How Gyms Found a Way Through the Pandemic

    • Many gyms have closed during the pandemic, but some have found creative ways to persist.
    • Planet Fitness saw its first month of net membership increase during the pandemic in January.

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Fifty-four million Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot as of last Thursday, and with that comes more people getting back to pre-pandemic routines, including going to the gym.

In January, Planet Fitness had its first net increase in memberships since the start of the pandemic. It now plans to restart marketing campaigns that were paused for a year.

Others have found creative ways to carry on operations.

  • L.A. fitness studio Barry’s set up shop in the parking garage of the Beverly Center shopping mall so it could offer classes in an open-air setting.
  • Startup BOLD offers small-group workouts in pods made from shipping containers. Another, Hydra Studios, offers well-ventilated private suites for workouts.

It’s not all green shoots, however. An estimated 6,000 gyms and fitness studios have closed, and many individuals have rediscovered jogging and cycling, as well as investing in home equipment. Peloton has struggled to keep up with demand for its stationary bike.

One survey found that 76% of respondents have tried working out at home during the pandemic, and 66% preferred it to the gym.

Congress is considering sending gyms a lifeline. Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House in February would provide $30 billion to gyms and other health and fitness facilities. It could be the push gyms need for a full-scale return to prominence.