Covid-19 accelerates the move to hybrid fitness

  14 Apr 2021

• Hybrid fitness is here to stay as people want the convenience of accessing fitness online at home, as well as at the gym
• However, satisfaction with online workouts is lower when compared to in-gym experiences
• Members want to return to the gym as soon as possible
• Global data shows just how safe gyms can be when health and hygiene protocols are adhered to


Manila, April 12, 2021- The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to pose numerous challenges and restrictions on society, and governments all around the world have taken various steps in order to mitigate the risks of the virus spreading within the community. Nonetheless, a survey of almost 4,000 fitness-loving respondents₁ across Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand say that Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions haven’t stopped them from getting their fitness fix. They’ve been keeping up with their fitness through a hybrid approach – virtual classes and online programming when they can’t get to the gym, and at the gym when they can.

Hybrid fitness is here to stay
Commenting on the overall survey findings, Simon Flint, Chief Executive Officer, Evolution Wellness Group₂ said, “We’re pleased with the results of the survey which show us that despite the disruptive nature of the various lockdowns and restrictions across the region specifically with regard to gyms and fitness facilities, 90% of respondents continued to find ways to stay committed to their fitness regime. 65% said they participated in online fitness programmes such as our live classes and on-demand workouts and would continue to do so post-Covid. This clearly shows that a certain demand for hybrid fitness offerings is here to stay, and fitness providers will need to think about catering to this demand as well as being able to provide quality content.”

Consumers still prefer in-gym workouts for the experience and social connection
While frequency of exercise suffered a slight dip compared to pre-lockdown restrictions, 39% of respondents say that they are still exercising between three to four times a week. Nonetheless, they report feeling less satisfied with the experience of working out at home due to the lack of the right fitness equipment (51%), lack of motivation (48%), and lack of a motivating environment (40%). Just 50% of respondents report feeling highly satisfied with their workouts at home, compared to 83% of gym-goers pre-Covid. They’ve also been forced to shift from having very specific fitness goals and motivating routines such as losing weight and gaining strength, to just aiming for overall wellbeing during this time and ‘getting some form of exercise’.

All things considered, 60% of respondents say they can’t wait to get back to working out in the gym and will do so as soon as conditions permit. A number of studies globally₃ as well as from Evolution Wellness’s own data suggest that gyms can be safe spaces to exercise provided staff and members alike adhere to the prescribed health and hygiene protocols, including wearing a mask.

STRICT HEALTH PROTOCOLS. Members and trainers always follow stringent health and safety protocols such as wearing of mask, observance of physical distancing, and no contact policy during training sessions.

INCREASED CLEANING. Equipment and surfaces are thoroughly sanitized throughout the day. Members are also encouraged to wipe down the equipment before and after use.

“When ‘normal’ life resumes as a result of delivered vaccines reaching a critical mass, our hypothesis is that some members will revert to the same patterns as before, with a preference for their gym community and social experience. Others will mix and match with both gym and at-home solutions for their fitness needs,” Flint continued.

Re-thinking discretionary spend
Health experts have predicted that obesity could increase the risk of Covid-19 infection by seven fold₄, so it’s no surprise that respondents say they will place a greater focus on their health and wellness, not just presently but also well after the threat of Covid-19 has passed. However, given the uncertainties in the short term, up to 50% say they’re looking at ways to reduce discretionary spend, including cutting down on holidays, eating out, social activities, and gym memberships.

The case for the Philippines
“The results for the Philippines mirror the regional findings very closely,” said Mark Ellis, Country Manager for Evolution Wellness Philippines which operates a network of 14 Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First clubs primarily in the Metro Manila area.

• 77% of respondents from the Philippines turned to online workouts during lockdowns to keep up with their fitness, compared to just 36% before
• Filipino respondents also report a drop in satisfaction with their workouts from 76% pre-pandemic to just 40% during lockdowns. The top five reasons for this were the lack of gym equipment at home (59%), lack of motivation or laziness (48%), lack of gym amenities (45%), lack of a motivating atmosphere (39%), and lack of social interaction (35%).

Ellis continued, “At the start of the lockdown in March last year, we began rolling out a number of initiatives which on hindsight dovetail very nicely in response to the findings. For example, we offered a free virtual fitness classes via our social media channels to encourage members and the public to stay motivated and active whilst in lockdown at home. More recently we’ve made virtual fitness classes a permanent offering accessible through our mobile apps in the form of Virtual Studio₅, while Fit Kit₆ leverages our relationship with fitness equipment suppliers to curate several kits at very attractive prices for home workout use.”

Early last year prior to the pandemic Evolution Wellness Philippines introduced a game-changing membership plan for Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First available from just Php 1,990 called MyStyle and MyFit respectively. “We designed this membership type to give our members and customers greater flexibility and control over what they want from their gym membership. They can choose full access to our class-leading facilities including cardio, free weights and functional areas, changing rooms, and the member’s lounge, or opt to add other services. We’ve seen strong uptake for these membership plans in recent months, presumably because people want to prioritise their health and fitness, while still being prudent with their disposable income which may have come under strain as a result of the pandemic,” said Ellis.

For Evolution Wellness Group, besides continuing to operate Asia’s largest network of health clubs across its existing six markets, it’s committed to improving its reach and depth through attracting new customers to engage with its brands for the first time digitally, as well as seeking greater engagement with existing customers through the introduction of new tools and services, such as Virtual Studio and Virtual PT₇.


Notes to the editor:
1. Evolution Wellness commissioned Kantar for the survey which was carried out among current members, other gym users, and intenders of all ethnicities between 18 and 50 years old in six markets. Intenders are defined as individuals who are not a member of a gym but use online fitness content at home / not a member of a gym but intend to use online fitness content at home / not a member of a gym nor uses online fitness content at home, but workout in other ways / not a member of gym but interested in exercising / joining a gym. There were 506 respondents from the Philippines.
2. Evolution Wellness is owner and operator of Asia’s largest network of health clubs whose portfolio of brands comprise Celebrity Fitness, Chi Fitness, FIRE Fitness, Fitness First, Fivelements, and GoFit.
3. Studies from around the world including Fitness Australia, ExerciseNZ and Sheffield Hallam University demonstrate that with the right precautions and protocols in place, attending a gym can be regarded as relatively low-risk. Analysis of Evolution Wellness’s internal data for the period of 1 January until 19 October 2020 show that there was less than one reported case in every 250,000 member check ins across in the markets where it operates.
4. United Nations Interagency Task Force on NCDs
5. Access a wide range of group fitness classes including cardio, dance, mind and body through Virtual Studio, which is available via the Celebrity Fitness and Fitness First apps for as low as Php120 per month.
6. There are two types of Fit Kit – the GX Kit and the PT Kit. Prices start from as low as Php3,600 for a kit which comprises a mat, dumbbell, and power bands (GX Kit 1).
7. The Virtual Personal Training (Virtual PT) programme is a 1-on-1, customised online training session catered to the individual’s needs, personal goals and learning styles.