Chloe Ting is a rage on YouTube. The Australian fitness influencer boasts more than 19 million subscribers on the video sharing and social media platform. The reason for her popularity? She encourages a no-equipment workout. All you need is a corner in the house and a workout mat. It’s not surprising why Ting is so popular. With the threat of the virus still at large and easy access to training videos and live sessions online, workout-at-home has become the pandemic fitness trend. In the process, the virtual fitness industry has witnessed a sharp boom, with many offerings mushrooming in the past year.
For some, at-home workouts are important as they help them stay sane in these trying times. “I have been following many fitness videos. More than losing weight, the objective is to keep myself sane and positive during these tough times. Be it cooking, dancing, exercising or wellness, I enjoy everything virtually,” says Gurugram-based communications professional Arpita Sinha, who follows celebrated fitness trainer Yasmeen Karachiwala’s videos on Instagram, finding them easy to do at home. “I follow various dance aerobics (channels) on YouTube and try to spend 10 minutes (doing it) every evening after work-from-home,” she says.
With gyms opening with limited capacity keeping in mind the safety of consumers, there is a shift to virtual training and classes. “Some consumers want to continue working out at home due to the convenience and access to quality trainers online,” says Mumbai-based Jayam Vora, co-founder and chief operating officer, Fitternity, a health and fitness platform, which offers a host of offline and online services, including one-on-one sessions with coaches, live interactive classes, etc. The brand’s FitTV is a video-on-demand service that offers fitness videos with celebrity trainers and fitness coaches.
With the rise of work from home, there’s been a huge demand for home fitness solutions, says Pratik Sud, co-founder and CEO, Synq.Fit, a brand known for smart bikes for a ‘gym from home’ experience. It also offers trainer-led live and interactive workout sessions for up to four people at a time. “Work from home can lead to many fitness issues. Here, technology has the answer,” says Sud, adding, “An increased focus towards health has created the demand for home fitness solutions. In the last two months, we have seen a three-fold increase in orders on our website.”
Supporting the ‘workout-at-home’ trend, leading nutrition and exercise science expert Rujuta Diwekar also tweeted, “Fitness is perishable. If you don’t train for 3 weeks at a stretch, your body will waste the gains it has made. Don’t skip workouts even if gyms are shut. Workout at home, engage with your personal trainers online. It’s a win-win in this rough patch.”
Celebrities, too, are doing it, flooding social media with photos and videos of their exercise sessions at home. Actor Katrina Kaif can be seen doing warm-ups on her rooftop, while Shilpa Shetty Kundra does yoga in her garden, inspiring many. Bengaluru-based Lata S is one of them. The IT professional follows Kundra’s videos, as well as British fitness coach Joseph Wicks on Instagram. “Both show easy and quick videos of body movements and yoga,” she says, adding, “The ease of access to online classes helps me juggle a lot of tasks. I save on travel time to the gym and can multitask at home.”
Having a set space for exercising is the first step towards creating a fitness habit. For many, the living room has become that space from where they can work out without any hassle.
Workouts that require little to no equipment can be done using furniture or items one can find easily around the house. When working out at home, one needs to be resourceful, says health and wellness expert Mallika Tarkas Parekh, owner of Physique 57 India Barre Studios & Livestream Virtual Class. “We’ve learned to accommodate our fitness regimens with sturdy pieces of furniture around the house, walls, water/wine bottles—if we don’t have light weights—cushions and, most importantly, our body weight. Bodyweight resistance training has picked up during the pandemic and is a sustainable way to build strength and bone density,” says the Mumbai-based expert, who has seen participation in her online class double since March last year, with people from around 150 cities logging in. “Online allowed us to open up to all of India and expose them to bodyweight resistance training… this fitness method has so much applicability for the Indian body type, given our tendency as a population to have lower bone density. Additionally, we will launch our video-on-demand Physique 57 app in a few months,” says Parekh.
Yoga, too, is a popular choice among people, as it can be easily done within the confines of the home and requires very little space. “There’s minimal entry barrier to joining a group class, and there is high motivation, given the immunity-boosting benefits of yogic practices. Yoga gained favour with many as it helps manage both physical and mental health,” shares Mumbai-based yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle specialist Namita Piparaiya, founder of wellness platform Yoganama Wellness, who trains students from across the world through online classes.
Experts, however, advise limiting workouts to 30-40 minutes. “The normal tendency is to get a lot out of a workout, but the truth is that after 30 minutes, the benefit isn’t as great. Lower the intensity and create an atmosphere for variety. Mirror your movements, protect your joints. Look into resistance band training and keep the space clutter-free,” advises Delhi-based facial yoga expert Mansi Gulati.
A 2021 McKinsey report estimated the global wellness market at more than $1.5 trillion, with an annual growth of 5-10%. It’s not surprising then to see the fitness market filled with apps and social media channels, which provide on-demand libraries, real-time workouts and remote coaching services. “Virtual fitness and gamified fitness apps attract a lot of attention and that will only get bigger in years to come,” says Sohrab Khushrushahi, founder, Sohfit, a personalised lifestyle and fitness brand.
“Virtual fitness has also opened the possibility of planning training programmes, monitoring and inspiring users to stay fit at a lower cost. The fitness industry is shifting towards AR-based gamified fitness apps with the sole purpose of exploring newer ways of engaging with people, apart from making fitness more accessible to perhaps even those for whom it is not a priority,” adds Khushrushahi.
Another game-changing app is Bim, which aims to revolutionise home workouts by enabling friends, communities and coaches to remotely workout together through multi-user video. It is available for iPhone for now and connects around 20 participants in real time, recreating a physical gym class online. The app has 160 customisable workouts.
Along with online offerings, there’s also been an increase in demand of fitness accessories and equipment. Gravolite, a leading manufacturer and distributor of yoga mats and accessories, and high-performance competitive sports flooring for multiple sports in India, has seen an increase in sales, especially for interlocking and multipurpose mats. “We have seen a 80-100% surge in demand. The demand for yoga mats was 10,000 per month pre-pandemic, but during the lockdown (this year), we sold around 80,000 mats in a month,” says Delhi-based Vaibhav Somani, director, Gravolite.
Amazon Fashion, too, rolled out a comprehensive marketing campaign during various stages of the lockdown with the theme ‘Stay fit at home’ to highlight the importance of exercise and fitness for consumers. The brand’s fashion segment saw a spike in demand for athleisure and comfort-wear. “Through regular fitness sessions and DIY indoor games on Amazon.in, we encourage customers to create a home gym by using the items lying in the house to add more fun to their daily exercise routine,” an Amazon spokesperson says.
gymGO: An online training and coaching solution, with live one-to-one/ group training, where trainers can see and instruct up to 12 people at a time
Rumble: A boxing studio, which hosts daily Instagram Live videos, featuring cardio and bodyweight workouts
Volt: An AI-driven workout plan, with more than 40 different sports and activities
FitBod: A strength-focused workout in a variety of formats, including bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc.
305 Fitness: Offers dance cardio workout livestreams
Don Saladino: Known for training actor Blake Lively, this celebrity personal trainer offers bodyweight training programmes using no equipment
Centr: Created by actor Chris Hemsworth, Centr has a group of personal trainers, nutritionists and wellness gurus who provide workout and wellness tips
HealthifyMe: A health and wellness app, it has a calorie counter, home workouts and immunity plans to help one track their activities
Cure.fit: Offers live classes and fitness videos for all age groups. There are also meditation and yoga training sessions
Neou: On-demand HIIT workouts, yoga and stretching