With the onslaught of at-home connected fitness innovations–everything from Peloton to smart rowing machines, even weight lifting systems–one wonders: Will Americans soon prefer working out in their living room versus going to the gym?
As the health and wellness category continues to explode, the U.S. fitness market has swelled to more than $30 billion, with approximately 16% of the population holding a gym membership card, reports the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). We’re sweating (or simply paying gym fees) more than ever before: Membership increased more than 10% over the last three years.
But how many Americans will really ditch the gym for these new smart cardio tools, many of which cost well over a $1,500? Will convenience soon trump the neighborhood boutique fitness studio?
A new report from user insights platform Alpha looks at whether consumers are ready to bunker down inside, as well as the biggest obstacles facing the $14 billion home fitness equipment market. In their findings, analysts learned that 54% of Americans who work out at least once a month are interested in buying an at-home fitness system, but several concerns keep them from pulling the trigger.
Of those surveyed, 34% claimed they have “no room in their home or apartment” for the equipment, while 24% said the trendy systems were too expensive. In third place, 11% said they simply preferred the live environment of fitness classes.
While those all seem like reasonable objections, it’s interesting that the majority did not single out price, notes Alpha cofounder Nis Frome. “The rest of the objections seem easier to overcome than being too expensive,” says Frome via email. He also echoed what many industry insiders have said before: Prices will continue to drop as tech advances and adoption continues to grow.
Space is one issue already being addressed by this still burgeoning industry. The newly launched Mirror is one startup attempting to reclaim living spaces with a $1,495 full-length connected mirror that can be hung on one’s wall. It’s essentially a virtual personal trainer the size of a yoga mat.
Price, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to hold back companies like Peloton, whose popular $1,995 stationary bicycles (and soon-to-be released $3,995 treadmills) propelled it to a $4 billion valuation. The company boasts over 1 million subscribers and 32 showrooms in the United States. It plans to further appeal to more income levels with the addition of a new monthly financing program.
“Right now, this tech is very early in the adoption cycle, and it may never make sense for everyone,” explains Frome, “but for early adopters, the enthusiasm is pretty next-level, so the tech looks promising. What these companies are doing in almost all cases is making consumers’ lives easier.”
Alpha’s report found that 27% of those who work out at least once a month have a gym membership–the same percentage as those who claim to have gym at their apartment building or home–while only 7% say they subscribe to an in-home fitness class like Peloton. The remaining 10% is evenly split between those who take individual classes and those who depend on a class membership model like ClassPass.
Men were said to be more inclined to work at home and therefore more likely to purchase an at-home fitness system. But companies such as Mirror report increasing demand from women–including young moms–who prefer the convenience of living-room workouts.
While 46% of those surveyed reported “never” or “rarely” working out, there might be a way to appeal to a new form of keeping (mildly) fit, adds Frome. “There’s an opportunity for home fitness systems to reeducate almost half of the marketplace on what constitutes ‘working out’–it doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym, it can be as little as 5 or 10 minutes at home for results to occur,” he says.
Despite the relatively smaller pool of buyers, Frome is optimistic about the growth potential of the market, particularly one specific advantage it has over standard gym competitors: customization. It’s a trend that’s swept nearly every sector–fashion, beauty, food, tech–with fitness being no exception.
“Generally speaking, over the last 15 years, products that offer a tailored, individual experience–think Netflix or, earlier, the iPod–tend to perform better over time than those offering a generic experience,” says Frome. “Clearly most of America doesn’t own a Peloton or attend SoulCycle. But at some point that was also true of cell phones or HDTVs.”