Club Solutions recently declared virtual fitness to be “transforming the industry.”  While getting in on this trend can be a boon for fitness enthusiasts, there are potential concerns for fitness business owners — particularly with regard for what a shift toward virtual fitness may mean for their gym communities and for how to go about integrating virtual fitness into their current operations. 

Here’s a closer look at what you need to know.

About Virtual Fitness

Did you know that the average fitness studio sits empty for 50 to 80 percent of the day, according to Les Mills? Virtual fitness lets businesses maximize their space usage while increasing participation by delivering workout opportunities to clients when and where they need them. 

In addition to offering members the opportunity to access classes from home via their phones, televisions, and laptops, many fitness businesses also offer virtual classes on-site in-house.  Said one Les Mills manager:

 “When you tell potential members that you have a class for them no matter what time of day they come in, we find it’s a powerful reason for them to say yes to a membership.” 

In addition to creating more flexible fitness options for members, virtual fitness also opens the door to people who may otherwise be kept away by “gymtimidation.” Good Life Health Clubs Founder & CEO David Patchell-Evans told Les Mills: 

“Virtual helps people get started with classes who otherwise never would, and many of them get hooked and go on to attend live classes. Virtual also enables instructors at our clubs to build a bigger base of regular participants, increasing class sizes. Getting more people to our classes increases the number of times they work out a week, and consequently how long they stay as members.” 

The takeaway? If you’re worried that adding virtual classes will detract from your studio classes, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Research indicates that attendance in live classes spikes by 12 percent for fitness businesses which offer virtual workouts as well. One athletic club also reported a 76 percent cost-per-class reduction after introducing virtual fitness technology into its existing group fitness programs

Other benefits of virtual fitness for gyms? They’re a great last-minute option if instructors call out, facilities can repeat classes if necessary, and members can return to favorite classes as well. 

This isn’t to say there aren’t potential drawbacks to virtual fitness. For starters, many members prefer opportunities for personal interaction, both with instructors and with other members. Plus, when live instructors aren’t present, safety may be an issue. In situations with poor WiFi, glitches can be distracting and frustrating. 

“An Offering, Not a Solution”

While thousands of clubs now offer some kind of virtual programming, “it’s an offering, not a solution” for most, asserts Club Solutions. Given this evolving dynamic, live-streamed, club-sourced training offers a “best of both worlds” contingency. Says Fitness Industry Technology Council (FiT-C) president Bryan O’Rourke:

“It provides a seamless experience, without the interruption of ads. Members can do exactly the same classes they would enjoy at the club. They have access to classes they wouldn’t be able to find online. With the live-streamed classes, there also can be specific interaction with, and shout-outs to, members working at home.” 

Fitness business

One last thing to keep in mind when it comes to integrating virtual exercise into your fitness business is that delivering a high-quality and authentic experience for members remains imperative. “Keep the member engaged with their brand: the member’s activity still takes place in the club’s own space, whether or not they’re in the club. And provide members with the best online fitness content on the market, adding value to the membership,” continues O’Rourke. This is what will keep your gym relevant in a world in which consumers are increasingly leaning toward all things online. 

Wearables further enhance the potential of virtual fitness. Download the Accuro catalog today to learn more about what our fitness monitoring technology can do for your club and its members.