Can gyms survive our new normal?

by Rina Raphael

After vowing never to get the Mirror, I caved. I plopped down $1,500 and resigned myself to what I assumed would be a subpar replacement for in-person classes.

But then … I fell in love with it. I now use the Mirror nearly every day and far prefer it to the studio experience. No commute, no waiting to check-in. And I can snuggle my dog during rests.

I’m not the only at-home fitness convert. I hear this from numerous friends who swear by their Peloton or workout app, be it Obé or Alo Yoga. A Mindbody research report found that in April, 80% of Americans attended streaming fitness classes on at least a weekly basis (compared to just 7% in 2019). Many are excited they’ve discovered a more convenient and affordable solution, while others—such as myself—feel a bit guilty.

Simply put: I just don’t see myself going back.

That’s not to say I won’t ever visit my local studio, just far, far less. And that’s a growing trend. As more Americans adopt digital fitness, the appeal of gyms wanes, especially with re-opening challenges such as mandatory face-coverings, attendee limits, and constant equipment cleanings.

In fact, a recent survey found that 24% of consumers are “over” gyms and 42% now prefer their at-home setup. Meanwhile, Gympass found that 82% are willing to work out virtually post-pandemic.

It’s quite a blow to an already struggling brick-and-mortar sector, which just saw brands like Gold Gyms and 24 Hour Fitness file for bankruptcy. For some studios, even a 10% dip in revenue is enough to shutter them for good.

“All that COVID-19 did was accelerate the underlying trends that were already there,” says fitness industry analyst Bryan O’Rourke. “There's been an overbuilding in certain markets of those kinds of [physical] locations that are undercapitalized. And to the extent that they can't survive for very long, they're going to go away.”

So how can gyms survive the lockdown? And what will the future of fitness look like? (Hint: An omnichannel approach.) I examine the current industry landscape—with input from Mindbody’s Rick Stollmeyer, Mirror founder Brynn Putnam, and more—for Everything, a newsletter bundle company focused on business, productivity, and industry-specific content. You can check out all their free articles at everything.substack.com and when you’re ready to subscribe, get 20% off here.

Read the full story.

Related: The best at-home fitness apps

News & Trends:

Mirror gets some competition: Newcomer FORME Life also transforms a mirror into a workout platform. This one, however, is designed by Yves Béhar, the designer behind elderly companion robot ElliQ, the SNOO, and Jawbone. (FORME Life)

Workism is making Americans miserable: Have we replaced organized religion with …  the religion of work? The American conception of work has shifted from “jobs” to “careers” to “callings.” (The Atlantic)

Is it safe to go to the dentist? So far, no documented outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. has been traced to a dental office. (NPR)

Athleta releases exercise-friendly mask: Meant to be lightweight and breathable, it was developed with medical professionals and the Emergency Design Collective. Available July 28. (Athleta)

More and more supplement brands come for the kids: The latest? Plexus’ “brain-nurturing” microbiome powder mix and chewable probiotic multivitamins. (Plexus)

FDA study finds a percentage of CBD products mislabeled: Turns out 18% of products contain significantly less than the amount indicated and 37% contained significantly more. (Food Dive)

The pandemic is rewriting the rules of retail: Retailers will have to make their in-store experiences even more extraordinary for those who can visit in person. (Harvard Business Review)

Beautycounter gets creative: The clean beauty brand turned the front of their Venice store into a shoppable wall, with personnel positioned behind an enclosed glass partition. (Beautycounter)

New personal training app keeps you from cheating: Onyx tries to hold you accountable via a 3D capture system that counts your reps and corrects your form. (NYP)

Perfect Day raises $300 million Series C for animal-free dairy products: The startup recently teamed up with Smitten Ice Cream to produce the first commercial product made with its vegan whey protein. (Food Navigator)

Meanwhile, vegan seafood line Good Catch debuts frozen line: As I previously reported, this brand has Impossible Burger ambitions—now, they’ve diversified with New England-style crab cakes. (Forbes / FastCo

Brands are using Snapchat for “gamified” beauty moments: Since quarantines began, Snapchat usage has surged. As such, brands are leaning into Snapchat’s Lens AR feature “to transform a person’s face.” (Glossy)

Fertility startup Kindbody snags $32 million Series B: As the fertility sector grows, Kindbody looks to expand its footprint with both brick-and-mortar locations and partner clinics. (Crunchbase)

Why you can’t stop looking at your face on Zoom calls: Our likeness is distracting. (Elemental)

Listen:

The empty promise of vitamins: Supplements claiming to “boost your immune system” have gotten new attention during the pandemic. The Atlantic’s James Hamblin explains why vitamin claims are mostly nonsense—and how they provide a false sense of protection. (Social Distance podcast)

Related: Will this vitamin study hurt (the very many) supplement startups?

Deeper Dives:

During COVID-19, investment money floods into wellness
Lululemon bought Mirror for $500 million, Grove Collaborative acquired gummy supplement brand Sundaily, while Nestlé Health Science bought a majority stake in collagen line Vital Proteins. As consumers prioritize healthy living, analysts expect the wellness investment trend to last far beyond lockdown. (WWD)

Have smartphones destroyed a generation?
What is the actual impact of children and tweens growing up with Instagram and round-the-clock access to the internet? To start, they’re lonelier than ever. In fact, they are on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Dr. Jean M. Twenge takes a look at the skyrocketing rates of teen depression and suicide linked with the rise of smartphones. “There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy,” writes Twenge. (The Atlantic)

The story of 6 brothers with schizophreniaand the researchers who studied them
If you haven’t already picked up Hidden Valley Road—the NYT bestseller and Oprah's Book Club pick—I highly recommend you do. (I couldn’t put it down.) It’s the true story of an all-American family that struggled with schizophrenia affecting six of their 12 children. Over time, the family was studied by the National Institute of Mental Health to better understand the connection between the condition and genetics. In this essay, the author recounts why he was drawn to the remarkable story.

“Spending time with them helped me understand that mental illness is not a cookie-cutter condition; even people in the same family manifest it differently,” writes Robert Kolker. (Gen)

Tweet of the week:

Disney reopened Walt Disney World (in part because the theme park generates 16% of the company’s total revenue). Just don’t expect to hug Mickey.

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