From lighter, faster shoes to Fitbit-style activity trackers, technology has long had an impact on our fitness habits. But now, technology is also becoming an important factor in where, when, and how we choose to exercise.
As personal technology becomes more ubiquitous and access to high-quality streaming video improves, a growing number of people are choosing to break free from gym workouts in favor of personalized, on-demand fitness solutions that let them choose an exercise style and an intensity level that fit their needs—all without worrying about class schedules or squeezing into overcrowded, overheated workout rooms.
Considering the benefits—from personalization to an always-available schedule—it’s no wonder the virtual fitness market is expected to reach $2.6 billion by 2022, up from $849.5 million in 2017.
At-home fitness is not brand new, of course. People have been working out at home since Jane Fonda started putting out videotapes. But the latest generation of on-demand fitness is a far cry from the days of jazzercise classes on VHS. It’s more flexible, more personal, and more diverse than ever. Modern virtual fitness offers options for users of all ages and skill levels, and new content is added regularly so people don’t get bored of the same old workouts. And it is increasingly finding its way into the workplace.
On-demand fitness can be an important tool for employers, 87% of which say engaging employees in their own fitness is a priority and 92% of which make well-being part of their business strategy. Currently, 64% of employees say they would use on-demand fitness classes if their employer offered them, yet less than 1% of employers have such an option available.
Virtual fitness is a cost-effective alternative or complement to on-site fitness centers or gym reimbursements. Employers that contract with a provider of on-demand fitness classes typically pay a monthly, per-employee fee for access to on-demand content. Once enrolled, they may stream content via a benefits portal or mobile app available to employees and their dependents. Alternately, they may use on-demand fitness content to hold scheduled, on-site fitness classes or designate a workout space in the office and provide access to a monitor that can stream on-demand classes.
Content ranges from quick activities employees can complete during a break at their desk to high-intensity workouts designed to leave users sweating and breathing hard.
Keys to Engagement
Not all on-demand fitness solutions are created equal, however. Here are a few things to look for as you look for ways to engage employees in their fitness.
- Offer variety. Some on-demand apps have a specific focus. That’s great if your employees are exclusively interested in cycling or strength training. But if your office is like most, your employees have a range of interests, and getting them all excited about exercising will require a range of classes. Look for a solution that offers a diverse range of classes, from yoga to kickboxing to mom-and-baby fitness. The more variety, the better the chances employees will find something that fits their specific interests.
- Get the family involved. Engaging employees in their fitness often requires looking beyond the employees to their entire family. First, individuals are more likely to change their behavior for the better if they have someone at home willing to exercise along with them. In addition, spouses generate a disproportionate share of healthcare costs, so helping them stay healthy has a positive impact on overall costs. To engage the whole family, look for an on-demand fitness provider that offers classes for parents and children alike.
- Let it stream. On-demand, virtual fitness is a cost-effective way to offer fitness classes in the workplace, but with 38% of employees working from home or other remote locations, it’s important to offer options for people who might not be available for a lunchtime yoga class. Ideally, on-demand programming will be accessible anytime from desktop or laptop computers or through iOS, Android, or Windows apps. That allows employees to work out at their desk, at home, or wherever they find a few minutes to squeeze in some exercise.
- Track it. One of the most significant benefits of on-demand, virtual fitness is that it takes the guesswork out of well-being programs. You can see exactly how often employees are exercising and track their progress toward goals.
Millennials currently make up the largest generational group in the workforce, and they stand out for their use of technology. They’re not alone, though. Older generations are also increasingly comfortable addressing their workout needs through their phone or computer.
As that comfort level grows, it will become even more important for employers to offer fitness options that capitalize on technology and personalization to address the varied interests, lifestyles, and appetites of an increasingly diverse workforce.
Jason Von Bank is president and CEO of Wellbeats, a content and software-as-a-service company that delivers on-demand, virtual fitness programming for corporate wellness programs. Wellbeats is committed to delivering “fitness that fits” through more than 350 fitness classes that can be accessed anytime through iOS, Android, Windows devices, Apple TV, website portals, or on-site options.