COVID and the Rise of the At-Home Workout
3 min read

By Lauren Rosales, Content Writer

Raise your hand if you have a cheap membership to Planet Fitness that you haven’t used in ages, but that you keep forgetting to cancel? It’s a hassle to go to the physical location, and so your subconscious continuously pushes it out of your mind. Each month you see the charge on your credit card bill, an innocuous but persistent $10.00. How did this happen?

In March 2020, when the entire country seemingly shut down, gyms and fitness centers were at the forefront. Nothing says “contaminant” like a sweaty, shared elliptical or bench press–and in a poorly ventilated room, crowded with straining bodies, all panting vigorously, no less. Fitness classes were axed indefinitely, or at least, for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, with enforced social distancing measures and urges to stay at home, regular incidental exercise (read: step counts) steeply declined. If you used to walk a quarter mile to your car before and after work, for example, you would lose that half mile of brisk walking every day when forced to work from home. Even strolling down the aisles of Target was light movement lost, as stores switched to pick-up and delivery services that kept you safely snug and stationary in your car or house. Indeed, smartphone-based apps indicated that within 30 days of lockdown, there was a global 27.3% decrease in daily step counts.

The results? Spoiler alert: as a people, we did not become movement-free amorphous beings (imagine the spacebound humans in Pixar’s WALL-E). People embraced hiking and other solo or small group outdoor recreation, but perhaps the most marked result was the sudden rise of the home workout. Exercise classes migrated from the studio to social media and communication platforms like Zoom. From March to October 2020, health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled with sales of treadmills spiking 135% and those of stationary bikes actually tripling. Home workout equipment and subscription service mogul Peloton quadrupled its value to more than $40 billion. Many turned to online workouts or fitness apps in order to stay active, the latter seeing a 50% increase in users between the first and second quarters of 2020.

Unsurprisingly, people began to cancel their gym memberships in droves. Two chains, 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym, sought protection from creditors. Some gyms, like Planet Fitness, put membership fees on hold until gyms could safely reopen. But with a treadmill in the basement or a Peloton nestled into a niche of one’s home office, why return at all? If you forgot to cancel when the fees were put on hold, you might easily have continued to forget once they were reinstated–hence the situation outlined in the introduction to this blog post!

Now that the vaccine is widely available and federal mandates have long expired, gyms have had ample time to reopen and test the waters, so to speak. And it turns out that not everyone is coming back. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association has found that Americans have largely eschewed the same activities that took them to fitness studios prior to the pandemic (think stationary cycling and cross-training); the fact that one in five clubs shut down during that time has also not helped. Planet Fitness, clearly attuned to this change, recently partnered with the interactive fitness platform iFit to develop workout content for a subscription plan that does not require membership to a physical gym. The convenience and flexibility of at-home workouts are irresistible, though some continue to crave the social interaction of the locker room or the catharsis of the group sweat in a studio. But with exercise, the modern participant can have it all by embracing the increasingly popular hybrid model in which they continue to work out at home but also pop into the gym–albeit occasionally.

If you appreciate the ability to sneak snatches of exercise into your everyday routine without the inconvenience of leaving the house, but are frustrated by the thrown-together vibes of your current home workout situation, there are ways you can purposefully improve it. Unless you really, truly love exercise, chances are that you sometimes feel like it is a bit of a chore. One way to work against this gloomy proclivity is to make your workout space into a place where you want to spend time–or, at least, don’t dread it! So many home gym areas are relegated to dreary basements with little to no natural light, spiderwebs in every corner, and uninspiring concrete walls. If this is the case for you, how about brightening the space with a cheerful paint job, some shelves for spacial variety (and storage), or gym-mimicking mirrors? If you add a TV, you could also reap the benefits of streaming online classes on a bigger screen than that of your wee smartphone–or even throw on a binge-worthy TV show to coax you through longer sessions of cardio!

Part of making a space inviting is inevitably about keeping it tidy. While cabinetry would be a fab addition to a home gym space, even grouped baskets on the floor are helpful for keeping items like foam rollers, boxing gloves, resistance bands, jump ropes, yoga blocks, or hand weights orderly and uncluttered. A chair or a bench is a nice place not only to rest, but to toss a towel so that it doesn’t end up on the floor.

When it comes to stocking a home gym, you will obviously need to consider space and budget. Try not to feel compelled to buy all of the equipment at once. If you have the space for a treadmill or elliptical but not the cash, or the cash but not the space, you can still jump rope vigorously for a solid cardio workout. Rather than immediately investing in a complicated weights machine, you might try using hand weights on a yoga mat, or doing Pilates with wrist or ankle weights. In fact, there are a cornucopia of exercises you can do purely by leveraging your own bodyweight!

Whether you are a Peloton devotee or simply rolling out a yoga mat in your office for 15 minutes of Pilates during your lunch break, it’s immensely helpful to have a routine. If you have embraced the hybrid workout and vary your exercise between gym/studio and your own home, try to keep the variety consistent so that you don’t create excuses not to do any at all!

There are many reasons why you might detest going to the gym–there’s a reason that home gyms are considered a huge perk by contemporary homebuyers! If you’re determined to take extra space in your home to create the perfect workout alternative, you might consider a Unison equity sharing agreement to help you to fund an extensive renovation. Unison can help you tap into your home equity for the funds you need to expand or alter your home, giving you cash now in return for a percentage of your home’s change in value when you sell it. Plus, if you work with licensed contractors and fully document the project, you may apply for a Remodeling Adjustment, which if granted would result in Unison subtracting any added value from its eventual share. Sounds good? Learn more about using an equity sharing agreement to renovate your home today!

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