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Online Fitness Gurus Serve Self-Isolating Exercise Buffs

With a rising number of people forced to stay in, sign-ups for on-demand streaming fitness classes are increasing during the coronavirus crisis.
Sky Ting community | Source: Instagram via @skyting
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — Health and wellness coach Melissa Wood-Tepperberg's on-demand streaming workouts have a cult following among the type of consumers who wear Live The Process leggings and drink low-sugar smoothies sprinkled with ashwagandha. (They pay $10 a month, or $100 a year, to access her Melissa Wood Health library of sculpting and strength-training workouts and guided meditations, which require minimal equipment.) But now, the fitness guru's 300,000-strong follower base on Instagram is expanding as an increasing number of consumers are signing up for streaming fitness services while self-isolating, with subscription sales up 10 percent for the first two weeks in March, according to Chief Brand Officer Dylan Rudolph. There has also been a "larger than usual" crop of sign-ups for the service's seven-day trial option, and increased video engagement.

Wood-Tepperberg will also offer free workout classes on IG Live and IGTV, and has unlocked a top-viewed workout and meditation so that it’s free to the public. “We're getting a lot of thank-you notes lately; not sure if that is due to the current crisis or people are just really appreciative of the great content we deliver at such a low fee,” Rudolph said via email.

Melissa Wood Health isn't the only online streaming service experiencing an uptick as the global coronavirus pandemic forces people in the US and Europe to self-isolate and boutique fitness studios to close. At-home fitness videos were hugely popular in the 1980s and '90s, from Jane Fonda to Tae Bo. But in recent years, in-person boutique fitness classes have earned newfound social currency. In 2019, 64.2 million US consumers belonged to a health club or studio, up 28 percent since 2010, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group.


Many of these studios are run by wellness influencers who boast a significant online following. They often publish mini workouts on Instagram, or have set up paid online workout libraries in the same vein as Melissa Wood Health's, so that fans can access their services on-demand.

Sky Ting Yoga, a New York-based yoga studio with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, was taking extreme precautions to keep its customers safe, including requiring every class attendee to bring their own mat, and instituting a no-touching policy. However, they were forced to temporarily close on Sunday, March 15. Meanwhile, owners Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernahgan have seen a significant increase in sign ups for their library of pre-recorded classes, Sky Ting TV, which is $20 a month and will begin live streaming this week. Sign-ups are up 150 percent week over week, and Jones and Kernaghan expect another jump when live classes get going.

For Los Angeles-based studio Lekfit, which uses mini trampolines in many of its workouts, sign ups for its online streaming service, also $20 a month, have increased by fourfold in March versus February. Engagement has also increased, according to founder Lauren Kleban, as have sales of the studio’s branded workout equipment, which includes mats, bands and weights.

Whether or not fitness buffs will continue to work out from home after the crisis is unclear. Even before the coronavirus outbreak forced the behaviour, a new crop of at-home fitness services, including Peleton and Mirror, were growing in popularity. Peleton, a programme that encourages its members to buy its proprietary exercise bike or treadmill alongside monthly membership, has not fared well on the stock market this past week. Shares of Peloton Interactive, Inc., which went public last autumn, closed at $19.72 per share on Friday after opening at $23 at the beginning of the week.

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