The home fitness category is still booming

Digital fitness continues to surge.

  • Peloton’s Q4 earnings showed a 172% YoY jump in revenue, and its connected subscribers were up 113% YoY.
  • Apple just announced its virtual fitness product (Fitness Plus), available to the 1B+ Apple devices out there. 
  • Lululemon has already upped its projected revenue for Mirror from $100m to $150m.
  • Zwift, an indoor training app, reached unicorn status yesterday after a $450m funding round.
  • Tonal, a wall-mounted system that costs $2,995, lets users lift up to 200 pounds in “digital weights” raised $100m

The pandemic has exploded the market for digital fitness 

There are 62m gym memberships in the US and 183m globally, according to a 2019 report. But many people shifted to online workouts during the pandemic, and gyms have been slow to reopen. 

Data from Thinknum shows while 46 states have re-opened gyms, Facebook location mentions have “remained utterly stagnant for gyms.” Thinknum flags one outlier — Planet Fitness, which has tons of locations and is cheap.

Why it’s hot

With new technology capabilities and the need to move to digital, now is a time where fitness can truly be democratized. And it’ll also be interesting to see how this impacts fitness-adjacent categories (e.g. tech, wellness, etc.). Our phones have become the centerpiece for making every single aspect of our lives easier and more affordable. Fitness is no exception.

Apple Watch Users Can Now Get Rewards for Going to the Gym

For years Apple Watch customers have been walking and running to meet step counts just for the satisfaction of meeting their goals. Now Apple is upping the ante with a new rewards program called Apple Watch Connected.

Apple GymKit

Apple Watch Connected will allow any fitness entity to integrate with the Apple Watch so members can track their health and earn rewards such as gift cards and discounts.To participate in the program, gyms must have equipment enabled with GymKit, a platform that lets users sync their Watch to cardio machines and collect their workout data. GymKit first launched two years ago, and since then Apple has worked with manufacturers like Technogym, Life Fitness, and Octane Fitness to incorporate hardware and GymFit code into their treadmills, stair climbers, and other equipment. It works like this: Users can scan their watch against an NFC reader on a piece of equipment anytime during their workout to capture their progress and send it to their Watch. It’s particularly useful for garnering metrics the Watch might have a hard time calculating on its own, like how many steps were taken on a stair climber, for example, where a person stays static in space.

The Apple Watch Connected platform pulls in the data from GymKit and pipes it into the fitness brand’s Watch and iPhone app, where members can then view and plan their workout schedule.  Through the Apple Watch Connected integration, fitness studios will also be able to offer prizes based on member activity. Since Apple Watch can give studios insight into how active its members are wherever they are, the programs launching today will give out points to members whether they go for a run outside or do yoga in the studio (as long as they get their heart rate up).
Each reward program is designed by the fitness brand. At Crunch Fitness, for example, goals are set each week and members can earn credits toward their membership—as much as $15 a month. The new program will start at 17 locations with plans to encompass all 350 locations nationwide by the end of the year. Going forward, Crunch Fitness will only purchase new cardio equipment that has GymKit as part of its offering, so that eventually all of its cardio equipment has that feature.

Gyms do not have to pay to join Apple Watch Connected. Apple says it is primarily interested in helping its users be active. But there may be another incentive for the company–fitness centers that hook into Apple Watch Connected must accept Apple Pay at their studios to participate. Having Apple Pay accepted at more fitness studios gives Apple more opportunity to cash in on transaction fees, a growing source of revenue for the company.

Why It’s Hot

Apple Watch Connected will help motivate gyms to integrate GymKit, making Apple Watch significantly more useful and accurate for gym goers.


Fitness Brands that Leverage Data to Deliver Personalized Experiences

Health and fitness brands are enabling customized experiences and tailored lifestyle plans using customer information like DNA or gym habits to help them reach their personal goals. Here are examples of 4 brands taking a unique approach to the fitness space:

U.K. genetic testing service FitnessGenes analyzes customers’ DNA and provides a genetically tailored workout and nutrition plan, with the optimal number of calories and macronutrient content for their unique genetic makeup. Consumers have easy access to their DNA results as well as workout and nutrition plans through the Member’s Area in the company’s website or app.

Danish startup AthGene helps people improve their lifestyles and optimize their diets and fitness routines based on their DNA test results. Users collect their DNA with a mouth swab, and then receive easy-to-understand, actionable insights about their unique genetic makeup, such as their muscle fiber composition and sensitivity to carbohydrates, allowing them to tailor their nutrition and workout plans to their body’s needs.


Equinox trialed a bot embedded into its mobile app that learns from a user’s activities, goals and preferences to recommend personalized workouts. The “Digital Coach” uses data from in-gym beacons to detect where gym-goers prefer to spend their time and subsequently nudge them towards specific activities. The service has successfully motivated members to check in 40% more than non-users during a six-month pilot program.


Health startup Thorne sells at-home health tests that let users analyze various aspects of their health, such as cortisol levels, thyroid function and heavy metal levels, to help them address specific concerns, such as fatigue or fertility. Users provide a saliva or blood sample and receive a personalized health plan along with their test results.

Why it’s hot: These are hyper-targeted consumer experiences that are almost expected across many industries now – especially health and wellness.


How Under Armour is linking fitness data with customer loyalty

Under Armour and MapMyFitness are working with sports equipment retailer Sports Authority to link workout activity with customer loyalty programs in a data play that is part of Under Armour’s efforts to become a technology company.

The companies are working together to create a new set of “challenges” on MapMyFitness, the workout-tracking app that works with phones, Jawbones, Garmins and Fitbits to track calories and workouts. Under Armour purchased MapMyFitness last year.

The 150 million people within the “Under Armour Connected Fitness” group will get a set of challenges (for example, “run 10 miles a week”), and if they complete it, they can win gift cards and points within “The League,” Sports Authority’s loyalty program.

Warren Kay, vp of advertising at Under Armour said that Sports Authority is looking for a way to invest in technology to strengthen their market position — and using Under Armour’s verified activity feed is a way to get data on those customers and marry it with the rewards program.

MapMyFitness challenges you.

Kay said Under Armour differentiates from competitors because it has opened its API and platforms to other brands and hardware manufacturers like Fitbit or Garmin — and lets its customer play across platforms — instead of creating its own hardware. Still, it requires a lot of resources, and a lot of money.

Under Armour, for example, bought nutrition- and workout-tracking leader MyFitnessPal earlier this year, plunking down $475 million for the company, and also put down $85 million for Endomondo, a social fitness network. Connected Fitness is the part of Under Armour that houses the technology to help its athletes and users: MyFitnessPal, Endomondo and MapMyFitness all live within Connected Fitness unit.

The payoff for Under Armour is partnerships like this one with Sports Authority. Active people that use fitness trackers are likely to buy apparel and footwear. And hopefully, they’ll buy yours.

Why It’s Hot

This is a really smart way for a retail brand to think smart about how to grow itself.  They are transforming the brand to own fitness in general- by providing the clothes people wear when working out along with the apps they need to track performance.  People could soon associate the brand or the apps they bought as more of a lifestyle choice than a simple tool or piece of clothing…which adds brand equity.

Equinox’s Gold Card Challenge

Luxury fitness provider Equinox debuted a Gold Card challenge to promote its gyms. The Gold Card membership is exclusive to 5 of its members, and they will have to look through “tough-to-reach spots that people will have to demonstrate their athletic prowess to reach.” Those who find the card will receive a yearlong membership, 24 personal training sessions, 12 massages, $1,000 in Equinox swag, $500 in juice and more.


The first challenge is for contestants to dive through a pond in Montauk.



Equinox Gold Card

Why It’s Hot: As a fitness provider, Equinox has created a Willy Wonka-like set of challenges that are specifically skewed to the athletic, which fit their overall brand campaign. On browsers and mobile devices, you can see the approximate locations of the cards and pursue them. They’ve also enlisted their celebrity clients like Neil Patrick Harris to participate in the challenges as well to create further buzz.

Wearable Device Implications for Rural Healthcare

Today, the most popular type of wearable health device is the fitness tracker, embraced by fitness enthusiasts, data geeks…primarily, the intersection of the two. However, wearable technologies have the potential to measure much more than steps, distance and calories; extending to glucose, blood pressure and brainwaves. The implications for healthcare are significant.


Physicians are already reporting that wearable technologies are helpful for patients managing obesity (the obvious), as well as diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. Wearables can also improve on-the-job safety by monitoring alertness, location and time/performance. In areas where access to physicians is limited, wearables are particularly important; helping the consumer or patient to take charge of her own health.

In this presentation, Wearable Medical Devices, implications for rural India, where there are fewer than 1 doctor for every 10,000 people, are explored. While wearables could help reduce dependency on these very few doctors, barriers to penetration include: price, positioning as a fitness vs. general health/wellness device and lack of marketing in local languages. By addressing these barriers, wearable technologies will gain access to huge untapped populations. One can even imagine a future where health insurance companies offer discounts to people who wear the devices, just as car insurance companies have done for drivers who have installed wireless devices to track when and where their car is on the road.

Why It’s Hot: Real-time feedback on health will greatly change consumers’ behavior; how they engage with health/condition-related content on the wearable, the web, et al., as well as how they engage with their caregivers/families and healthcare providers. In-person doctor visits may become less frequent, as wearables make patients more self-sufficient, as well as facilitate remote care/treatment of the patient by the doctor. Pharma marketing channels, such as in-office magazine wraps and television commercials, EMRs, wearable in-app ads, et al., increase/decrease in penetration and effectiveness.

Nike Vending Machine That Only Accepts NikeFuel As Payment

Nike unveiled a public vending machine at the entrance of the heavily trafficked Williamsburg bridge in New York City.  People can only access the goodies inside the machine by scanning a Nike Fuelband and using the accumulated NikeFuel points that can be obtained through the use of the Nike+ platform. The machine inventory consists of Nike merchandise in the form of socks, hats, t-shirts, and other Nike equipment.  It is unclear how long the machine will be at the location and if there are plans for a city-wide campaign featuring more machines.


Why It’s Hot:

Nike has taken a virtual, online only currency and made it useful in the real world.  This gives NikeFuel points more importance as well as creates a unique real-world experience that could previously only be accessed through online portals.

Alternate reality game…for real

Run an Empire is an alternate reality game that moves familiar video game-playing into real life, where players actually play the game outside, in real life, on real streets.  As Fast Company wrote, “You don’t have to literally run to run your empire, but the incentive for physical activity is baked into the game. You can walk around the block to claim it as yours–but anyone else can take it away from you by doing the same thing. To fortify your borders, you have to encircle your territory regularly, not just once.”

“Strategy games have traditionally challenged players to out-think and out-maneuver one another,” says Ben Barker, who co-created “Run an Empire” at PAN Studio in London. “What’s incredibly exciting for us is the potential to see this mechanic played out away from screens and keyboards, playing pieces and dice rolls-–where the game board is overlaid on the world around us.”

Players can’t cheat about what they do and fast they get there.  The game taps into a mobile phone’s accelerometer to measure gait.

Why It’s Hot

It takes virtual reality one step further and makes it part of real life.  It’s a new and physical way to play a video game.  And although not a health app, physical activity is baked into this game.  The player becomes the game and does the actions.


‘World’s Heaviest iPhone Case’ Turns Your Phone Into a Dumbbell For Some Reason

ToneStop that gym membership.   A new product billed as the “World’s Heaviest iPhone Case” will apparently turn your iPhone into a “weight loss device.” A British company, Desirable Body, created the ToneFone, a chunky iPhone 5 case that basically transforms your phone into a really light dumbbell. It comes in either 1 kilogram  (2.2 lbs) or 1.5kilograms (3.3 lbs) and is made from “100% British steel” coated with “soft, durable and grippy rubber.” Depending on which weight you choose, the ToneFone costs $38 or $42, respectively, and $11.50 for shipping to the US. Every time you pick up your phone, you are getting a workout.


Why It’s Hot

No time for a workout at the gym or just too tired? Go home, put on your sweats, call your friends or your mom and lift that phone for 20 reps. If I could add definition to my arms by just by talking and texting, why not give it a try. The case comes in white and fits the iPhone 5 and 5s.  Grey and gold versions will be arriving in June.  I’m sure the instructional video is also in the works. Stream it right from your phone to your TV (if you have Apple TV). People are picking up the ToneFone as it is currently out of stock and won’t be available until April.  This has to be the easiest (laziest) way to exercise and be social at the same time. Don’t forget to switch arms to get a better workout.