When the coronavirus pandemic first broke, gyms across the country were forced to close temporarily. And those that didn't get creative may now be looking at closing on a permanent basis.
But thankfully, a lot of gyms did evolve when they needed to. Many gyms, in fact, switched to online classes when the pandemic erupted, and while a lot of fitness centers are now open under limited capacity, the online model may be here to stay.
It's all about going with the flow
Gyms took a beating during the pandemic. At the peak of gym closures in March 2020, class bookings across the U.S. fell as much as 85%.
But now, a growing number of gyms are offering a hybrid model of online and in-person classes, and it's helping them thrive. Patrons who are comfortable working out in a gym can do so, but those who aren't can access fitness classes from the comfort and safety of home. Not only do online classes let customers work out without putting their health at risk, but they allow for more flexibility. Though some gyms offer live classes only, others offer prerecorded workouts that customers can follow at their own pace, according to their own schedules.
In fact, in the wake of the pandemic, a good 72% of gyms now offer some type of on-demand or livestream workout, according to fitness research firm ClubIntel. That's a major increase from the 25% of gyms that offered a comparable service in 2019.
Of course, the drawback to live streaming fitness classes is a lack of the right space or equipment. But for fitness enthusiasts who can make it work and need the motivation that comes with following a program or working out in a group setting, online classes fill that requirement. And while 75% of consumers say they eventually plan to return to a gym once the pandemic is over, many say they'll continue to utilize the virtual workout component offered.
The impact on real estate investors
All told, fitness industry experts anticipate online classes will become a mainstay for gyms, even once they're allowed to open at full capacity. And that could be a mixed bag for real estate investors.
On the one hand, if online workouts help gyms retain customers and succeed financially, they'll be less likely to close down -- which means they'll be in a position to keep paying their commercial landlords rent. On the other, if some gyms have a world of success with online classes, they might choose to downsize studio space, meaning less revenue for investors.
Ultimately, only time will tell whether a shift to online fitness classes helps real estate investors or hurts them. But this offering certainly has the potential to help gyms stay afloat, even as the pandemic drags on. Besides, with so many people stuck at home and putting on pandemic pounds, there's a good chance gyms won't be starved for customers anytime soon. And if they can find a way to secure an added revenue stream without incurring too many extra costs, all the more power to them.