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At-Home Workouts Aren't Exactly "New," but They're Definitely Having a Moment

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While the on-demand, at-home workout trend is not revolutionary (lest we forget bike shorts, over-the-pant thongs, and leg lifts à la Jane Fonda), experts think it's going way, way up from here. If you haven't started streaming workouts or brought some seriously techy exercise equipment into your home yet, that's all about to change. Here's why.

1. The millennial lifestyle is getting a major shake-up.

The largest, most active group of people on the planet are entering a new life stage with serious time constraints. That's right, not only are millennials the largest living generation on earth, but they also happen to be the most fitness-obsessed. Millennials are more committed to eating right and exercising than any other generation (76 percent exercise at least once a week), and have been a driving force behind the serious boom in the fitness industry over the past decade.

This demographic has been slower to marry and start a family than generations past, according to Pew Research—but now ranging from age 20 to 36 years old, more millennials are finally taking the leap and becoming parents. It's not just your imagination or your Instagram feed—more than a million millennials are becoming moms each year.

So what happens when an exercise-crazed segment of society starts a season of parenthood? Expect to see an uptick in home gym equipment, streamed fitness content, and on-demand workouts. It makes sense: The less flexible your schedule becomes, the more you'll be relying on fitness to come to you, versus trekking all over town to chase down your favorite studio instructor.

One answer to this has been Studio Tone It Up, created by Tone It Up founders Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn. Studio TIU is the fitness empire's latest venture into the workout-app world, and the company has seen the shift toward at-home fitness begin to happen this year firsthand; Scott also noted that many subscribers are new mothers like herself.

Scott and Dawn report that fans have told them that they've canceled gym memberships, sharing that on-demand workouts in the app are "more accessible, more fun, easier to fit into their busy lifestyle," in addition to getting them to work out more, said Scott. (Try this 10-minute Tone It Up ab workout to get a taste.)

While new moms can struggle with feelings of isolation, particularly in the earlier stages, at-home streamed workouts can provide a sense of camaraderie and community. "Just recently, a member from our community wrote to us to say that the app adds a layer of support that she has never experienced before, and she never feels alone working out," Scott tells us.

Those new mamas can find trendy at-home plans specifically tailored to pregnancy and postpartum workouts, thanks to some iconic millennial trainers going through motherhood themselves. The likes of Emily Skye, Kelsey Wells, and Massy Arias have programs you can follow at home. Even Kayla Itsines, queen of BBG, is 24 weeks pregnant as of press time, and showing workouts you can do while you're expecting.

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2. Small-towners crave inclusion.

"We sell a bike to every state every day," a Peloton spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal. While urban metros like LA, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago are becoming saturated with boutique fitness—in large part due to the large millennial population—those in smaller metros have been largely left out. But it's not just people in small towns; cities like San Diego, Seattle, and Denver (all of which have large millennial populations) don't even have an Equinox, let alone the breadth of boutique fitness you'd find in the largest cities.

With streamed workouts, people in these regions gain access to the best workouts the world over, without having to wait for an Equinox or Barry's Bootcamp to open up shop.

"The majority of the population does not have access to the world's best coaches," said Tonal's founding coach Liz Letchford, M.S., A.T.C. Tonal is an at-home, all-in-one, minimalistic gym system using electromagnetic resistance with an on-demand video coaching interface. (Think: Cable resistance machine meets smart TV.)

"In order to be trained by an elite coach, you typically have to live in a major city, have a schedule that allows you to take up one of the coaches' limited weekly appointments, and have an income compatible with continuing the coaching relationship for months or years in order to achieve your desired results," she said.

Fitness streaming brands and home gyms are focused on bringing in top talent to deliver exceptional fitness programs to subscribers, regardless of region. Thanks to new tech, "you could live on the moon and still have access to your favorite coach," says Letchford. 

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3. It offers on-demand inclusivity and flexibility.

Knoxville, TN-based fitness influencer, entrepreneur, and mother of two Sarah Stevens hits the perfect cross-section of the two aforementioned categories: a millennial mom in a smaller metro. Thanks to parenthood, she finds herself with little flexibility when it comes to scheduling a boutique fitness class (her main option for that is "wake up at 4 a.m. to go to class at 5 a.m. and then rush home"). And living in Knoxville, she hasn't found studios that are quite like SoulCycle and Rumble Boxing. In essence, she's the exact demographic for on-demand, at-home workouts, and representative of a large swath of the United States. (Related: How to Wake Up Super Early to Work Out, According to Women Who Do It at 4 A.M.)

"When I get on my Peloton bike at home, I can get a little taste of Soul," said Stevens. In addition to the Peloton bike, she also owns a ProForm treadmill (another on-demand coaching machine) and uses Tone It Up workouts and the SWEAT app to work out at home. "I can find snippets of time throughout the day to workout with an app or streamed video," she told us. "A lot of fitness apps have options for shorter workouts as opposed to an hour-long studio class. It's nice because I can let myself sleep in a little and still get in a 20- to 30-minute Peloton class, then find time in the evening to do 20 to 30 minutes of weight training!"

Judging by what she's seen from her own followers and their interests, Stevens says she agrees that the at-home trend will continue to rise significantly in 2019. "I've noticed a wide variety of people love the option of being able to work out at home with on-demand videos—it appeals to an array of people for lots of different reasons," she said. "Moms are able to save time by working out at home because they get to skip travel time to and from a local studio or gym, and it's a great money-saver for college girls and young professionals too. Monthly studio packages can break the bank for some, but paying $15–25 a month for an app loaded with lots of different workout options isn't really a big spend."

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Photo: Mirror

4. Techy fitness brands are seeing serious growth.

Peloton unveiled their new $4,000 treadmill in early 2018. In the past year, they've become a $4 billion company and taken their subscriber base to 1 million. Though they're perhaps the most identifiable brand in the space, they're hardly the only one.

Tonal launched in 2018 out of the Bay Area. Founder Aly Orady (who reversed his diabetes and cured his sleep apnea with a daily fitness commitment) had an epiphany on a workout bench and created the "micro gym" that is Tonal to complete his entire workout regimen at home. The brand bolsters their electromagnetic weight system (one that eliminates the need for multiple pieces of equipment) with coaching programs that you'd typically get from a personal trainer. Letchford anticipates that 2019 will see the at-home trend not only be centered on on-demand workouts but specifically strength-training workouts.

She calls Tonal the "perfect complement" to the en vogue cardio machines of the moment. She's right—the ProForms, the Pelotons, and Nordic Tracks are certainly fabulous, tech-forward home gym pieces, but they're all cardio-centric. (FWIW, Peloton also offers strength-training boot camp classes as well as yoga, and the latest Nordic Track rower machine has on- and off-the-machine exercises.) In terms of delivering strength training (at this level and in this capacity), Letchford says "nothing else has come close to helping people bring the entire gym—your barbells, your strength machines, your dumbbells—home."

MIRROR, another futuristic streaming device, takes sleek in-home fitness equipment even further: It's a digital mirror that displays live and on-demand workouts including cardio, strength, yoga, Pilates, barre, boxing, and stretching. It gets as close as possible to bringing a personal trainer into your home, without actually doing so: MIRROR also allows you to communicate with a trainer via built-in video microphone, making it a two-way communication training session, unlike most other platforms.

But perhaps you're not ready to invest in home gym equipment—after all, Peloton, MIRROR, and Tonal's machines will run you several thousand dollars. If you're still looking for engaging, on-demand, and livestream workouts, there are tons of options now, and we anticipate there will be even more in the coming year.

"This coming year, in-home workouts will become more fun, more engaging, and more connected," said Letchford. "Instead of just watching a tape or streaming a live class, you will be able to interact in real time, get in-the-moment coaching cues and form adjustments." 

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