Events of recent years have certainly had an enormous effect on our personal fitness habits. As Covid-19 ravaged the world, many of us had to forego the public gym and fitness classes and discover new ways to stay active at home.
But to suggest that the pandemic is the only driver behind this ongoing shift in our fitness habits would be an oversimplification. Perhaps owing to the flexibility they offer, home workouts have been in vogue since the early days of VHS, and even before that – with an ever-evolving range of domestic fitness equipment, from free weights and resistance bands to exercise bikes and treadmills.
Nevertheless, Covid-related restrictions certainly acted as a catalyst for the home workout revolution and, as ever, the internet lent a helping hand. The past two years have seen a step-change in the way people can keep fit at home. While we were excluded from going to the gym or classes, personal trainers and fitness experts took to social media platforms to demonstrate exercises and workouts their (growing) audiences could undertake in their living rooms.
What became quickly apparent, evidenced by lists such as the “Best Fitness Trainers on Instagram”, was that we could keep fit with little to no equipment but a great deal of motivation.
Despite forcing rapid change in the way we exercise, I believe the home fitness movement would still have likely witnessed significant growth, as people become more accustomed to finding training online easily – and often free of charge.
In addition, more and more companies are bringing internet-connected training equipment to market, and uptake of connected fitness ‘mirrors’ is growing ever stronger. The fact is that many of us struggle to fit conventional gym time into our busy lives, and the latest innovations mean that we can gain equivalent fitness-related benefits in a domestic setting.
Yet there are certain aspects of hitting the gym – the social and motivational benefits that come from face-to-face interaction, for example – that are hard to replicate in one’s living room, regardless of the tech employed.
So, will home workouts remain the norm, or will their popularity wane in the wake of the pandemic as fitness enthusiasts return to the gym?
Here are my predictions…
Home workouts will remain popular
I think that many fitness enthusiasts may still feel more comfortable working out in their living rooms – having grown accustomed to new routines, different times to exercise at, and the fact that exercising at home can offer more freedom and flexibility.
There is less incentive to return to the gym, especially among those who have invested heavily in home-based systems – which include a monthly subscription model like a gym.
But gyms will bounce back – eventually
The fitness sector has suffered more than most in the last few years, as gyms and fitness studios were forced to close, and customers had little choice but to switch to home workouts.
Such habits can take time to change. While many welcome the opportunity to return to the gym, others remain more comfortable keeping fit in their apartments or villas.
There are, of course, certain aspects of gym life that are difficult to replicate inside the home. I believe more and more of us will gradually head back to our local gyms, and mix up training between home, gym and the great outdoors.
There’s certainly a sense of community – many of us missed our fitness friends during lockdown – and staying in touch via WhatsApp just isn’t the same as working out together.
The sense of competition is also often lacking from home-based and virtual exercise. As well as missing the support of our fitness friends, deep down, many of us also miss the friendly competition that exists within these networks. It can be hard to develop a friendly rivalry with a name on a screen, regardless of how impressive their numbers may be.
There are also proven benefits offered by one-on-one tuition – while a number of companies have made progress in bringing experts into people’s homes virtually, it’s still not the same as having your own personal trainer supporting and motivating you to go that extra mile in the gym.
Some of us need shouting at to push ourselves!
The future of fitness is fluid
From what I’ve been reading lately, it seems few predict that home fitness will go away, especially with the technology investments made.
Living room workouts have been a lucrative market for decades and, as technology continues to develop, apps and online fitness activities will no doubt find a receptive audience among those who prefer to stay active privately. Home workouts are a boon for anyone who doesn’t feel confident going to the gym.
It’s also more likely that you’ll work out at home more often, as less effort is involved. You could even argue that heading out to a gym is less sustainable, if your journey to the gym involves a combustion engine.
Here in the UAE, fitness enthusiasts are fortunate in that the country’s amenities are ideally suited to active lifestyles.
Why practise yoga in front of your television when you can join a class on any one of our beautiful beaches? Why choose an exercise bike when you can cycle through breath-taking scenery on purpose-built cycle tracks and pristine roads?
Our nation’s most entrepreneurial fitness companies and professionals understand the many benefits offered by the UAE’s unparalleled surroundings – and will no doubt continue to capitalise on these attributes when developing new offerings for customers.
So, when it comes to the post-pandemic future of the fitness sector, I see hybrid provisions – a blend of outdoor, gym, home-based and virtual training and classes – growing increasingly popular, and this is no bad thing. Flexibility benefits consumers and commercial entities alike.
After all, the most important thing is that we develop habits that allow us to remain fit, healthy and happy. It really doesn’t matter whether we achieve this at home, in the gym, or by the beach!