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Will gyms go extinct?

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People exercise in workout pods surrounded by plastic sheets at a gym in Redondo Beach, California, in June.

People exercise in workout pods at a gym in Redondo Beach, California, in June. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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The pandemic has changed so much about our everyday lives, including how we exercise. Some gyms around the country have been tentatively reopening, but several have gone out of business thanks to COVID-19. Big names in the gym club game, like 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym and New York Sport’s Club’s parent company have declared bankruptcy.  

Meanwhile, for at-home fitness apps offering classes and communities, sales are skyrocketing.

This week Apple joined the fray with its subscription service, which includes yoga and running for about $10 a month. That’s a fraction of what most people pay for gym membership. 

Apple enters a crowded field: Peloton, Nike, Adidas and a bunch of other tech and athletic brands are already there. The online fitness industry is projected to grow by 20% over the next seven years.  

Joe Favorito, a sports marketing consultant and professor at Columbia University, says, “Anyone who’s in the fitness business that doesn’t have some sort of online component right now, and is trying to look back to where we were on March 13, is going to be in a lot of trouble. “

That includes small studios. Yoga instructor Jessica Sandhu’s students followed her onto Zoom. She charges about $120 for private sessions, and she says business is better than ever. “I’ve been very financially OK. I’ve never been able to save money as I have now,” she says.

In order for brick-and-mortar gyms to muscle their way out of this crisis, they may need to go hybrid.  Like Equinox. The high-end gym launched its online fitness app in mid-March. 

For gyms, it’s time to level up, or wipe out.

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