America goes to the gym again. It’s bad news for Peloton, but good news for mental health

Alison Phillips, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, grew tired of using the elliptical machine in her home, day in, day out, for more than a year during the pandemic. At first, the repetition made her feet ache. But worse still, it hurt her mind. “It was boring,” says Phillips. “Same thing, every time.” So, two weeks into the day after Phillips received her second COVID-19 vaccine, she was back at her local gym. “I need variety of activities,” says Phillips. “Not just for my feet, but for good.”

After returning to the gym, Phillips noticed that she was going out a lot more than she did before the pandemic. “Seeing people is really important to me,” she said. “This is funny to me.” Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Phillips said, “I didn’t go to the gym for social reasons, because I had young children and a full-time job. I was there to be productive. I’ll avoid people so I don’t have to talk. Now, Phillips finds herself spending ten minutes or more at her gym in Ames, Iowa, chatting. “I started talking to people I met in the years before the pandemic. , and I never spoke to them,” she said. “But I turned around and I said, ‘I’m glad to meet you.’ I was motivated to talk to people. It was great to see people and to be recognized. We shared this feeling, we wanted to be here. And we made it through. This pandemic. It’s just a breath of fresh air in terms of society. And I’ve changed as a person.”
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Plus, socializing at the gym has improved her workouts. “My mood has improved,” Phillips said. “And when you’re in a better mood, you’ll have more energy to exercise.”

It seems many Americans share Williams’ new-found passion for the gym. Visits are close to returning to pre-pandemic levels; Gym visits were down just 8% in early October compared to the same period in 2019, according to data cited by CNBC. On November 4, Planet Fitness, a gym chain with more than 2,000 locations, reported a strong recovery in the third quarter: revenue increased 46% to $154.3 million year-on-year. last year. Net income increased to $21.9 million, compared with a net loss of $3.3 million in the third quarter of 2020. Planet Fitness CEO Chris Rondeau said on an earnings call that membership counts accounted for 97% of the total amount before the pandemic, at more than 15 million. Planet Fitness’s stock price is up 16% over the next two days.

Meanwhile, shares of Peloton, the web-connected home treadmill and exercise bike that have become increasingly popular as Americans locked in their living rooms during the pandemic shutdown, have fallen more than 40% since the company posted worse-than-expected earnings. days as a result of Planet Fitness. Peloton posted lower-than-expected revenue and a higher-than-expected net loss of $376 million, or $1.25 per share, for its most recent quarter.

During the height of the pandemic, such a reversal of fortunes for Planet Fitness and Peloton seemed almost unthinkable. Working out at home proves convenient, while crowded gyms seem ripe for the spread of the virus. Phillips — who has studied the benefits of group exercise, including lower stress levels and dramatic improvements in mental, physical and emotional quality of life — worries that hitting the gym will be poor effective. “Everyone has been practicing at home and getting better,” she said.

But it turns out that people have missed their old habits. And this news doesn’t just bode well for Planet Fitness. The return of exercise marks a return to pre-pandemic normal. And assuming countless people like Williams are accepting the lost connection between people at the gym, the success of chains like Planet Fitness could make America a happier place.

Addiction is good for health

Danon Ray, a recruiter for the New York Army National Guard, despises working from home. “The house is so familiar, so comfortable, but the temperature is just not right,” says Ray, 45. “Exercising in the gym is a communal, social affair. It’s like-minded people engaged in trying to improve themselves. You develop some kind of link, right? During the shutdown, Ray did a retreat outside alone. But he returned to his Planet Fitness in the Bronx earlier this year. Ray said: “My job is stressful. when I don’t go to the gym, I feel like I miss my medication, something that keeps me normal. I always say to myself in my mind, ‘you have to go to the gym tonight. OK, you can’t. going tonight? You have to get up early in the morning.”

For Sheila Aparicio, a retired NYPD detective, her membership at Planet Fitness and two other gyms in the New York City area isn’t exactly socially beneficial. She is all about assignments. “I’m a pretty tough guy,” said Aparicio. “Sometimes I go to the gym and I see people standing around and all they do the whole time is talk. I stay away from those people.” Aparicio
thought about buying a Peloton during the pandemic, but the price of the device — anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500 — is a spread. Its bulk too; Aparicio thinks she won’t have room for it in her apartment.

Despite Peloton’s recent struggles, home fitness isn’t going anywhere. Other emerging connected fitness brands, such as Tonal and Mirror, have emerged to compete with Peloton. According to Matt Powell, Senior industry consultant at market research firm NPD Group, retail sales of home exercise equipment for the first eight months of 2021 are still up 20% year-on-year, despite sales sales from June to August this year were down 5% compared to the same three-month period last year. NPD says home gym retail sales in 2020 are $3.7 billion.

Fitness industry analysts predict that post-pandemic exercise will mirror the world of work and a hybrid model will emerge. Some people are so used to the convenience of working out at home that they don’t want to go to work to the gym — just like those workers don’t want to go to the office. Others crave the collectiveness of the gym (or break room). “There is a place for both,” said Joanna Zeng O’Brien, senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, who covers the fitness industry. “Ultimately, we are social animals, aren’t we? I can see people have a Peloton bike and go home and still go to the gym.”

The aftermath of the pandemic has highlighted the need for self-care, and Americans have become more attuned to the messaging around that. Exercise has become a priority — wherever people love to do it. But the surge in gym visits and memberships resonated even more. “I’ll tell you what makes me hopeful about people’s mental health,” said Phillips, an Iowa State professor of psychology. “If people are very depressed, they won’t act to get out there and exercise. You have to have enough mental strength to take that action and get out there and start doing something. So to me it also reflects positively on human resilience. And not just out of their homes, but out of their shells. “

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