There’s nothing quite like a stay-at-home order to have record numbers of Americans decking out their home gyms… or at least collapsing treadmills to fit under their couches. Sales of studio equipment have skyrocketed this year—particularly for cardio machines like stationary bikes, treadmills, and rowers—and the crowded market is pushing fitness brands to innovate. In 2021, we’ll see improvements on two fronts: more affordable hardware and more connected digital experiences. Both of these are great news for how we work out.
Market research groups confirm the at-home boom is consistent across the industry: The NPD Group reports that stationary bike sales have risen 100 percent this year; WGSN shares that searches for treadmills on Amazon have doubled since March; ICON Fitness, the largest studio equipment manufacturer in the world, has sustained 600 percent year-over-year growth since May; cardio purveyor Life Fitness’s consumer orders have increased 130 percent; and at large, the fitness industry is expected to pack on $2 billion more in valuation over the next five years.
Newer fit-tech brands like MYX, Stryde, and Echelon are standing out from the crowd by offering connected workouts (aka fitness equipment that comes with a screen and corresponding on-demand and live-streamed classes) at a (albeit still expensive) lower price point—starting at $840 compared to Peloton’s $1,895. “Digital fitness hardware [offerings] are going to grow broader in 2021 at both [the lower and higher] ends of the price spectrum,” says Mohammed Iqbal, founder and CEO of SweatWorks, a company that focuses on digital fitness product design. “Many brands are already offering several tiers of products, including Peloton, MYXfitness, and CityRow, where you can get a base version or a ‘plus’ version.”
Next year, the competition will continue to tighten: Echelon has plans to launch a treadmill and NordicTrack just announced Vault, a mirror (with a lowercase “m”) device, which should hit big box stores any day now. Zwift, the online cycling and running app that is valued at over $1 billion, is meanwhile expected to launch its first piece of hardware in 2021.
And that brings us to the second field of innovation: The classes available to you at home. “When I talk about this category, I like to remind people that studio equipment and home fitness content are not new,” says Jon Canarick, managing partner at North Castle Partners, a VC group that invested in Echelon. “What has changed is bringing those two things together and creating a better experience.” And brands are doing this in unique ways that will only continue to get more creative next year.
New partnerships between hardware- and content-focused brands, for one, are increasing the options available to boutique fitness devotees who want to sweat at home. CityRow is launching classes outside of rowing in the new year. And the Equinox-owned app Variis, which launched in March (for Equinox subscribers only) with content for the new SoulCycle bike and classes from PURE Yoga, Precision Running, and others—added cult-favorite studios solidcore and Rumble to its roster this fall as well as made membership available to all.
Other digital fitness brands are creating immersive class experiences that take participants outside the studio: Hydrow received $25 million in funding in June in order to expand its offering of “Live Outdoor Reality” classes in 2021. And Peloton’s artists series, which features rides set to chart-topping talent like Beyoncé or Bon Jovi, is meant to recreate the energy of a concert in your living room. “As digital fitness becomes a more permanent fixture in our lives, brands are focused on keeping their consumers engaged in their brand rather than having you jump around across platforms,” says Iqbal. “Ultimately, this will result in better value for the consumer.” In 2021, and beyond.