Gym Workouts vs At-Home Workouts: Which will Survive Post-COVID-19?

Shannon Miller

October 29, 2021

When gyms closed last year, many of us were forced to master the at-home workout to keep in shape. Most facilities have now opened their doors fully or at limited capacity with shortened hours of operation, bringing in troves of folks who have been antsy to resume their gym routines. But will most people actually want to hit the gym again, or did our efforts at home grow to be just as productive?

Last year, brick and mortar fitness industry revenue dropped 58%, from $35B in 2021 to $15B in 2020. Seventeen percent of all fitness clubs and studios closed permanently, and several major fitness companies filed for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, many of us locked away at home under quarantine policies tapped into the virtual fitness circuit in attempt to reconcile our old routines. The result? A boom in at-home exercising, with 74% of Americans downloading fitness apps and 40% of us working out for the first time at home. Peloton reached an estimate of almost $1.8B in sales in 2020, and the workout tycoon company, Beachbody, experienced a 200% growth in Q1 of 2020 alone. The popularity of at-home workouts beg the question: will in-person gyms ever bounce back or will at-home workouts be the norm now? The answer may lie in which is more effective in providing the best variety of workouts, mental health implications and safety in an *almost* post-COVID world.

Gym Workouts

Obviously, the most typical and intentional location to sweat it out, gyms offer an array of equipment for users to take advantage of, whether it be free weights, cable machines or cardio equipment. Most of this is difficult to keep at home and can be expensive to purchase. With some gyms opening at a lessened capacity or with machine closures to promote safe social distancing, access may still be limited. Indoor fitness has slowly started reopening in some cases, but limited class times and spaces may mean your everyday spin class routine could shift to once a week. Mask requirements inside can also feel less than ideal, especially when breathing hard on cardio machines, but are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. Nonetheless, access to fitness facilities is perhaps one of the most challenging changes we have experienced over the past year when it comes to maintaining health, and many that rely on gyms are thrilled to see them open and available to take advantage of after a long period of time away.

At-home Workouts

Stuck at home for almost a year made many of us actually stick to at-home workouts better than expected. There has been an 88% increase in exercise among people who typically only worked out 1-2 times a week, and 65% said working out at home increased their confidence. With more online classes to choose from than ever, typically less spent in monthly fees than a gym or studio, and no commute time, virtual training has lifted many off their couches and into a sustainable at-home routine. However, downsides include the potential for less accountability, social interaction and lowered motivation when working out solo. Not to mention, the aforementioned expenses of building out enough equipment and space to provide enough variety in a workout regimen. Even still, it is estimated that close to 60% of gym members do not plan to renew their gym memberships upon reopening.

So, which will survive in a post-COVID-19 world? Our bet is at-home workouts will be utilized more due to their overwhelming convenience and gym access will provide variety and the social support we’ve been missing throughout quarantine. This could mean an overall increase in hours spent being active and engaging muscles, which can only benefit health and longevity even further: a win-win in our book. Most of all, the best routine is the one you’ll continue to do, whether that is in your living room or masked up in the gym.

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