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How Covid2019 gives digital boost to fitness brands

There are live sessions, free courses and even mental health initiatives.

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MUMBAI: Stay home but stay fit, come what may! Gyms, like all public places, were also shut due to the restrictions on account of Covid2019. However, brands have been quick to go digital with health and fitness brands showing a surge in users, especially the new ones, enabling people to follow their outdoor fitness activities within the comforts of their homes.

According to BARC-Nielson data people are utilising lockdown period to hone new skills. Time spent on fitness has increased by 1.4x times. 

Cure.fit launched cult.live, a virtual live streaming of different workouts in early March. Its growth and marketing head Naresh Krishnaswamy says that about 500,000 sessions are happening every day on the app.

“Nearly 75 per cent members of the Cult centres are engaging with live classes. This has grown almost 5X from the time after lockdown. However, the biggest growth of this product is coming from completely new customers and from tier two and tier three cities where Cult was not present," he highlights.

Cure.fit is offering live classes across fitness formats like strength, cardio, HRX, S&C, dance fitness and yoga on days of the week, which are suited for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. As most of the classes feature bodyweight workouts, the user needs little or no equipment for the exercises.

Wellness platform HealthifyMe also witnessed an increase in usage by 1.5x to 2x over the last month. Co-founder and CEO Tushar Vashisht says, “We're seeing a 40 per cent increase in subscriptions and our organic growth has gone up by 25 per cent. People that access our workouts have increased by 2x to 3x.”

Vashisht adds that there has been an uptake of both free and paid courses. “While we initially saw a decline in calorie burn, as the lockdown continued, this has increased consistently by 60 to 70 per cent which means that users are increasing their home workouts. Some of the features we have launched for home workouts and free tools are seeing much higher engagement. There are over 50+ pre-recorded workout sets under our home workouts section."

He also mentions that the work-from-home situation has helped HealthifyMe users to be more diligent with tracking their diet and exercise on the app. The app launched new features that include trackers for hand-washing and sleep. Its diet plans also highlight foods and ingredients with immunity-assisting properties.

As a fitness application that counts steps, StepSetGo had to add features that could encourage people to walk indoors such as turbo time (added rewards for steps taken at specific times during the day) and power hours to remind users to take 15-minute walks four to five times a day. The brand is also adding gamification elements by launching FitGames where extra tries can be earned through extra steps.

StepSetGo users are spending 25 per cent more time on the application since lockdown along with engaging with the app’s social elements such as competing with friends in challenges.

StepSetGo co-founder-CEO Shivjeet Ghatge says that there has been a steady rise in the number of discount coupons being purchased during the lockdown, but the change has not been more than 15 per cent. “Overall, we have been able to tie up with various e-learning platforms and give our users their paid subscriptions in exchange for our in-app currency (earned through walking). Since lockdown, there has been a 30 per cent rise in the sale of these premium subscriptions.”

Sarva and Diva Yoga founder Sarvesh Shashi says that they fast-tracked the app to launch before its scheduled launch in June. It has sessions on breathing routines and pranayama routines aimed at strengthening the immune and respiratory system. In addition to the in-app offering, Sarva also started a live group and personalised classes to help individuals stay healthy during the isolation. Diva Yoga opened up its Instagram handle for free live classes five times a day with all the instructors taking turns.

Deepika Lalwani, a fitness and wellness influencer and celebrity trainer, has received requests from corporates that are looking to keep their employees engaged and active.

“Most of the clients are requesting less complicated workouts they can do on their own easily. There has been a major shift to workouts like pilates, yoga, meditation, high-intensity workout, core workout, bodyweight training etc,” she points out.

While workout-based fitness programmes are popular, the ancient art of yoga is also making a comeback. Akshar Yoga has seen an increase of 100,000 people availing online classes. The studios saw about 20 students per class on an average but now there are close to 1000 attending each session. Akshar chairman and course director Founder says: “The heartening thing is that people have committed to their well-being in a big way, and this means that yoga’s demand has increased on a global scale. People are also turning to more natural and organic health solutions such as Ayurveda.”

While physical health is a priority, being cooped up has taken a toll on people’s mental wellbeing. Cult.live is also launching 20 sessions with coaches in the form of psychological first aid to deal with stress and anxiety.

Krishnaswamy elaborates: “We have already enabled clients everywhere in India to seek therapy via video call. Telemedicine has been introduced as a solution to increase consumer access to high-quality doctors across all specialities in a seamless and efficient manner.”

Sarva and Diva Yoga launched Sarva Mind, an initiative to tackle anxiety, depression and stress. It is based on Indian, authentic, mindfulness offering content in the form of guided meditations, mindful music, sleep stories, stories for children etc., in multiple regional languages.

For marketing, brands are relying on digital and even social media influencers. Cult.live introduced the cult live masterclass - a stellar lineup of workout sessions with actors, sportspersons, choreographers and other famous influencers like Mandira Bedi, Yasmin Karachiwala, Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Mouni Roy, Jonty Rhodes, etc.

Sarva and Diva Yoga is relying on word of mouth for promotions too apart from some tie-ups with influencers. “Our instructors and customers have very strong-spun networks and they did a major part of the marketing for us, especially during the lockdown,” mentions Shashi. On the anvil is another campaign with yogis from across the world.

Scitron, a brand that provides bodybuilding supplements for training, is also battling through reduced cash flow since deliveries of non-essential items have stopped. It launched #GharSeTryKar campaign, where a number of home workouts, nutritional education, fitness tips and tricks, live workout sessions with its followers' favourite influencers are being carried out.

StepSetGo ran the #CountingOnYou which was aimed at letting users know that it is counting on them to stay indoors while also rewarding them for taking steps. It has tied up with ad agency Agency09 and social media agency Blazonion for starting PR and advertising activities to push the right brand messaging to newer audiences. It is also working on another social media campaign where people can be creative and showcase their lockdown walk.

The fitness industry has received a major kick-off in the digital sphere due to the lockdown. As people explore the ease of working out at home using technology and video-based solutions, it will add more flexibility in their lives. Rather than keeping fitness on hold, they can utilise the benefits of both online and offline as per their convenience.

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