Gyms and fitness centres are the first ones to face the heat of lockdown whenever there is an emergence of a covid wave. These places are considered as the epicentre of the virus spread due to maximum human physical contact established from shared equipment, towels, jacuzzi, restrooms, and heavy breathing.
In the past two years, the lockdowns have been a doomsday resulting in mammoth losses causing the shutting down of gyms and fitness centres, impacting the livelihood of gym trainers and now with emerging cases of Omicron and a third covid wave lurking, the new lockdown measures are set to crumble India’s fitness industry further.
Recently, in Kolkata, a group of gym owners, staff, and patrons have led a peaceful protest against the government’s decision to keep gyms shut.
Although gyms are being closed, people’s love for virtual fitness has piqued in the Covid-19 due to a sedentary lifestyle arising from a remote working model. According to a website by Market Research Future, the global online or virtual workout fitness market is expected to register a CAGR of 30.1% by 2026.
In addition to this, an article published on the World Economic Forum website has found that there has been a 46 percent increase in the downloads of health and fitness apps across the world, with India witnessing the highest increase in the downloads by 156%.
With a whopping increase in the downloads of fitness apps in the pandemic, it seems apparent for gyms and fitness centres to revamp their business model to provide virtual fitness.
According to a website by Market Research Future, the global online or virtual fitness market is expected to register a CAGR of 30.1% by 2026.
Virtual fitness: Fitness apps, virtual coaches, DIY videos, and more
Being confined to their homes did not deter fitness enthusiasts from working out. The home workout apps in the lockdown witnessed huge downloads and the video streaming platform YouTube was flooded with instructional or DIY workout videos from several fitness influencers for beginners, intermediates, and experts.
The Indian health and fitness app HealthifyMe saw an increase of 5 million users during the pandemic, contributing nearly a quarter of its user base of 21 million. Besides, workout videos there is also a rise in acceptance of virtual coaching apps, that caters to an individual’s holistic health and nutritional well-being by offering personalised and sustainable nutrition plans based on health goals such as losing weight, gaining muscle, and increasing strength and cardio, etc., grandma recipes, recommends accurate food portion and natural homemade remedies with proven outcomes and most importantly addressing immunity building. Apps on mental wellness such as practicing mindfulness and meditation are also on the rise. Classes that traditionally offered on-site yoga, pilates, and Zumba classes have pivoted online by live-streaming the sessions through digital tools.
Moreover, the demand for at-home equipment will rise as some individuals prefer working out with machines. Realising this to be an opportunity, fitness and wellness startup Cult.fit in Dec 2021 has acquired at-home cardio equipment brands — RPM fitness, Fitkit, Onefitplus, and Urban Terrain. Earlier in 2021, it had acquired Tread, a Bengaluru-based smart fitness-bike startup.
These brands will provide smart at-home workout equipment that can be connected with smartphones to track performances, compete with friends, and workout in virtual game mode.
What lies ahead for virtual fitness in 2022?
The start of 2022 has already begun with a rise in covid cases, which speaks of lockdowns and more losses for the gyms. The livelihood of gym trainers has also been impacted. Therefore, it is the need of the hour for gym chains and fitness centres to launch their apps offering personalised fitness and nutrition catering to unique requirements, live streaming sessions, and hybrid fitness options.
Also, AR and VR-based technologies are expected to foray into the virtual fitness market offering movement-based cardio exercises, music-based workouts, and game-based fitness activities such as boxing, sword fighting, and dancing thereby, offering an immersive and interactive workout. Also, working out in the metaverse will allow users to work out in groups, cycle racing and running, and compete with friends and peer globally.