- Health and fitness apps saw a 67% jump in global installs in late March and early April from a year earlier as the coronavirus pandemic led mobile consumers to find ways to stay in shape while gyms were closed during lockdowns. The higher installs led to a 61% jump in user sessions in May as the apps took time to catch on, per a study that app tracking company Adjust and fitness app Gympass shared with Mobile Marketer.
- In the U.S., installs of health and fitness apps were 58% higher at the end of March from the 2020 average. Daily sessions peaked at 25% above average in May, and have slowly declined since then. By July, daily sessions were 16% higher than average, indicating that many consumers were still engaged with the apps. Brazil, Germany, Mexico and the U.K. also experienced increased usage of fitness apps, the study found.
- Sunday is the peak day for usage of health and fitness apps, while Friday is the lowest as people prepare for the weekend or have a "cheat day," per the study.
The sudden jump in installs and subsequent rise in user sessions for health and fitness apps indicate that many people worldwide shifted their exercise habits as pandemic lockdowns led thousands of gyms to close. The key issue going forward for the fitness industry is whether those consumers will come back to gyms that reopen as lockdowns are lifted, or will permanently change their habits. Almost 83% of Americans said they're willing to do virtual workouts amid the pandemic, which may indicate a longer-term shift in consumer habits, Gympass found in a separate survey.
Such a longer-lasting shift will have major implications for companies like Apple, which is developing a subscription service for virtual fitness classes, Bloomberg News reported this month, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Codenamed "Seymour," the offering likely would become a significant rival to sportswear brand Nike and exercise equipment maker Peloton that either have workout apps or host livestreamed exercise classes. Apple would provide greater incentives for people to sign up for the virtual workouts by bundling them with other subscription services like Apple Music, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade.
It remains to be seen how quickly exercise enthusiasts will return to their old habits of going the gym, which may reduce their app usage. Lockdowns vary by state, and may be reimposed on gyms if coronavirus clusters break out, as California did last month in dozens of its hardest-hit counties, the Financial Times reported. Among other heavily populated states, New York indicated this week that gyms can reopen as soon as Aug. 24 at 33% capacity if they enforce strict measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus infections, Reuters reported. However, the reopening of gyms won't necessarily lure back customers. Only 17% of U.S. consumers said they feel safe going to the gym, a lower rate than for other activities like going out to eat (34%), going to a shopping mall (28%) or going to the movies (17%), per a tracking study by researcher Morning Consult.
The jump in health and fitness installs reflected moves by companies like Nike, which in March dropped the subscription fee for its NTC Premium service that provides streaming workout videos, training programs and expert tips from trainers. The company was among the brands that started offering health and fitness content for free to reach more consumers. Women's lifestyle site Popsugar also announced it would release a workout app earlier than planned while also making its "Active by Popsugar" website free to use. Peloton started offering a 90-day trial of its subscription workout app as gyms suspend operations, USA Today reported.