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Would you pay $4,000 to work out at home?

The home fitness industry is booming.
Young woman practicing iyengar yoga at home in her living room.
Key Takeaways
  • The home fitness industry has reached $14b valuation, part of the $595b fitness industry.
  • A new survey shows that while home fitness is growing, obstacles, such as having enough space, exist.
  • Companies like Peloton and Mirror continue to gain new advocates, shifting the emphasis from gym to living room.

In a few months I’ll be celebrating 15 years teaching group fitness, 14 of those at Equinox Fitness. Though my wheelhouse is diverse—yoga, studio cycling, kettlebells, ViPR, abdominals—the reasons why people avoid fitness classes are rather consistent. These reasons are slightly different than those by people refusing to enter a gym in the first place, though in many ways both of these camps reveal self-esteem issues.

  • Gym members who work out “on the floor” with free weights, pulley systems, treadmills, and other cardiovascular machines like to say they “have their workout” already. These workouts are often (but not always) repetitive, meaning they cycle through the same sorts of movements every week. Even when challenged they rarely inject anything new into their regimen.
  • Non-gym members feel bad about their weight, body, or posture; they feel they’ll fall behind in classes; they’re not very social and have a hard time connecting with others in such an environment.

Mind you, these are not judgments—we do more than enough of that already—but are the bulk of reasons for not partaking in group fitness. (Another, which is completely understandable, is that people simply don’t like working out in groups.) The issues listed above reflect a certain self-consciousness: I’m good where I’m at and don’t need anything more or I’m not good where I’m at but I can’t find the motivation to change. Both mindsets have their challenges.

Enter home gyms. These are not new either—my father had plenty of free weights and a Bowflex system in our basement in the eighties—but the depth of integration with group fitness (as well as expense) has skyrocketed in recent years. According to a user report by Alpha, the $14 billion home fitness industry (part of the overall $595 billion fitness industry) is booming. The culture is not without its obstacles, however:

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.

Photo: GMB Monkey / Unsplash

Sixteen percent of Americans currently have a gym membership, ranging from the $10 monthly fee at Planet Fitness to the higher range, such as Equinox, which can be between $180-$340 month, depending on your level of access (even higher for private training). The amenities of these institutions are many: numerous classes every day, the latest equipment, access to steam rooms and saunas, and, what I find most appealing, the energy of moving with others.

This is no argument against home fitness. Movement is movement; exercise in any environment is better than none. Personally, I could not imagine paying $1,995 for a Peloton bike (or $3,995 for the company’s upcoming treadmill) on top of an additional $19.49 a month for a digital membership. Yet the company’s $4 billion valuation means they’re doing something right. Every Peloton member I’ve met loves it. They say it makes them feel like they’re inside the room with the instructor (the site streams over 20 live classes daily).

Peloton’s bike is cumbersome, however. For $500 less you can buy a Mirror and have a complete range of exercises to choose from. My skepticism meter jumped when I first heard about this company, but again, a little reflection made me rethink my initial reaction. I love studio cycling, yet it’s a very limited routine (sorry, SoulCycle is not offering anything special, and might be physically damaging). From a cardio perspective cycling is wonderful, especially for those with joint problems or injuries. Yet there is no loading, strength training, or flexibility. The Mirror addresses that.

45-Minute Tabata Workout to Torch Calories | Class FitSugar

I take Raneir’s class every Tuesday in person. Yes, he really is this energetic.

I’ve never tried any home workout system or online class. When I can’t get to the gym my living room fills that need, but I generally lead myself through these workouts. In a pinch it’s a great solution, though I’m aware the challenge level is not the same for one simple reason: the art of surprise.

Not knowing what type of exercise you’re going to be asked to do, whether a burpee/tuck jump combo, a series of sprints on a stationary bicycle, or an intricate arm balance in a yoga class, has great cognitive and physical benefits. Exercise plateaus are real. Many people suffer from it—the same, repetitive routine, day after day, sometimes done while staring at a phone, which is effectively the same as not working out at all. (Mind and body are not separate entities.)

Alpha co-founder, Nis From, believes the home workout trend will continue to scale:

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. 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.

All you really need to stay healthy is a few square feet of space. The articulation of our joints allows for a surprisingly large range of movements which can be conditioned without any equipment whatsoever. (The class above highlights this.) Whether you have the energy to construct your own workouts or rely on a real or virtual instructor, just make sure you’re constantly challenging yourself in new ways. I’ll always advocate for the energy of the group, but if getting it in at home is your path, there’s plenty to choose from.

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

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The Busy Traveler’s Workout

Don’t have much space? No problem.


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