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Apps and The Fitness Industry: Friend or Foe

For some, fitness is a way of life. For others, it’s a hobby. Despite different reasons for working out, everyone wants fitness to be accessible, convenient, and judgment-free. These are contributing factors for the decline in gym memberships and the increasing popularity of subscriber-based fitness streaming services. So what’s the deal? Are apps the friend of the fitness industry, or are they a foe? I think the answer is a little bit of both.

Apps, Apps Everywhere

Even people who do have a traditional gym membership are using fitness apps to guide their workouts. Let’s face it, finding time out of your hectic schedule to go to the gym is a challenge in and of itself. But when you do find the time, are you getting the most out of your workouts? It can be confusing. Tuesday is leg day, or is that Thursday? For even the most experienced gym rat, using an app to guide a workout takes the work out of a workout and helps you shake things up—and make sure you get the exact workout you’re in the mood for. For the not so experienced gym goer, going to the gym without the guidance of a personal trainer can mean sitting down on whatever machine looks easy enough to use without embarrassing yourself. Well, confusion no more. Mobile fitness apps are both helping workout veterans and solving problems for the novice and, in the process, disrupting the fitness industry. Let’s explore.

Skipping the Gym Altogether

Go to the app store and search for your favorite workout—yoga, cardio, weight lifting, core exercises—and notice the countless options at your fingertips. Pay monthly for some of these services, and you could have instant access to hundreds of different fitness videos. Now, you can get a guided workout whenever, and wherever is the most convenient. And you can do that workout in the gym, in the privacy of your own home, or even in your office.

As Rachel Bachman explains in the Wall Street Journal more people are opting to pay for fitness apps than go to a yoga studio. Yoga and similar workout studios, though, aren’t the only businesses affected by the growth of online workout apps: Traditional gyms are suffering as well. While gyms still have a firm grasp on the majority of money spent in the fitness field, that number is declining. But why, and how, are these fitness apps competing with large gym chains?

Accessibility, Convenience, and Comfort

Today, people strive to be as time-conscious and economical as possible. That is the niche mobile workout apps have filled. Instead of paying upfront for a gym membership you might not have time to use, more and more people are paying as they go by subscribing to fitness apps such as Daily Burn and Beachbody on Demand.

Not only do these apps allow subscribers to participate in live workout classes, but they archive live classes for use later.

On a different, but similar front, I have a friend who just bought a Pelaton bike. The bike retails for about $1,995 and she pays $39/month subscription fee to take spin classes over the HD screen. That subscription includes unlimited streaming rides, both live and on-demand. Think about the cost of that, compared to a year’s worth of Soul Cycle classes at an average of $39 a pop. She’s loving the live-streaming workouts she’s participating in, and with Pelaton, she gets the bike AND a community as part of the mix.

Another reason more people are turning to mobile workout apps (or buying Pelaton bikes) is the comfortability it provides. Many people feel they don’t fit in at the gym, surrounded by people who are obviously not novices. Fitness apps allow people of all shapes and sizes to exercise in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

The Combination of Modern and Traditional

While many people still go to a gym on a regular basis, what they’re doing inside has changed, and this represents a combination of the modern/traditional gym experience. Fitness apps have allowed gym-goers to skip the expense of a personal trainer and simply follow a workout regimen on their mobile device.

For example, sometimes I go to the gym and lift on my own, without the benefit of apps, and other times, I use a fitness app as part of my routine. My favorite app (recommended by my trainer) is called Fitness Builder by PumpOne, and it walks me through any kind of workout, with a mapped out plan for each part of the body I might want to focus on, with videos to demonstrate the correct form in case I need it. In addition to Fitness Builder, I have four other workout apps on my phone, and one Yoga app. I have apps that include the use of weights, and apps that can be used when I’m on the road, in a hotel room without equipment. Most of the apps I use, I’ve opted for the paid version, but there are terrific workouts available on the free versions as well. I can’t imagine not belonging to a gym, but with the plethora of apps available, I can see why many people are either opting out of a gym membership and/or opting out of working with expensive fitness trainers.

I’m not alone in my adoption of apps at the gym or at home—and the subscriber base for these apps is growing like crazy

Even though gyms still reign when it comes to the money-makers in the fitness world, mobile apps are making inroads. So what’s next for the fitness industry? If gyms, and trainers, are smart, they look for ways to productize what they do. That might mean live-streaming bootcamp or barre classes and offering them at a reduced rate. That could mean creating training videos that are available through an app on demand that are available at one price to gym members and a different price to non-members. There are many options, but the future is clear: the fitness industry is forever changed by mobility and the preponderance of apps that make working out easy for everyone.

What do you think?

Additional Resources on This Topic:

The Popularity of Digital Health Apps
Smartphone Fitness Apps Popular in Efforts to Improve Health & Fitness


Photo Credit: Joly_68 Flickr via Compfight cc

Shelly Kramer

Shelly Kramer is a 20+ year marketing veteran and CEO of V3 Broadsuite, a marketing consultancy, and the President of Broadsuite Media Group. She’s a business strategist focused on B2B digital transformation, and delivering integrated marketing solutions for clients. She’s an expert at omnichannel marketing, content strategy and execution, connecting social media to business initiatives, and helping clients leverage the web for growth and profitability.