BY Fast Company South Africa 2 MINUTE READ

Along with the global pandemic came a string of gym closures, and the success of many fitness businesses suddenly fell into the hands of the now accelerated fit-tech boom.

The European fitness industry – the largest in the world, worth EUR 28.2 billion – has been forced to re-invent itself. Brick-and-mortar studios have continued to close down, and those that survive will need to take a digitally-led approach to make up for significantly reduced revenues. Simply put, operating at 25-50% occupancy is not a viable option for any business. 

With most of Europe reassessing how they approach their fitness needs, the point of connection between customers and fitness companies has become increasingly virtual. For example, according to Allied Market Research, in 2019, the minority of Mindbody app users used livestreams (7%) or pre-recorded videos (17%) to work out. Cue the COVID-19 pandemic, and we see that about 75% are using livestream video workouts while 70% are making use of pre-recorded workout videos. 

This is echoed by the Garmin report, where it was reported that while overall steps have decreased, steps from tracked workouts have increased in an effort to make up for the suppression of normal daily movement. So, more people are exercising but in different ways, and the time is right for fitness companies to continue to leverage this through tech.  

Our new work-and-workout-at-home lifestyles have now had the chance to be well entrenched and talk of never going back to the way things were continues to escalate. How will this impact the way – and location – in which we work out? 

 Consumer preferences have changed, making the case for digital 

With training sessions now easily found on social media channels, apps and streaming sites, the pandemic has placed fitness customers in a position where they have not only welcomed these solutions, but have come to rely on them for convenience, safety and deep personalisation. It’s then no surprise that, according to global consulting firm, L.E.K., consumers have actually increased their spending on digital fitness by 30-35% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Fitness apps like Sudor come to do two things: disrupt, and keep the world moving by solving for time, space and human connection. Through apps and other streaming platforms, many of those who begrudgingly cancelled their gym memberships can now rejoin their fitness communities, albeit virtually, and connect with familiar or new trainers from around the world. 

Aside from giving customers more choice and flexibility when it comes to breaking a sweat, virtual fitness platforms also give trainers and studios the chance to earn a living from anywhere in the world. And as for those who have chosen to return to the gym, digital offerings could even be used to help patrons enhance – not replace – their in-studio experience by using an app while they train. 

So, yes, the gym in its traditional format is fast becoming history and a new era has firmly put down its roots – powered by digital. 


About the author: Emma Heap is the founder of Sudor.