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How Has COVID Changed the Way We Workout?

The coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives, and many are still navigating the changes, including working out.

It’s strange to think how different things were prior to the pandemic. Coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives, physical activity being one of them. Subsequent prevention methods like social distancing practices and lockdown meant gyms and fitness groups were suddenly inaccessible – at least in a traditional sense. So, how has the pandemic changed the way we workout?

COVID-19 Impacts The Fitness Industry

As with many industries, it’s safe to say that the coronavirus has changed the fitness industry, perhaps forever. In fact, findings released by International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) estimate the US health club and gym industry lost USD 13.9 billion from mid-March to the end of August in 2020. As stated in a Business Insider article, major fitness companies in the United States have filed for bankruptcy. Among them are Cyc Fitness, YogaWorks, and Modell’s Sporting Goods.

As a result, the surviving gyms and fitness studios forced to close during lockdown have had to think outside the box. “Online everything” largely seems to be the way of the future and the fitness industry is no exception.

At-Home Workouts In A Pandemic-Era

It is only natural that our behavior with physical activity was obliged to change too. According to Harrison Co COVID-19 Fitness Finds, 40% of survey respondents exercised at home for the first time because of COVID.

In actuality, at-home fitness and virtual workouts have been around for decades. Think Thighmaster and Wii Fit. And if we go further back, we have an endless reel of VHS tapes featuring spandex-clad fitness freaks. These have all taken on a new role since the COVID outbreak, with the likes of gamified workout apps and fitness influencers on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. With the latter offering a similar experience of in-person workouts to some degree.

The numbers don’t lie. The World Economic Forum revealed that India had the highest increase in fitness app downloads at 156%. In addition, yoga classes have taken to Zoom and exercise equipment sales are on the rise. Some facilities are introducing “foster” programs for their equipment and are lending out machines to members for a fee. Innovative thinking like this has allowed businesses in the industry to survive.

Fitness In A Post-COVID World

Technology has long been changing the way we work out. Fitness apps, streaming services, wearables, and connected devices allow people to stay active while they social distance. Even though many will likely return to the gym as soon as they can, the virtual workout isn’t going anywhere. This trend is expected to continue. As reported by The Personal Trainer Development Center, 83% of trainers say they’ll primarily work online after the pandemic.

Trainers will need to appeal to the consumers who have adopted the home-work-out trend as part of their lifestyles. Case in point, a research report conducted by CBInsights reveals that Mindbody users grew by more than 80% in April 2020, in comparison to only 7% in 2019. In addition, Q2 saw a 47% increase in fitness and health app downloads. These digital fitness tools offer on-demand workouts and real-time performance data. Ultimately, technology like this provides flexibility, convenience, and customization – features that are difficult to find at the gym or at an in-person class.

Besides accessibility, another advantage of this virtual fitness movement is affordability. Since many digital services are available at a significantly lower cost than gym memberships, this makes it likely that people will continue to integrate these digitized exercise products into their fitness routines long after the pandemic subsides.

However, these digital workout products aren’t without their disadvantages. One of their most significant challenges is successfully replicating the community aspect that in-person fitness provides.

Better And Smarter Workouts

For many, the coronavirus pandemic has presented an opportunity to re-evaluate their fitness routines and lifestyles. From virtual yoga classes to influencer-guided workout plans and fitness apps galore, we will see more and more specialized and personalized digital fitness in the coming years. While emerging tech was always headed in this direction, COVID-19 accelerated the need for virtual and digital fitness. Only time will tell whether people will hit the gym or continue on their tech workout streak once the pandemic subsides. As with many industries in the digital age and a post-COVID world, we’re likely to see the technology and fitness industry join forces to remain relevant and please the masses.


Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.