Is virtual fitness franchising here to stay? | Global Franchise
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Saturday 24th February, 2024

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Is virtual fitness franchising here to stay?


Is virtual fitness franchising here to stay?

At-home fitness and streaming became huge during the height of the pandemic, but do they have the staying power to outweigh traditional models?

At-home fitness and streaming became huge during the height of the pandemic, but do they have the staying power to outweigh traditional models?

Interview by Kieran McLoone, editor of Global Franchise

If you’ve kept abreast of the fitness industry across the past year, then you’ll know how virtual workouts redefined the way that we looked at getting our fitness fix during the pandemic. More individuals than ever before were bringing push-ups and Pilates to their lounge when the four walls of a brick-and-mortar gym were inaccessible due to worldwide lockdowns.

For organizations such as fitness tech platform Mindbody, this has meant a remarkable increase in interest for virtual sessions. To get a clear picture on how impactful the rise of at-home fitness could be moving forward, we spoke with Mindbody president and chief technology officer, Sunil Rajasekar.

KM: Will the rise of home workouts eventually eclipse the traditional gym model?

SR: We do not believe in-person workouts are going anywhere. While we believe it is essential for businesses to adapt in order to cater to new consumer behaviors, we believe virtual will serve as a complement to in-person workouts, not a replacement. The 2021 Mindbody Wellness Index revealed that more than half (53 per cent) of people who exercise plan to do both in-person classes and virtual.

KM: In industries such as F&B, we’re seeing omnichannel become the way forward for brick-and-mortar brands. Will we see the same in the fitness industry?

SR: As regions begin to open, we see a decrease in virtual bookings. Although, it is important to note that we know our consumers have adopted hybrid workout habits (in-person and virtual), so even though cities will eventually completely reopen, virtual is here to stay and the floor of virtual class bookings has increased by more than double.

This hybrid approach mirrors what retail is seeing in omnichannel. The tens of thousands of wellness businesses that operate on our platform were forced to immediately pivot and reach their consumers in a new way (virtual). Video-on-demand and live stream workouts will be used as complements to in-person workouts post-vaccinations. Hybrid workouts are poised to grow from 53 to 65 per cent post-vaccination.

KM: What has Mindbody identified as the main fitness trends of 2021/2022?

SR: In our recent Wellness Index survey, 75 per cent of consumers across the U.S. feel that wellness is more important than ever and nearly 60 per cent are more focused on health/wellness since the pandemic started.

Mindbody also leveraged its Wellness Index to further understand consumer behavior and develop trend predictions for the year ahead. These include:

Touchless spa services and their benefits will become more discovered as 31 per cent of Americans shared that they are interested in no-touch services such as cryotherapy or float spas.

Snackable workouts will continue to hit the spot for many! Nearly four in 10 Americans say their workouts are a half hour or less. These snackable workouts are giving Americans a chance to get a workout in when they might not have time otherwise.

People are trying new things and becoming more comfortable with attending in-person classes, when they may not have been open to trying it pre-pandemic. 56 per cent of those that have gym intimidation (aka gymtimidation), say they want to get in shape before they go to the gym – but that virtual fitness has helped break down those barriers.

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