Are fitness apps the new normal in this Covid- 19 time?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Are fitness apps the new normal?

They have been the go-to choice for many who can’t go to the gym, but with social distancing, their use has gone up. Will they take over gyms post Covid?

Ann Nyathira

As the coronavirus continues to spread, fitness studios around the country shut their doors after the government ordered the closure of all social spaces, forcing them to adjust to a new reality.

The sudden shift has forced the fitness and wellness industry to think of creative and flexible ways for people to still pursue their fitness goals, which before Covid- 19 may have largely depended on physical location and on-site gym coaches.

Shiv Simani, a fitness coach running both a physical location and online training, says  fitness instructors have been forced to come up with creative side hustles such as training on Instagram live, now that the digital at-home fitness industry is experiencing a surge 

“There has been a considerable increase in new membership of people who still want to continue exercising despite the restrictions in the last few months.

Today, we have trainers offering classes on social media platforms such as Instagram as a way of bringing the gym to their clients at home.

Although this shift is partly triggered by the pandemic, it started years back,” he says.

Inevitable shift

The fitness industry has been experiencing meaningful disruption for a while now.

For decades, it was traditionally dominated by health clubs and gyms membership, but at the moment, it is witnessing a shift in how people want to pursue fitness.

Before 2020, the concept of working out at home came with widespread skepticism since most workout programmes turned out to be nothing more than temporary fads.

Thanks to high–tech fitness digital fitness offerings from wearable devices and, live streams and virtual reality products, the shift became inevitable.

According to Simani, the paradigm shift is due to advancement of the digital fitness industry to include virtual fitness programmes and apps, which have earned impressive credibility for offering gym-like workouts routine to be used at home.

“For many, the gym is the space that offers a community and facilities for both socialising and keeping fit.

However, in an increasingly fast-paced world, more and more people are finding time for work, but not enough time for fitness and exercises.

But now, thanks to recent technological advancement and emerging digital fitness apps, anyone can easily purchase and download an online fitness app just by the click of a button and get routines that are suited for use within the comfort of your home,” he says.

Digital content and classes offer fitness and workout live stream or recorded video content for a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee.

In virtual training, for example, the trainer designs a customised fitness plan and helps the user with it remotely.

Virtual trainers can track progress on a mobile app and check-in with the user to provide advice and guidance.

“Digital fitness and wellness are appealing to most because it almost eliminates cost and expenditure, but it comes with its risks; that’s why I prefer being involved remotely with a client and provide real-time feedback, which is essential. Besides, there is everything for everyone since there is a variety to choose from, in a much more engaging and personalised context than ever,” he said. 

Today, fitness and wellness apps are making the list of most downloaded apps, a sign that as new technologies come out, the higher the approval of digital fitness apps.

The apps are goal-oriented and structured, allowing users to have a routine as if they were part of a physical gym.

Plus, they outline diets to be followed (a touch of personalisation and consideration for an individual’s preference) and is being incorporated in people’s everyday fitness and wellness lives journey.  

The global fitness app market is estimated to grow at a compound annual rate of 26.2 per cent between 2020 and 2026, with value projection of Sh1.7 trillion by 2026. In 2019, the market was valued at Sh374 billion. 

Limitless options

For MaryAnn Muhia, a digital fitness junkie, the best thing about digital fitness is that you have your trainer in your headphones or your screens and the options are limitless. She uses FIIT app and can join the live broadcast from the comfort of her home.

“It is so effective, and if you are one of those competitive fitness junkies you can compete with other users live.

I feel a lot better using this app than going to the gym and I don’t think I will be going back to the gym post Covid-19.

I am always busy with work and this app has proven efficient, gyms are expensive and my work schedule does not allow me to go to a gym.

The app is structured and goal-focused that has you set goals that you work towards achieving them at home and at your convenience,” she says.

Since there are many apps promising to get you in shape it can be a little confusing. One should look for apps and digital devices and spaces that meet their needs. 

“When it comes to finding a remote coach, the options are limited, but on the Internet things are a bit skewed.

Don’t look out for workouts only, search for apps that have meal planners, structure, all in one fitness programmes also look for a certified trainer who matches your goal,” MaryAnn says.

Does this mean that digital fitness poses a problem to the physical gyms?

“Technology advancement has been posing problems for the traditional outlets, but for one to survive you have to adjust and incorporate the new trends to suit your clients’ needs.

That’s why I started the online training and try to personalise it to individuals’ needs and preference from building muscle, losing fat, or just to keep fit,” Simani says.

“In the long term, coronavirus will dilute the brick and mortar fitness industry model, but the gym will survive this because it comes down to preference.

Those who see the gym as a place to build community and love the camaraderie of working out with other people will continue using it, but those who prefer a more private and isolated session will prefer to go digital,” he adds.

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