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features

Research: Live vs digital

Do people get fitter working out in the gym or at home? Researcher Bryce Hastings explains the evidence when it comes to how they measure up

Published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 6

Having exploded in popularity during the pandemic, is it possible that on-demand workouts could render gyms redundant? Perhaps the answer can be found by examining what exactly we’re doing when we work out at home versus at the gym.

First of all, we don’t appear to be training as hard at home as we do in the gym.

Dr Jinger Gottschall and I conducted a pilot study comparing exertion and enjoyment levels between a live class in the gym and exactly the same workout followed digitally at home. The findings of our research were presented at the recent 2022 ACSM Annual Meeting and World Congresses in San Diego.

The study involved 54 regular Bodycombat participants from five different gyms across the US, who each wore a Bluetooth heart-rate chest transmitter to record their intensity levels. After each session, they completed a survey containing questions related to rate of perceived exertion, enjoyment, and satisfaction.

Despite doing exactly the same class, participants’ average heart rate was 14 per cent higher during the gym class when compared to the on-demand session. As well as motivating them to work harder, participants rated the gym-based workout as 13 per cent more enjoyable and 14 per cent more satisfying than the digital workout.

The power of groupness
We believe the greater levels of positive perceptions and intensity experienced in a gym-based class can be attributed to what we call ‘groupness’. This term was coined during previous research we conducted at Penn State University and the nearby Fitology club – which found that people in a live group exercise class experience increased levels of individual exertion, enjoyment, and satisfaction as a result of exercising in the presence of others, particularly when their movements are synchronised (www.hcmmag.com/Groupness).

When it comes to duration, it appears that most exercisers prefer shorter workouts when they’re at-home. Data from our Les Mills+ on-demand workout platform shows that around 70 per cent of at-home workouts are 45 minutes or less, with 50 per cent of attendees opting for workouts that are a maximum of 30 minutes.

Home workouts – the upside
There are, however, definite positives to working out at home. Despite the fact that digital home workouts are less intense and tend to be shorter in duration, study participants reported feeling less self-conscious and worried about their performance during the on-demand workout. This highlights its potential as a gateway into regular exercise for newcomers who may not yet feel confident enough to join a live gym class, or simply a way to top up live workouts.

Live classes in gyms remain the pinnacle experience, but the rise of digital fitness and flexible working reinforces the notion that hybrid fitness habits are becoming the norm. The Les Mills 2021 Global Fitness Report (www.HCMmag.com/LMGFR) found the majority of exercisers now favour a 60:40 split of gym to home workouts, so it will be interesting to see how fitness habits shift as the world learns to live with COVID.

The ultimate winners will be consumers, who now have more ways to work out and greater flexibility, making it easier to sustain their exercise habit. For clubs, the key challenge will be to leverage these digital tools to maintain member motivation and engagement in a way that complements the in-club experience.

Maximising this opportunity requires a reimagination of the member journey and how we measure engagement. Instead of simply tracking club attendances, we need to pan out and look holistically at all the touchpoints a member has with their facility – including home workouts via the club’s digital offering, and even use of the club app – to accurately assess member engagement and take actions to enhance this. Ultimately this combined approach can only help establish sustainable exercise habits, benefiting both those new to exercise and experienced users.

14 per cent more effort

Heart rates were 14 per cent higher during the gym-based class when compared to the same class done at home

13 per cent more enjoyment

The gym-based class was 13 per cent more enjoyable than the same class done at home

14 per cent more satisfaction

The gym-based class was 14 per cent more satisfying than the same class done at home

photo: LES MILLS

Bryce Hastings is head of research at Les Mills, while Dr Jinger Gottschall is an associate professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
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features

Research: Live vs digital

Do people get fitter working out in the gym or at home? Researcher Bryce Hastings explains the evidence when it comes to how they measure up

Published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 6

Having exploded in popularity during the pandemic, is it possible that on-demand workouts could render gyms redundant? Perhaps the answer can be found by examining what exactly we’re doing when we work out at home versus at the gym.

First of all, we don’t appear to be training as hard at home as we do in the gym.

Dr Jinger Gottschall and I conducted a pilot study comparing exertion and enjoyment levels between a live class in the gym and exactly the same workout followed digitally at home. The findings of our research were presented at the recent 2022 ACSM Annual Meeting and World Congresses in San Diego.

The study involved 54 regular Bodycombat participants from five different gyms across the US, who each wore a Bluetooth heart-rate chest transmitter to record their intensity levels. After each session, they completed a survey containing questions related to rate of perceived exertion, enjoyment, and satisfaction.

Despite doing exactly the same class, participants’ average heart rate was 14 per cent higher during the gym class when compared to the on-demand session. As well as motivating them to work harder, participants rated the gym-based workout as 13 per cent more enjoyable and 14 per cent more satisfying than the digital workout.

The power of groupness
We believe the greater levels of positive perceptions and intensity experienced in a gym-based class can be attributed to what we call ‘groupness’. This term was coined during previous research we conducted at Penn State University and the nearby Fitology club – which found that people in a live group exercise class experience increased levels of individual exertion, enjoyment, and satisfaction as a result of exercising in the presence of others, particularly when their movements are synchronised (www.hcmmag.com/Groupness).

When it comes to duration, it appears that most exercisers prefer shorter workouts when they’re at-home. Data from our Les Mills+ on-demand workout platform shows that around 70 per cent of at-home workouts are 45 minutes or less, with 50 per cent of attendees opting for workouts that are a maximum of 30 minutes.

Home workouts – the upside
There are, however, definite positives to working out at home. Despite the fact that digital home workouts are less intense and tend to be shorter in duration, study participants reported feeling less self-conscious and worried about their performance during the on-demand workout. This highlights its potential as a gateway into regular exercise for newcomers who may not yet feel confident enough to join a live gym class, or simply a way to top up live workouts.

Live classes in gyms remain the pinnacle experience, but the rise of digital fitness and flexible working reinforces the notion that hybrid fitness habits are becoming the norm. The Les Mills 2021 Global Fitness Report (www.HCMmag.com/LMGFR) found the majority of exercisers now favour a 60:40 split of gym to home workouts, so it will be interesting to see how fitness habits shift as the world learns to live with COVID.

The ultimate winners will be consumers, who now have more ways to work out and greater flexibility, making it easier to sustain their exercise habit. For clubs, the key challenge will be to leverage these digital tools to maintain member motivation and engagement in a way that complements the in-club experience.

Maximising this opportunity requires a reimagination of the member journey and how we measure engagement. Instead of simply tracking club attendances, we need to pan out and look holistically at all the touchpoints a member has with their facility – including home workouts via the club’s digital offering, and even use of the club app – to accurately assess member engagement and take actions to enhance this. Ultimately this combined approach can only help establish sustainable exercise habits, benefiting both those new to exercise and experienced users.

14 per cent more effort

Heart rates were 14 per cent higher during the gym-based class when compared to the same class done at home

13 per cent more enjoyment

The gym-based class was 13 per cent more enjoyable than the same class done at home

14 per cent more satisfaction

The gym-based class was 14 per cent more satisfying than the same class done at home

photo: LES MILLS

Bryce Hastings is head of research at Les Mills, while Dr Jinger Gottschall is an associate professor of kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University

Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
Editor's letter

Into the fitaverse

Fitness is already among the top three markets in the metaverse, with new technology and partnerships driving real growth and consumer engagement that looks likely to spill over into health clubs, gyms and studios
Fit Tech people

Ali Jawad

Paralympic powerlifter and founder, Accessercise
Users can easily identify which facilities in the UK are accessible to the disabled community
Fit Tech people

Hannes Sjöblad

MD, DSruptive
We want to give our users an implantable tool that allows them to collect their health data at any time and in any setting
Fit Tech people

Jamie Buck

Co-founder, Active in Time
We created a solution called AiT Voice, which turns digital data into a spoken audio timetable that connects to phone systems
Profile

Fahad Alhagbani: reinventing fitness

Alexa can help you book classes, check trainers’ bios and schedules, find out opening times, and a host of other information
Opinion

Building on the blockchain

For small sports teams looking to compete with giants, blockchain can be a secret weapon explains Lars Rensing, CEO of Protokol
Innovation

Bold move

We ended up raising US$7m in venture capital from incredible investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Primetime Partners, and GingerBread Capital
App analysis

Check your form

Sency’s motion analysis technology is allowing users to check their technique as they exercise. Co-founder and CEO Gal Rotman explains how
Profile

New reality

Sam Cole, CEO of FitXR, talks to Fit Tech about taking digital workouts to the next level, with an immersive, virtual reality fitness club
Profile

Sohail Rashid

35 million people a week participate in strength training. We want Brawn to help this audience achieve their goals
Ageing

Reverse Ageing

Many apps help people track their health, but Humanity founders Peter Ward and Michael Geer have put the focus on ageing, to help users to see the direct repercussions of their habits. They talk to Steph Eaves
App analysis

Going hybrid

Workout Anytime created its app in partnership with Virtuagym. Workout Anytime’s Greg Maurer and Virtuagym’s Hugo Braam explain the process behind its creation
Research

Physical activity monitors boost activity levels

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have conducted a meta analysis of all relevant research and found that the body of evidence shows an impact
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
Fit Tech People

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
Fit Tech People

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
Fit Tech People

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
Fit Tech People

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
More features