The fitness industry, just like many other industries in the world, has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While this was expected because it involves some form of contact, especially in gyms and personal training sessions, the impact was more than anticipated. Some gyms and fitness centers shut down, and others had to reduce their workforce. Gyms like Gold’s Gym and 24-Hour Fitness filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing challenges brought about by the pandemic as the reason for the filing.
We spoke to Dr. Jay Feldman, a doctor and entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of REX Fitness, a portable home gym company, to determine his views on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the fitness industry. REX Fitness, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, provides a portable home gym that can be used for over 100 exercises. It can be operated even in the smallest of apartments and easily folds up to be stored in compact storage spaces.
Q: How was the fitness industry financially affected by the pandemic?
Like shops and restaurants closed with the onset of the pandemic, gyms and fitness centers had to close their doors. This affected the owners as they were left with limited options to be profitable. They found it difficult to pay rent and other utilities on top of staff salaries. Some closed permanently while others furloughed their staff. Those that are lucky to be still operating are working with revenues as less as 30% of what they generated before the pandemic.
Q: With the pandemic showing no signs of ending, how has the industry adapted to this new normal?
Due to the closing of gyms, owners had to either adapt to new ways of providing services or risk closing their doors indefinitely. The savvy fitness center owners who didn’t take the pandemic lying down have definitely gained something. Some have moved their operations online, offering virtual workout sessions (either live or prerecorded) at a lower fee than they would charge for physical sessions. This has been beneficial to clients as they can work out whenever they have free time.
For the gyms that are still open, they have had to install extra features to ensure safety while working out. Most owners have put up plexiglass dividers to separate workout stations and limit the number of people who can use a facility at one time. People using the gym now have to carry their own towels from home since most facilities no longer provide towels for use. While these measures seem extreme, they are beneficial for the owners who are able to have a source of income and clients who prefer working out in the gym and can do so in a safe environment.
Q: With most people working out from home, what are the most popular workouts currently?
It is interesting to note that people who previously did not go to the gym have now begun exercising from home. This can be attributed to the cheaper (or free in most cases) workout videos and guidelines available online and the free time available due to the flexibility of working from home.
Since very few people have workout equipment at home, the exercises they do are those that don’t require any equipment. Yoga and cardio workouts are currently the most popular virtual workouts since one needs is an exercise mat. Having apps that track your workouts and set you on a schedule has made exercising even more accessible, as you can choose practices that suit your fitness level and needs. Running is also very popular; it is now more common than ever to find hordes of people running in a park or along the road in the mornings and evenings.
Q: How will this pandemic impact the future of the fitness industry?
Most fitness centers and gyms have already moved some of their services online, and those that haven’t yet, risk being left behind. However, business owners need to streamline their online services to ensure that their clients can get as close a workout as they did at the gym. As people get used to working out from home at little to no costs, having a gym membership may no longer be deemed necessary. As such, we could see a surge in digital exercise platforms, from apps to websites and YouTube channels launched by fitness facilities to attract more clients. Companies that provide fitness equipment can also cash in on this by providing affordable gear that can be used at home.
While the pandemic has had devastating effects on the economy, it may be the push that the fitness industry needed to innovate and adopt more technology. Working out from home is definitely here to stay; it is up to fitness facilities to adapt to it.