Coronavirus accelerates streaming fitness class industry

Obé Fitness launches kids workouts

As gyms shutter with the widespread outbreak of the new coronavirus, at-home fitness streaming services for adults and kids have emerged, with some seeing an influx of new members and profits.

Obé Fitness, which streams live workouts and more than 4,000 classes like strength training, cardio and yoga, said it’s had 10 times more members sign up already this week compared to last, as more employees are mandated to work from home.

More Americans are working out at home as gyms and retail shutter amid the coronavirus outbreak. (iStock).

The startup rolled out kids' workouts Monday that parents can stream from their accounts to keep children active amid school closures. Obé members pay $27 per month ($199 annually) and can stream the 10-minute workouts that include dance- and strength-focused exercises with a KIDZ BOP soundtrack.


And boutique fitness studios that closed for business have reached a new audience. Tuck Barre & Yoga, a Philadelphia-based yoga studio with four studios throughout the city, closed its brick-and-mortar studios and started offering livestreaming on Sunday for anyone to access for free. The livestream has attracted people nationwide.

“We’ve had close to 1,800 new Facebook followers trying our classes via this streaming service. We have people from all over the country participating,” Hagana Kim, owner of Tuck Barre & Yoga, told FOX Business, adding that he's exploring keeping the virtual streaming component indefinitely.

Other niche virtual studios like Studio Bloom, a pre- and postnatal fitness program for moms, has seen nearly a 30 percent increase in new subscribers in the past two weeks, charging $19 a month for new members, the company told FOX Business. And Atomic Total Fitness, a boutique personal training studio based in New York, is offering virtual training via FaceTime, Skype and Zoom.

“We have done this for years but never made a thing of it because we always prefer to see you in person,” the company sent in an email to members giving them the option to redeem a free one-on-one video training session.


Streaming workouts are a major way Americans can stay active as gyms across the country close, freeze memberships or pivot to online-only fitness models for the time being. The news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people to refrain from attending public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks due to the risk of contracting or passing on COVID-19.

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Big-box gym Planet Fitness said Monday it would now stream daily 20-minute workouts that don’t require equipment at home via its Facebook page.  Equinox said it closed New York, New Jersey and Connecticut gym locations on Monday along with fitness company, Peloton which shuttered its studios and in-store operations. The company will only stream live workouts and continue selling its bikes and treadmills online. And last week, competitor SoulCycle released its stationary bike for at-home riders to stream cycling classes on-demand via its program Variis.

Analysts note that consumers' desire to stay connected to others through live workouts even when exercising remotely is key to driving up demand for virtual fitness.

"Having a combination of live and archived workouts is a key differentiator for Peloton," said Paul Golding, U.S. lifestyle analyst at investment bank Macquarie Group. "The live classes -- even on their treadmills and bikes -- have the community feature and sense of immersion, despite being virtual, that makes you feel like you’re not just working out at home. You’re connected with a whole network of people trying to reach a same goal. From a consumer preference, the flexibility of live and on-demand is key for this."

As fitness programs have become more and more digitized, consumers seem to be prioritizing working out at home or outside with fitness trackers more often, even before the coronavirus pandemic occurred. Market research firm Euromonitor International surveyed 15,301 participants this year, asking them which types of exercise they typically do. Thirty-six percent said they work out at home, while just 12.75 percent surveyed said they do a group fitness class. Hiking and walking were the No. 1 exercise with 53 percent of participants saying it’s their preferred workout.