Pandemic fuels online exercise boom

Interactive commentary sections and virtual reality headsets: Online fitness equipment and services have exploded during the pandemic as home athletes seek a proxy for gym life. While home workouts predate the coronavirus, it has taken on a social aspect that should become the norm in a world reshaped by the pandemic.

“A lot of going to the gym together is kind of suffering together… you build a camaraderie around it,” Jeremy Needham, who trains clients for the company, told AFP. American boxing fitness Liteboxer, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). in Las Vegas.

“And now that we don’t share that space, at least in real time, we have to do it virtually,” he added.

Like other companies that sell internet-connected fitness equipment, Liteboxer offers customers access to workouts, competitions, and other features for a monthly fee, in addition to the roughly $ 1,200 wall machine.

The fitness tech market has been growing for years, but the industry has boomed over the past couple of years, in the same way that the pandemic has accelerated trends in e-commerce and remote working.

“Connected equipment has exploded onto the scene in a big way as consumers have had to change the way they train during the pandemic,” CES Consumer Technology Association (CTA) organizer noted in an industry forecast. .

Internet-connected exercise equipment represented a market of nearly $ 3.8 billion in 2021, and double-digit percentage growth is expected this year, CTA predicts.

“(Customers) want connectivity,” said Richard Kowalski, analyst at CTA. “They want to engage with other people online.”

– Need for pandemic release –

Connected rowing machine manufacturer Hydrow allows customers to comment on and like other people’s workouts, and users have developed their own social media groups.

“You start talking to each other and then all of a sudden you’ve got a bunch of maybe six guys, you know, from all over the world,” Aquil Abdullah, who leads the workouts on, told AFP. the system.

“A guy is in London, a guy is in California, a guy is in Florida, and you have this community.”

The machines, which sell for $ 2,295, have the usual bar and rowing seat, but also a display that allows patrons to practice with instructors on the water, in locations from Miami to London.

“We do these workouts, so that’s part of building the community and making those connections,” said Abdullah, who rowed for the United States at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

But the connected fitness industry has shown some sensitivity to the changing conditions of the pandemic and how it affects the lives of equipment users.

Shares of fitness company Peloton have been under pressure since early November, when the company lowered its forecast as more consumers returned to reopening gyms.

Credit Suisse downgraded the company’s rating in December, saying market changes forced Peloton to increase advertising and discounts.

However, as cases of the Omicron variant of Covid break records around the world, many are falling back home again.

This change could work in favor of home fitness tech companies.

The CTA took a bullish outlook, saying “the growth trajectory suggests that health-conscious consumers find it convenient and convenient to exercise at home, even when gyms and workout classes reopen.”

And exercise of all kinds has offered some relief from the impacts of the pandemic – as disruptions to work, school and travel and latent health concerns provide many reasons to stress.

“The pandemic locked us inside… we couldn’t do the things we loved,” Needham said.

“But the human body still needs cardiovascular activity, it’s pretty simple. You just need a really engaging way … to release that energy that’s building up inside you.”

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