Home workout apps booming as gyms close due to coronavirus

  • As major gym chains close their doors to curb the coronavirus outbreak, people are increasingly turning to digital workout programs to maintain their exercise routines from home.
  • Services like Daily Burn, Aaptiv, and TA Online Studio have all said they’ve seen an increase in demand and engagement over the past several days.
  • The boon comes as gyms like Equinox, 24 Hour Fitness, and SoulCycle among other leading fitness clubs have temporarily closed their doors. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With major fitness chains temporarily closing their doors throughout the United States as Americans grapple with new social distancing measures to curb the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, a growing number of people are turning to at-home fitness apps to stay in shape.

Some services that offer virtual coaching and workout programs designed to be done from anywhere — especially the home — have seen a surge as the coronavirus has expanded in the United States, killing at least 211 people and infecting more than 14,500 across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. 

For many in the US, the disruptions that the pandemic will bring to everyday life became very real this week. The White House recommended that the general public should avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more, New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington State announced a shutdown of bars and restaurants, and the city of San Francisco has been ordered to “shelter in place” until April 7. 

Gyms were the next major area of public life to be impacted, as a growing number of fitness club such as 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, LA Fitness, and SoulCycle among others announced temporary closures this week. 

That has prompted gym-goers to flock to apps and digital services that offer virtual workout sessions.

One such app, Aaptiv, which offers audio-based fitness programs, says it has seen a boost in new users and engagement recently. Aaptiv has specifically seen growth when it comes to wellness programs that don’t require equipment, like those geared toward meditation, body weight exercises, and improving sleep. 

Such programs have seen a spike over the last few days in particular, Ethan Agarwal, Aaptiv’s founder and CEO, told Business Insider, likely because they’re easy to perform at home without requiring an investment in new gear.

Engagement for non-equipment programs has increased by 50% this week, whereas usually the engagement is the same for both equipment and non-equipment-based workouts, Agarwal said.

It’s not just the gym closures, he said, but the fact that people may be seeking an outlet for anxiety and a cure for boredom during this social distancing period that may have led to this increase.

“Right now, when everyone’s anxiousness is up and people are nervous and stressed and even frankly a little bored sometimes, our classes are fun and relaxing,” Agarwal said. “They help you feel better.”

Daily Burn, a service that offers virtual workout classes in areas like high training intensity workouts, barre, and cardio and strength, has also experienced a surge in demand recently.

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The Six Reasons The Fitness Industry Is Booming

According to the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association), the $30 billion health and fitness industry in the U.S. has been growing by at least 3 – 4% annually for the last ten years and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. If anything, it’s accelerating. Currently about 20% of American adults have a fitness club membership, a number that in my opinion could easily double in the next 10 – 15 years.

What is driving this historic boom?

It’s not just because new clubs are popping up everywhere. That’s true, but that dynamic is being fueled by a number of important – and potentially unexpected – factors. Here are the key elements at play that investors should be aware of if they are looking to invest in the fitness industry.

1. Health insurance costs. Healthy people cost much less to insure, and employers and insurers have finally realized that they can trim insurance costs by incentivizing healthy lifestyles. With spending on health care going up, up, up, that’s a big deal for every company’s bottom line – and it’s great for the people who get to benefit from the incentives.

Many employers and insurers now cover the costs of a health club membership or studio classes, as long as an employee can show they actually use them. This is a very quickly-growing segment of the market; it’s generally not large enough on its own to drive the profitability of a health club or studio, but it is become a very valued source of supplemental revenue in the industry.

2. The new demand for healthy foods. In recent years consumer demand has been moving away from industrial-scale processed food in favor of healthier, more natural and/or organic options. This switch is causing people across the country to be more conscious of the food they eat – which has had the runoff effect of making more people interested in fitness.

Once consumers start thinking more carefully about their dietary decisions, they naturally start thinking about other ways they can enhance their health. One obvious way? Figuring out how to get more physically active, which might mean joining a health club or fitness studio.

3. Wearables. Devices such as the Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin, and even many of the smartphones we carry around all day, are putting personalized biometric health statistics at millions of people’s fingertips. The ability for people to see how many steps they are taking in a day, how many calories they burn, what their heart rate is, or what their blood pressure is, are making them much more in tune with how their body works and how they can improve their health.

It’s kind of like the growing awareness of healthy eating: Once someone starts paying attention to this digital feedback, they start making more healthy decisions in other aspects of their life. It makes people think things like, “How can I eat even better, how can I increase my activity or enjoy it more?” We’ve

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