COVID-19's Impact on the Fitness Industry

As I was debating over the last week whether or not to go to the IHRSA (International Heath, Racquet and Sports Club Association) Conference in San Diego because of multiple warnings associated with the Corona Virus, I had a looming suspicion that this was just the beginning of a new reality. My team and I made the responsible, executive decision not to go, the same day IHRSA finally decided to cancel.

As I'm embarking on a new endeavor within the fitness space (more to come) this conference was vital for equipment, product, software and programming discovery, as well as just a fun event to connect and catch-up with our international friends and colleagues within our close-knit community. Instead of experiencing products "LIVE" and meeting face to face with vendors, designers and creators, we now have a full schedule of "VIRTUAL" meetings and demos. I'll be doing these sessions along side my kids as they continue school from home via e-learning. #newreality

With a spreading virus that is now causing serious financial disruptions, a rolling recession, school and stadium closings, a Disney shut down, cancelled Boston Marathon, lights out on Broadway, halted travel and plummeting gas prices, I'm wondering what impact COVID-19 will have on the fitness industry? Especially gyms and studios with packed classes in close quarters with lots of sweat and "exhales" as well as shared props and equipment with touch screens.

As I'm writing this blog, gyms are still open for business. I went this morning to take an 8:30am class and noticed the line of treadmills, rowers, ellipticals and stair mills were empty, it looked almost post-apocalyptic (yes I just went there). My class was half-full, but a decent showing in light of this scary, booming pandemic.

Despite the plunge of the global stock market, Peloton's stock is expected to rise due to growing concern of contracting the Corona virus - with more people working-out at home with their motivating, non-contagious, virtual coach. The digital play in fitness has increased, as I've written about in the last few blogs, with thousands of apps and options offering an at-home and on-the-go workout anytime/anywhere on any device. Well NOW is the time and these digital players will benefit, keeping their customers moving, inspired and engaged with piece-of-mind in the safety of their own home.

According to Abacus, virtual fitness classes are booming in China since the outbreak of the Corona Virus hit and people were forced to stay home. Chinese fitness seekers are looking to fitness apps and live-streamed workouts to stay focused and fit while housebound. With #socialdistancing being the new normal, Keep, Les Mills On Demand, and Nintendo Switch's exercise game Ring Fit Adventure are seeing a large surge. Super Monkey, a 24-hour class based gym, with locations all over China, quickly turned on a dime and is now offering live-streamed sessions to continue to engage their members.

According to the mobile insights and analytics platform App Annie, overall U.S. mobile downloads of health and fitness apps were up 5% over last year in February, and in January there was a 40% jump in app installs from December 2019.

One thing I have noticed is an inbox FULL of notes from the gyms and studios (as well as every other business out there from airlines to hotels, restaurants and retail stores) on the steps they are taking for cleanliness, sanitation and safety. Also included is a list of all the precautionary steps they are taking to help mitigate the spread of this disease and staying informed with the latest updates from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the WHO (World Health Organization).

As I'm finishing up this post President Trump has just declared a National Emergency - "two very big words", with $50 billion in federal aid and waived restrictions on hospitals to help fight this virus.

As with everyone else in the world this is a wait and see situation, but also calls for self-leadership to make the right choices for ourselves and our families. We must all take the necessary steps to help shield ourselves and protect others from this ever-growing pandemic that has slowed the quick spin of our world.

With clean hands and my sanitized mobile phone full of fitness choices, I feel pretty prepared for tomorrow. Still planning on jumping in a studio class or two as well, but curious to see what independent and/or mandated decisions gym owners and operators will make throughout the coming weeks. Waiting to hear and see what our next steps should be within the fitness space with guidance from the educated authority within the medical space.

Be Well,

Ann Marie

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