While the transformation has been underway for years in the fitness industry (digital-only options exploding, the rise of boutiques, the growing importance of fitness creators), it was amplified exponentially in 2020.” While none of us expected the changes we saw last year, there’s no doubt the pandemic served to propel things forward for some businesses and will have a lasting impact on exercise habits.

At Feed.fm, we curate soundtracks for some of the most popular at-home health and fitness companies, so we’ve had the opportunity to witness this unprecedented transformation first hand. We’ve seen music streaming for fitness apps skyrocket since March 2020, and all indicators point to continued growth even as restrictions loosen. As discussed in one of our recent whitepapers, “Content, Community and Technology: Digital ecosystems for fitness brands,” fitness customers increasingly expect that all brands provide convenient, high-tech options for exercising remotely. The gym becomes one piece of the fitness equation, rather than being the focal point for the member.

Across all our customers in 2020, we saw music streams grow by over 1,000% in the last year. That’s not a typo – usage has just exploded. When you look at the number of Unique Users driving that growth, it indicates that not only are there more members joining, they are collectively working out more frequently.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve also seen a number of changes in personal fitness regimens, including some unexpected ones. In order to get first-hand accounts of how people have pivoted, we conducted our own survey last year on a group of 400 men and women in the US, ages 18-54, that exercised at home or outside in the last 30 days.

  • 70% of survey respondents said that they are working out more now than ever before.
  • 71% of people say that, much like in the gym, there are others present in the room while they work out (18% of those people find it embarrassing to work out in the presence of others).
  • 47% of people are using what they have on hand versus ordering new equipment.

There’s no doubt people miss the community and the camaraderie of the gym or studio, but clearly everyone is making it work.

As remote fitness takes root more deeply, wearables are quickly transforming from basic data capture tools to sophisticated feedback devices that responsively support a broad population, encompassing people with medical conditions, professional athletes and everyone in between. While they’re still great as heart rate monitors and step trackers, wearables including sleep/activity tracker Oura, are also being used to give wearers early alerts for signs of COVID-19 infection.

Wearable technology is poised for big growth in the coming years, as people become more attuned to holistic health concerns. As for digital fitness, wearables will be a game changer in increasing connectivity to their end users and unlocking stronger athletic performance. The tech that powers movement tracking has come a long way and companies we work with like Tonal (using 17 different sensors to guide you through a workout) and Tempo (leveraging 3D motion trackers and advanced AI) are pushing the boundaries of home workouts.

One thing that hasn’t completely transformed is the necessity of quality music for motivating people to get started and push harder. Whether it’s in a studio or at home, a good soundtrack is key. Of those we surveyed last year, 83 percent of people say that music makes or breaks a workout, and 51 percent said that they “couldn’t live without” their workout music. There is a huge body of research confirming music’s positive impact on our workouts both mentally and physically. It’s also something we feel intuitively – the right music at the right time can get us to push harder, relax deeper, and train longer. Given the major transition to digital and at-home workouts, we’re working closely with gyms and boutiques of all sizes to build out a legal digital music strategy.

Another important thing to remember is that it’s not just about the workout anymore. Tech continues to drive surges in key subsegments of health such as mental wellness, physical recovery, and even sleep optimization. Meanwhile, new funds like Magnify are focusing on tech that transforms how modern families live, work, and care for one another.

As the world continues to change and embrace technology and all things digital, we’re hoping this year brings growth for all segments of the fitness industry. One thing is for sure, though – there’s no turning back now.

Lauren Pufpaf is COO and co-founder of Feed.fm