason LaRose, CEO of Equinox Media, a subsidiary of Equinox Group that is charged with the brand’s digital presence, told Bloomberg that he expects the future to be a blend of virtual and in-person workouts.

“Despite the fact that some of the storefronts are shrinking, consumer demand is booming as people aim for a balance between mental and physical health," LaRose said. "The stakes are higher now."

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