The Entertainment Economy Meets Experiential Fitness

virtual fitness

Why the future of fitness is virtual, and how to make it a solution — not just an offering. 

The history of the fitness industry is a history of innovation, decade upon decade of emerging tech, research, new thinking, music and fashion, all influencing and changing the ways we’ve made fitness a part of our lives.

Think back to Jack Lalanne on TV in the 50s, enticing and cajoling viewers off the couch and into exercise. How about Judi Sheppard Missett in the 70s, Jazzercising crowds into leotards and legwarmers, the dawn of fun, choreographed workouts set to music. And of course, Jane Fonda in the 80s, an icon for the aerobics phenomenon, her cult of celebrity a precursor of things to come in all sorts of industries.

Then the group exercise floodgates opened: indoor cycling, Tae Bo, Zumba, CrossFit and much more. The new millennium beckoned, the rise of machines, exer-gaming and now wearables, counting steps, calories and sleep.

Today, fitness is the world’s biggest sport, entertainment is motivation, health is the new wealth and time waits for nobody. Everybody is competing for attention and people want to engage on their terms. For these reasons, the future is virtual.

Virtual fitness isn’t a new thing.

Pre-recorded fitness classes have been around for years and their win-win benefits — profitability for clubs; convenience for members — are well known by some. Clubs can get people into fitness studios any time. Members can workout when they want to. Virtual adds value and certainty to a membership. Validation of virtual comes from those at the top of the fitness industry. Victor Brick, one of Planet Fitness’ biggest franchisees and chairman of the board of Brick Bodies, describes it as the “next big movement.”

Virtual group exercise has grown exponentially. More than 12,000 clubs around the world now offer some sort of virtual offering. But for many clubs it’s an offering, not a solution. It’s virtual fitness in nascent form, with many clubs struggling with technological aspects — projectors, screens, set-up and scheduling. Netflix streamlined the convenience and ease of watching TV. Spotify did the same for music. Where’s the virtual fitness version?

“Content is key and so is the experience,” says Victor Brick of the virtual workout. “It’s still about the experience. Most people could workout at home, stick a video in, do it on a computer if it is just about the movements. But it is about the experience. You want to feel motivated, you want to feel excited, and you want to look forward to doing the activity. Virtual allows you to do that by recreating the experience of a class in a virtual setting.”

Content is key, but quality of content is king. In a fast-changing world, people subscribe to the best and most entertaining content. In the world of fitness, they seek out classes and programs that provide real results. As Frank Napolitano, president of 24 Hour Fitness puts it: “The best content always wins. It does not have to be a single genre of content, but it has to all be brilliant because poor content, like a poor instructor, can kill a program.”

Will you join the virtual movement?

 

Les Mills delivers a variety of group fitness classes that provide cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training for your members. Fresh class content is provided every three months to motivate and support engagement of both instructors and members which in turn reduces the attrition rate of your members. LES MILLS Virtual is the next generation of cinematic group fitness, with content available as a premium option on most players in the market, or on the new LES MILLS Virtual App. For more information, email info.usa@lesmills.com or call 844-LES-MILLS.

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