Home fitness - new standard or current trend?

21st May 2020  

by Sammy Squatriti

There are a few things we won't miss when we emerge completely from Covid-19 quarantine, like the social distancing that keeps us separated from our family and friends, or the lack of freedom to go to a restaurant, or have a nice weekend out of town.

But we can't deny the fact that quarantine has forced us to re-evaluate our habits and lifestyles and, perhaps, we have taken on new habits that we should maintain in the long term.

Like many people in quarantine, every day I set aside some time to practice from the comfort of my apartment. For me it remains a hobby, while for some people it has become a must during this time away from, well, let's say everything.

Exercise is also one of the best and healthiest ways to prevent disease. According to a study published in the journal PLOS One, during the Hong Kong flu epidemic in 1998, people who had at least moderate physical activity had a reduced risk of death.

There are several ways to exercise at home:

Whether it's a yoga class on Zoom or buying a Peloton bicycle, many of us are looking for ways to exercise effectively within four walls. As evidenced by increased searches with words like "home workout" on Google.

Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.

Fitness instructors jumped at the chance and moved quickly online, yoga classes spilled over to Zoom and sales of exercise equipment and fitness app downloads are on the rise. Between January and March in the United States, for example, sales of fitness equipment increased by 55% when the various blocks were activated. Some gyms are also introducing rent for their equipment during the pandemic, renting the equipment to members for a fee.

Some brands have definitely benefited from this situation. Take a well-known brand, Peloton, for example. Despite a very shaky IPO in September, Peloton stock peaked during the pandemic - almost doubling its price - and valued the company at over $10 billion. Although the brand was not doing so well before the crisis, it now reports both a backlog of bicycle orders and more than 2.6 million members accessing their classes every month. The bike is so coveted, the New York Times wrote this month, that even when millions of people lose their jobs, thousands of others are making impulsive purchases to keep fit for gyms that remain closed.

Peloton's shares have risen nearly 60 percent since April 1st, and the company saw revenues rise 66% year-on-year in the third quarter. This was fuelled by a 61% increase in product revenues and a 92% increase in subscription revenues.

In an attempt to grab as large a market share as possible, a sports player like Nike waived indefinitely the monthly fee for its training app and the actor Chris Hemsworth (known as Thor for those who are passionate about Marvel films) announced that his app, CentrFit, would be free for six weeks.

With devices that can cost up to $3,000, along with monthly subscription fees, exercise-oriented startups like Mirror and Tonal are seeing exponential growth among new users. And they are doubling the current trend by introducing new digital products and accelerating marketing.

Exercise machines and workout classes are not the only ones with increased sales. Theragun, which sells muscle recovery devices, has also received new interest from customers "who previously did not have any", according to the company. Products such as its basic Liv deep muscle treatment device, priced at $199, have been sold out in recent weeks. The company believes that the increase in demand is due to the closure of massage therapy facilities, as people are unable to see their chiropractors, or physiotherapists.


James Stark, a professor at the University of Leeds, thinks it's too early to say whether the coronavirus could lead to a new boom for home training. He thinks the new online classes draw on something that didn't exist in the home gym before, but he thinks the call of the gym may prove stronger in the long term.

"Gyms fulfil quite a different social role. They are places where exercises done by individuals can be communal and competitive," says Stark. "When the lockdown is phased out and then ends, it is much more likely that people will flock back to gyms and sports fields to recapture the vital social, human contact which is also integral to exercise for so many.”