Sunday, November 28th, 2021
Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 at Life & Art <!–
by BERNAMA/ pic by BERNAMA –>
by JACQUELINE DAVALOS /BLOOMBERG
After a year in which people spent months cooped up at home getting very little exercise, New Year’s resolutions have taken on a little more weight in 2021.
The fitness industry can attest. Despite the coronavirus restricting gym capacity while shuttering some entirely, the traditional January spike in memberships has matched—and in some ways exceeded—those of years past. Part of that can be tied to the predictable explosion of online classes, and a move toward maintaining mental as well as physical health.
“It’s not about bikini body goals, because who knows when we’re going to go on vacation again,” said Josh McCarter, chief executive officer of the fitness booking platform MindBody. “Covid-19 has pushed people to think about health more holistically.”
MindBody said it’s on track to match the typical 30% increase it usually sees in the new year, largely thanks to the pivot to virtual workouts. About 50% of the platform’s virtual bookings are now for yoga as more customers seek classes focused on mindfulness. “In addition to physical well-being, one’s emotional, mental, and spiritual fitness has become a bigger priority.”
The online shift is contributing to what experts said will be a permanent change to how the $32 billion industry works. While 75% of consumers surveyed said they will eventually return to pre-pandemic routines and the actual gym, many indicated they will retain a virtual component—a phenomenon with broad implications for the sector.
Covid-19 has accelerated adoption of a hybrid model of online/in-person workouts that more brick-and-mortar gyms are likely to retain when the pandemic recedes. Fitness club-owners grappling with declining memberships have quickly caught on, with 72% now offering on-demand and livestream group workouts, up from 25% in 2019, according to fitness research firm ClubIntel.
At the peak of gym closures last March, McCarter said class bookings everywhere fell as much as 85%. In the U.S., the return to in-person studio classes has been uneven, thanks in part to varying state and local restrictions. In New York and California for example, bookings were roughly 50% of 2019 numbers, whereas in states such as Arizona and Georgia they were down only 15%.
Lifestyles that became suddenly sedentary—with no commuting, no travel, and lots of working from home and remote-learning—upended fitness regimes. A November study by ClubIntel of 2,000 U.S. gym members revealed that 54% of those surveyed either froze or cancelled their memberships.
For people who have continued some kind of exercise routine, virtual fitness has been key. Home workouts were gaining traction even before Covid-19, led by companies such as Peloton and Mirror. Since the start of the pandemic, some 80% of fitness consumers live-streamed workouts compared with 7% in 2019, according to a MindBody survey.
By September, when more than 87% of fitness clubs across the U.S. had reopened, 60% of members still didn’t return to gyms while 20% had stopped exercising altogether, according to ClubIntel.
“When they’re commuting patterns change, workout patterns change,” said Jason LaRose, CEO of Equinox Media, a subsidiary of Equinox Group tasked with expanding the luxury gym operator’s digital platform. Even with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout slowly underway, the in-person fitness experience is still marred by fear, and will remain so for some time to come.
Of the respondents who stopped going to a gym, 57% cited a lack of confidence Covid-19 was sufficiently under control to warrant returning, ClubIntel’s study found.
The shift to virtual workouts, however, increased access to different types of classes. It also highlighted the need for balance between physical and mental well-being, said LaRose.
“We’ve seen an incredible uptick in meditation since the beginning of the pandemic,” LaRose said. And interest is continuing in the new year—he cited a 25% increase in meditation classes for the week ending Jan. 2. “It’s a testament of how people’s thinking around overall wellness has been expanded.”
While 2021 may be looking up for the industry, 2020 was a nightmare for gyms and physical fitness. States began mandating health club closures in mid-March. By April 6, 48 out of 50 states had forced gyms to shutter. During this time, physical activity levels in the U.S. declined by 48%, according to health data analytics platform Evidation.
As some lockdown orders and business restrictions lifted in May, gyms predominantly in the South and West began to reopen, part of a regional trend that presaged the second, summer wave of infections. As that surge ebbed, more closures were lifted at fitness facilities in other regions, including states such as New Jersey, New York, and Michigan.
But the damage was already done. The fitness lobby group International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) estimated that as of Sept. 30, 15% of gyms had permanently closed. It also reported that the industry lost more than $15 billion in revenue and cut 480,000 jobs. Several large brands have filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic began. Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness, and Town Sports International (which includes New York Sports Clubs), all filed for Chapter 11 restructuring. Meanwhile, Flywheel filed for Chapter 7 and closed all of its studios.
Chris Rondeau, CEO of the gym chain Planet Fitness, said that—on average—workouts at facilities are at about 70% of last year’s volumes, compared with 30% when it started reopening in May.
At the onset of the pandemic, the company ramped up digital content on its app and launched a digital subscription in November for $5.99.
“A legacy of the pandemic is that people know how to juggle various things at home now. When the pandemic dies down, digital options will be a substitute they’re familiar with if they don’t have time to make it to the gym,” he said. “It’s ingrained in habits now.”
Most virtual workouts can be done via mobile phones, iPad or a laptop. It’s as easy propping up a device on a coffee table and following along in your living room. Some are pre-recorded and allow for pausing or rewinding. Others are live-streamed, which helps mimic the experience of exercising with a group.
Planet Fitness partnered with interactive fitness platform iFit to develop more premium workout content. The subscription is open to anyone and doesn’t require a Planet Fitness in-person gym membership. In fact, about 20% of app-holders aren’t members, Rondeau said.
Though 2,100 of its 2,800 physical locations are now open, the company dialed down its marketing efforts significantly in 2020. “It’s not as much a cancelation issue as it is a join issue because we weren’t driving sales,” Rondeau explained. This year is still an open question.
“The first four months of the year are always really important for us,” he said. “We’ve seen people excited about returning, but we’re still going to have to claw our way back.”
Over at Equinox, the chain responded to March lockdowns by launching Variis, a streaming app that offers on-demand fitness content. It seeks to recreate the in-person experience of cult-favorite fitness brands like SoulCycle (which is owned by Equinox), Precision Run and Pure Yoga.
With the exception of cycling, most classes on Variis require minimal equipment, from dumbbells to a yoga mat. Equinox sells its SoulCycle-branded at-home bike for $2,500, a purchase that also grants users access to the entire Variis platform, which would otherwise cost $40 a month. Equinox members get access for free as part of an in-person gym membership.
According to LaRose, members who use the app are working out almost 20% more per month compared with last year, a sign that even as some studios open their doors, virtual workouts remain a sizeable part of routines. Whether people have an hour in between Zoom meetings or just 10 minutes, many are squeezing in multiple virtual workouts every day across a range of modalities, including running, circuit training or Pilates, he said.
The pandemic has also heightened the importance of cardiovascular health. Obesity can triple the risk of hospitalization due to Covid-19, decreasing lung capacity while impairing immune function. “People are getting a head-start on strengthening their overall health thanks to virtual workouts,” McCarter said. “It also breaks down the ‘gym-timidation’ that deters some people from going to a studio in-person.”
While big health clubs like Equinox and Planet Fitness haven’t increased membership prices, the cost per in-person class at boutique fitness studios rose 20% on average, according to McCarter. Restrictions on capacity and operational expenses tied to the pandemic were to blame. However, prices for virtual classes dropped about 20%.
“The future is a blend of digital and physical. Despite the fact that some of the storefronts are shrinking, consumer demand is booming as people aim for a balance between mental and physical health,” LaRose said. “The stakes are higher now.”
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The 5 Best Lifestyle Habits That Will Keep You Feeling Young, Science Says — Eat This Not That – Eat This, Not That
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Some say age is a mindset, but it’s also a lifestyle. The decisions we make each and every day can determine and sway just how much the hands of time hold over us. By getting into the right lifestyle habits, you’re going to look and feel younger, regardless of the decade you were born.
Consider this study, published in the International Journal of Aging Research. Scientists report most modern, older adults feel decades younger on the inside. Similarly, this survey of 2,000 adults, ages 65 and above, reports half of them feel younger than 50 years old.
So, what exactly is their secret? It may have something to do with more seniors than ever exercise on the regular. This poll indicates today’s older adults (ages 50+) spend more time physically active than earlier generations. Moreover, research recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research even concludes adults over the age of 65 have been working out more than any other age group during the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, if you’re on the lookout for new ways to rejuvenate your mind and body, regular exercise should be the first item on your list. More specifically, resistance training is an incredible ally in the fight against aging. According to Emily Servante, senior CPT at Ultimate Performance, a regular regimen of weight lifting and resistance exercises is key to graceful aging for both men and women.
“Can weight training ‘make you younger?’ The plain answer is no, but it can make you feel a whole lot younger, more mobile, and more energetic. Introducing regular resistance training into your routine can massively improve hormonal and inflammatory issues in older people, which is key in preserving and increasing muscle mass, slowing down sarcopenia (muscle wasting), and increasing fat loss,” Servante explains.
You may be wondering what other lifestyle changes you can adopt to fend off the effects of aging and feel younger. If so, you’re in luck! Read on to learn about the best lifestyle habits that will keep you feeling young, according to science. And for more, check out If You Think This About Yourself, You’ll Live Longer, Says New Study
Sleeping well is essential, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get some shuteye on restless nights. Between work, play, and a 24/7 news cycle, it’s very easy in these modern times to push sleep aside as an afterthought. If you want to look and feel younger, though, proper sleep is non-negotiable.
“Good quality rest allows your body to rest and repair itself — including your skin, for those who want to look younger to match their energy — and is necessary for the health and functioning of every single bodily process. Waking up with youthful energy often rests on how deeply you commit to a healthy sleep routine,” explains CSSC Stephen Light of Nolah Mattress.
It’s also important to mention that it’s possible to get too much sleep. Recent research published in BRAIN reports that habitually sleeping for less than 4.5 hours or over 6.5 hours on a nightly basis is linked with greater cognitive decline among older individuals. So just remember to set an alarm!
As far as how to more easily attain a satisfying night’s rest, Light suggests sculpting a personalized bedtime routine to follow night in and night out. “One of the most important things is building a soothing sleep ritual, which could look like playing light music, having herbal tea, or taking a bath — and try to stick to a consistent bedtime,” he recommends.
Related: Avoid These Sleep Positions for Better Z’s, Say Experts
The power of the mind shouldn’t be underestimated, and fascinating recent research published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B tells us that simply being pessimistic about growing old can lead to a faster deterioration in both overall health and wellbeing. In other words, if you’re constantly ruminating about how awful growing old is going to be, [you] may very well prove yourself right. “It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says lead study author Dakota Witzel, a doctoral candidate at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Over 100 Oregon locals between ages 52 and 88 took part in this study. It’s worth noting that subjects with worse self-perceptions of aging were much more vulnerable to stressors, reporting more physical health symptoms on particularly stressful days.
“These things are truly important for our health and well-being, not only long-term, but in our day-to-day life,” Witzel adds. “The likelihood of reporting these physical health symptoms is significantly decreased, on average, when you have better self-perceptions of aging.”
This survey finds the key to a long, happy, youthful life is finding the time for some childlike, carefree activities, no matter your age. What’s more carefree than taking a vacation? When we travel someplace special, we broaden our horizons, let go of long-lingering stress, and make lifelong memories and maybe even new friendships.
“I believe that travel is one of the things that keeps us young. Exploring the world provides us with a sense of wonder and makes us feel young. It helps keep our sense of curiosity young,” states Lee Jason Friend, Holistic Services Coordinator at The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center.
Furthermore, this study released in Tourism Analysis finds people who travel more often are happier in general, and this project released in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging concludes travelers tend to live longer in general. Why? Vacations relieve stress, and it’s well-documented that excessive stress levels will accelerate the aging process.
“Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays,” says Professor Timo Strandberg of the University of Helsinki, Finland. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.”
Related: Meditating Can Impact Your Immune System In This Incredible Way, New Study Says
We touched on the importance of exercise earlier, but it’s equally as essential to make sure you’re working out your brain, too.
“Your brain ages just like the rest of your body as part of the natural aging process. It shrinks, slows down, and becomes less adaptable to change. Therefore, to stay healthy, it’s critical to stretch your brain as well your heart, legs, and other muscles,” explains Karalyn Cass, a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) coach and program coordinator with First Mile Care.
Flexing your neurological muscles doesn’t have to be a chore. This study published in the scientific journal Neurology discovered that keeping your brain active — for example, playing more mentally stimulating activities like board games, card games, and puzzles — goes a long way toward preserving the mind’s gray matter and preventing dementia.
Another research initiative released in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B came to similar conclusions. Study authors report that people who routinely play non-digital games throughout their lives show stronger memory and thinking skills by the time they reach their 70s.
Adult life can be quite hectic. In between navigating the day’s daily chores and obligations, it’s easy to start feeling like your hand is barely on the steering wheel of your own life. Interestingly, this study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B reports that when older adults feel totally in control of their lives, they also feel younger.
The next afternoon, you find yourself running around and getting things done for your family or job, take some time and do something just for you. Even if it’s as simple as taking 15 minutes to read some of your book, stretch it out with yoga, or go for a relaxing walk around your favorite local neighborhood.
Related: Sign up for our newsletter for the latest Mind + Body news!
Be good to yourself—and your heart!
These habits can help slow down aging.
Get your "om" on, and reap the benefits.
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