Will online workouts continue when gyms reopen?Kirsten King, founder and principal instructor of Fluidform and Fluidform at Home.

The future of online fitness when gyms and studios reopen

Online fitness sessions have been a saving grace for gym junkies and fitness buffs during lengthy COVID lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne, but will they remain in demand when gym doors swing back open?

Moving to online platforms undoubtedly helped keep businesses alive and gave members an opportunity to keep making use of their memberships, and many in the industry say the virtual model still has a future.

Mike Canty, co-owner of 12RND Fitness North Sydney, said his gym had hosted thrice-weekly online workouts via closed Facebook groups, in addition to outdoor personal training sessions.

He said they found not as many people could attend at the exact time of the online session, but “if they missed it they actually could get the same experience by playing the video [at a later date] and working along with one of the other coaches running the session”.

Mr Canty said while online sessions helped keep staff working and gave members the chance to work out at home, the gym would not keep them going post-lockdown.

“What we really found is there is no real substitute for that one-on-one … and a big part of our studios is making people feel welcome and being part of something, and that’s really tough to do when speaking to someone via a Zoom workout.”

Variety of exercise equipment for a home gym in a living room
Variety of exercise equipment for a home gym in a living room

Kirsten King, founder and principal instructor of Pilates program Fluidform and Fluidform at Home, began her online program in 2019 prior to the pandemic. She has three studios in Surry Hills, Byron Bay and Clovelly, with more than 1500 clients.

“During the first lockdown in 2020, we found that the community went into fright mode and people were looking for at-home workouts straight away.” she said. “The result of this was an exponential uptake in online subscriptions.

“We’ve seen a slower uptake in subscriptions this time around, due to the nature of this lockdown being state-specific and staggered [first two weeks, then four weeks, and so on]. There was an element of hope at the beginning, but once we hit a month of consistent rising cases, there was a definite uptake as the reality hit we were in for the long haul.”

Ms King said she believed online fitness had a strong future post-lockdown.

“People have experienced the convenience and effectiveness of online fitness – I have no doubt this will continue to grow post-lockdown,” she said. “Some elements of the studio experience are hard to recreate online. However, the flexibility, cost and results that online fitness offers is hard to match.”

CBRE retail investor leasing manager Amy Pfeiffer said gyms had been hit hard during lockdowns but many had been “propped up” by offering online and one-on-one sessions.

“In regards to Sydney leasing … about three weeks ago we certainly didn’t have any offers [for gym spaces] but that’s because they couldn’t do anything,” she said. “But over the last three weeks we’ve seen enquires increase to the point where I have received a deposit from a gym [and] a second offer from another gym.

“I work predominantly with the Lower North Shore. It’s definitely picking up now and they’ve sort of got the headspace where, ‘OK, if I get the premises now and do my legal and DA [development application] I’m going to be hopefully having a property handed to me just after the Christmas break. I can then do my fit-out and be open towards … autumn when, hopefully, this is a distant memory.’”

UFC GYM will enter the Sydney market with a flagship premises at 580 George Street.
UFC GYM will enter the Sydney market with a flagship premises at 580 George Street.

Colliers retail agency leasing associate director Michael Tuck said he believed online fitness had a future post lockdown but there would still be a “strong drive” for attending a physical gym.

“It’s always going to be a bit of a combination,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘Are people going to be getting all their stuff online or keep going to stores?’ There’s always going to be a symbiotic relationship between the whole environment of retail and I think a lot of people do want to get out of their house and go to a gym for the social thing.”

During lockdown, Mr Tuck said Colliers helped UFC GYM secure a premise at 580 George Street, Sydney, for its first “signature” gym flagship. The global concept will feature a salt steam room, massage space and a retail outlet across two levels covering 900 square metres.

“I think they had a strategic vision … the CBD market is really driven by supply and demand and generally not much supply,” he said. “It’s hard to come across those bigger-format spaces so I think strategically they got in the market at the right time and found the right space [and] potentially got a sweeter deal because of what was happening in the market, and then a long-term play of a 10- to 15-year lease could save so much over that period.

“Location is probably more important than the rent but when you can get the location and the rent to match up, that’s what they’re looking for.”

Keep up with Commercial Real Estate news.

Check out our Privacy Policy.