The fitness industry is relatively young, especially compared with business sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, retail, etc. It's a service business that is built upon human engagement and interaction, very similar to the spa industry. Neither service is considered essential, but both improve the quality of life available in a community.
As the pandemic wanes, changes have emerged within the fitness industry that affect your options. Let's talk about them.
If the old mom-and-pop gyms weren't already gone from a given community, the pandemic likely finished them off. As charming as a locally owned, sole proprietorship may be, it's extremely difficult to compete once a big box gym moves to town. Still, many small gym owners found ways to compete by offering quality and more interesting experiences -- prior to the pandemic. But spring 2020 was a harsh reminder that gyms are "nice to have" and not a "must have."
The dissection of essential and nonessential businesses was, in many ways, unfair and arbitrary. Being classified as nonessential left the fitness industry twisting in the wind without financial or legislative support to recover.
And now that gyms are back open, the market is even more dominated by national franchises — with one exception:
Virtual fitness options are now plentiful.
Nearly every fitness equipment manufacturer offers online coaching or classes through monthly memberships. Personal trainers can set up their own virtual training studios and hold group or individual sessions from their home. It's a business model that was already available pre-pandemic, but one that has gained significant traction during the last two years.
My advice is to try virtual and in-person training. Now more than ever, people are comfortable accessing services from their home, and fitness doesn't have to be any different. Virtual instruction will work for some people, while others will always prefer going to a gym for a more social experience.
Either way, the key is to find what works best given one's goals, tendencies and schedule.
This week's exercise could be included in a virtual workout. The Floating Hamstring Stretch is designed to increase flexibility and blood flow in the back and hamstrings, so it's a great midday move.
1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and knees at 90 degrees.
2. Extend both legs with your feet out in front of you -- just sort of floating in space. Engage the quadriceps.
3. Now, reach both hands toward your toes. Reach until you feel a mild discomfort (stretch) in your hamstrings, then hold it.
4. Continue holding for 10 seconds.
5. Lower the feet to the floor. Repeat for three sets.
Exercises like the Floating Hamstring Stretch are great little fitness snacks throughout the workday. It's not a movement that will burn a ton of calories or build muscle mass, but it helps reduce stiffness.
It's also appropriate for all fitness levels, whether one is a regular exerciser or has never set foot in a gym.
This is the direction I see the industry going, as more people look for "softer" training options. So, let's get to work!
Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column 20 years ago at Little Rock. He has a doctorate in education (sport studies), a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.