The businesses defining post-pandemic at-home health – The Forecast – Quartz

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Looking at Peloton’s performance this year alone, one would think the home training trend is on its last legs. As society has reopened, people have rushed to join their friends for personal fitness classes, run marathons with hundreds of others, or just generally take advantage of outdoor activities. It’s the same kind of pent-up boom that industries like travel and weddings are in.

But the workout-from-home industry is going nowhere. This summer, the pendulum will swing toward gyms and outdoors, according to industry insiders, but after that, consumers will swing part of the way back. As with work, the new balance will involve a new “hybrid” approach to training.

As the pandemic forced people to stay at home, fitness providers quickly jumped in to provide digital content. Sometimes it was as simple as a trainer from an independent studio live-streaming exercises from their living room, but a handful of companies went further with training at home. Peloton was the breakout star leading the pack, but Lululemon also offered at-home workout options via Mirror, a smart gym mirror that streams on-demand classes. And concepts like Tonal use a dynamic weight system to recreate a compact but complete gym.

Wearables like Whoop and Oura, meanwhile, allowed trainers to verify that someone was actually raising their heart rate or counting reps — even if the client was in a different location or time zone.

But now the industry is shifting toward the “hybridization” of workouts, where people do a combination of personal and home fitness.

With the specter of more Covid waves yet to come, the strongest players in training probably cannot afford to focus on just one format or the other. “There will be a marriage between the two,” says Carson Caprara, vice president at Brooks Running.

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Discover moreA weightlifter trains at home in front of a screen.Image rights: TonalTonal’s home gym.

Three Epochs of Fitness

Charles Beck is said to have founded the first gym in the United States in 1825. For much of its history, the value of a gym has come from space and equipment. A gym looking to grow its members typically did so by increasing the number of physical locations.

Beginning in the 2010s, boutique fitness boomed, shifting the value away from location and hardware to connection and personality. More than a training or brand name, an inspirational and charismatic trainer became the main attraction. This shift has propelled workouts like SoulCycle and Crossfit into the mainstream.

The current fitness era, which has accelerated during the pandemic, weakens physical locations even more. Although gyms still play a role, the focus today is on connectivity and customization. It’s about meeting the consumer where they want to exercise – whether at home, in the gym or on the go, for 10 minutes or two hours and at the desired intensity.


Peloton: Arguably the leader in home hardware, its pricey stationary bikes have been a big seller during the pandemic. But the company has struggled to maintain its momentum, recently announcing a major shift away from hardware and toward digital content via its app.

🪞 Mirror: Lululemon’s own Smart Mirror is the athleisure brand’s first foray into hardware. Aside from its own content, the company has signed a variety of boutique fitness providers to join the platform.

🎮 Zwift: This bike workout is part of a series of playful fitness concepts. Users are immersed in multiplayer competition as they cycle around a virtual course with their avatar.

📣Future: This app matches people with a private 1:1 coach who then creates customized workouts for the client based on their schedule and environment.

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“Gyms and studios will no longer be the center of a fitness seeker’s universe. Instead, they will be a spoke in the exercise ecosystem, giving way to a new breed of fitness package,” said Joe Vennare, the co-founder of Fitt Insider, a website that tracks the industry.

“Nutrition, health data and mental wellbeing will also be part of these packages that go beyond fitness as retailers like Lululemon and tech giants like Apple bring movement to their ecosystems and redefine what it means to be a fitness company in the first place. ”

Vennare added that the new flexibility and customization options will entice the general public to start their fitness journey. Although the pandemic has encouraged people to prioritize their health, the CDC reports that a quarter of Americans are sedentary.

“From games to virtual reality to outdoor exercises and omni-channel options to everything that becomes of the metaverse, it’s all of the above,” Vennare said. “Because we obviously need a lot more solutions that appeal to a lot more different types of people to pick them up where they are on this fitness journey.”

While providing a sense of community can be a compelling selling point, Future CEO Rishi Mandal told Quartz what’s key is actually balance. Successful concepts adapt when the user just wants some alone time to sweat, but can also trade it for a social experience when they crave it.

Connected devices and software — whether it’s a Fitbit, Strava, a smart treadmill, or a combination of all of these — can help streamline tailored workouts for each individual, said Scott Hayton, an associate partner at McKinsey, in a report examining the industry. For example, if someone had a bad night’s sleep: “Imagine your sleep data was connected to your exercise service or your exercise bike, so that when you got on your bike you received a course designed for someone who had a bad night’s sleep ‘ Hayton said. “Or imagine your fridge starting to make suggestions like ‘don’t make coffee’.”

📣 sound off

Would you rather exercise…

With a digital private coach at home

In a personal group course

On your own without an instructor

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— Tiffany Ap, How We Spend reporter (and lavish Ashtangi)

A 🛀 thing

Holistic wellness practices like meditation and sound baths make up only a small portion of the overall fitness and nutrition market, but they’re picking up the pace. While self-care has typically been a solo activity or something shared only by close family members — like a mother-daughter spa date — there is a shift towards a place where people meet. Concepts like Remedy Place, which bills itself as a “social wellness club,” offer an enticing and toxin-free venue for a date night, birthday party or corporate outing. “We understand the importance of human connections,” said founder Jonathan Leary, “and use that to not only improve the benefits of treatments, but to improve the connection with the people you enjoy it with.”

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