Does Corona mean the end for fitness studios as we know them?

Lifting dumbbells, yoga or interval workouts – in Corona times, many train in their own living room or in the park. That puts gyms under pressure. Workouts are streamed without further ado, but the competition is fierce online. 

Envious looks at the biceps are rare in your own living room. Apart from that, it is quite easy to do sports at home, as many people have recently discovered – thanks to small dumbbells, yoga mats and millions of video workouts. Exercise in the fresh air also found numerous new fans when the fitness studios were closed. Which increasingly begs the question: Can the good old training in the studio survive this?

Health (DIFG) asked around 1000 fitness studio members in May, are unlikely to please operators: one in five stated that they would like to visit the fitness studio less often in the future than before the crisis – or not at all anymore. At the same time, the studio owners must compensate for the consequences of the forced Corona break. Contributions must be credited in later months, missed new memberships have an impact. The industry expects ten percent fewer members at the end of the year than at the end of the previous year. 

New start for the fitness industry

“The fitness studio has to reposition itself,” says DIFG chairman Ralph Scholz. What is needed is a mixture of stationary training, online courses for at home and, ideally, offers for outside. The challenge will be “to squeeze that into a membership fee”.

It would be a little easier for those who already relied on unusual membership models before the crisis . Apps such as ClassPass or Urban Sports Club give their members a large selection of different sports offers for a fixed monthly fee: Whether swimming pool, yoga studio, pumps or dance course – the studios receive a certain amount from the app provider, depending on the offer the customer has about the fitness App uses.

These companies quickly switched to online operations when the crisis hit. They offered the studios to stream their courses and continue to allow participation through the app. Although the studios have now reopened, Urban Sports Club co-founder Moritz Kreppel is sure: “The online offers are there to stay. A combination of online and offline makes perfect sense. The flexibility to be able to use both, is extremely important. ” For some it is important to have a tea with the trainer or participants after the yoga class and in other cases to be able to participate quickly and flexibly at home.

The competition is fierce on the internet

On the Internet, however, the live streamed courses from the studio around the corner compete with numerous pre-produced fitness videos from Youtubers, bloggers or larger companies. Kreppel from the Urban Sports Club does not want to rule out on-demand content for the future either. It will be difficult for the small, owner-operated gym to keep up, even if it tries to mix it up online and offline. Ralph Scholz assumes that new service providers will emerge who will help operators in the process.

“Fitness studios will have to fight to win back their customer base,” confirms sports scientist Susanne Tittlbach from the University of Bayreuth. The current situation, in which distance and hygiene rules have to be complied with, makes this increasingly difficult.

According to Tittlbach, researchers have found that people were on average less active in sports at the height of the Corona crisis. However, there was a growing gap: people who were already active in sports became even more sporty, while less active people became even more inactive. For the latter, the course at a fixed time at a fixed location, perhaps even in a group, should continue to be helpful in overcoming the famous weaker self.

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