Cara Casano used to go to a gym in Monroe, N.Y., four days a week for spin or body-sculpt classes. But after having a baby in January, she had trouble arranging child care for gym time.
Instead, she bought a Peloton high-tech stationary bike to give at-home exercise a try. When she clipped in for a live-streamed virtual group ride, she was surprised by how much it felt like a real class. The bike’s display screen showed other riders and the instructor sometimes called people out by name. Ms. Casano, 32, joined a Peloton new moms’ group on Facebook.
“People are always posting questions like, ‘Who’s riding tomorrow? Who wants to do this type of musical ride or that type of ride?’ And you start riding with them,” she says. In Flywheel June, she dropped her gym membership.
At-home virtual fitness programs have grown past the novelty phase, with millions of people using apps and internet-connected gear to do home workouts that try to mimic the buzz and energy of an in-person class. Gyms are taking notice, launching their own at-home programs: Last week Equinox, the owner of SoulCycle, announced it will debut a streaming service in the fall. The company didn’t mention competitors, but said the move reflects members’ wishes “to choose where, how and when they work out.”
Spin studio Flywheel is ramping up virtual offerings after launching its own connected stationary bike, Fly Anywhere, in late 2017. Gold’s Gym is expanding its Amp virtual programming, as is Crunch’s Crunch Live.
U.S. gym membership hit an all-time high in 2018, but the rate of growth cooled to 2% after a 6% rise the year before, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. Much of the decade’s growth has been fueled by boutique studios like CrossFit, Orangetheory and SoulCycle, whose ability to turn fitness into a communal experience has sparked fierce loyalty to their brands. IHRSA says it’s too early to tell whether streaming classes will reduce club visits. CrossFit, SoulCycle and Orangetheory say they don’t see at-home streaming fitness programs as a threat.
At-home fans say they like the convenience of working out when and where it suits them. And unlike past home fitness fads that forced people to generate their own motivation, these new technologies provide virtual competitions, online communities and electronic alerts that nudge you to exercise.
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SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, Hilary Potkewitz