When Coronavirus spread throughout the world in early 2020, it was clear our lives were going to change considerably. Lockdowns around the world forced people to work from home, shop online and communicate remotely using internet video conferencing and other online chat systems. 

With our pubs, shops and restaurants closed, people stayed at home increasingly more, locked away through fear of spreading the virus. 

Much of our lives ground to a standstill in the first half of this year and, even now, with lockdowns being relaxed in many countries, it seems doubtful we’ll see a return to our previous “normality” any time soon.

Lockdowns also restricted the opportunity for health and fitness

At one point during the virus, restrictions limited travel with people being told to stay inside and avoid venturing further than 5 miles from their homes. For many, the restrictions severely curbed their fitness routines — e.g. joggers and cyclists. With gyms also falling victim to the COVID lockdown restrictions, people were forced to look for other forms of exercise. 

Exercise videos and DVDs have been popular for many years — going back to the days of VHS and Betamax — but an increasing number of fitness trainers have taken to offering online streaming workouts, with an increased level of interaction from the participants. 

Interactive sports training games have also increased in popularity recently, equipped with sensors to check a participant’s performance. Even our cell phones have got in on the act of home/personal fitness with a vast range of new fitness apps intended at improving our health. Indeed, with the vast increase in the available technology over recent years (coupled with tumbling price points), home exercise systems are now becoming considerably more common. 

Here are just a few of the systems and platforms that have come to the fore through the emergence of Coronavirus as we look for ways to continue training without the risk of spreading the virus.

The rise in popularity of fitness video games

Nintendo’s Wii platform has always been a great proponent of fitness-type games, but through lockdown, sales of the system’s WiiFit and WiiSports skyrocketed. Other newer games have since become available on the other major platforms (Playstation and Xbox) which have also helped to propel the popularity of video fitness games. 

Most of the newest fitness titles tend to use motion sensors or cell phones to track the user’s movements in conjunction with specialized controllers. Games like Just Dance 2020, Zumba Burn It Up and Fitness Boxing have all proved immensely popular as an interactive way to burn calories and stay fit. 

Indeed, as technologies have improved, fitness games have also entered the 360 genre like Box VR and Beat Sabre releasing on the Steam, Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift platforms. 360 fitness games don’t just have the advantage of improving fitness, they’ll also improve your reaction times as you attempt to dodge incoming attacks from assailants. 

Personal home fitness trainers

Of all the forms of home training that have grown in popularity through Coronavirus, none has been better received and proved more prevalent than streaming video trainers. Indeed, recent research from Myprotein suggests that the most popular trainers have more than 1,000,000 Instagram followers and can earn up to £3,000 per post.  

Top-rated stars like Melissa Alcantara and Jeanette Jenkins count the likes of Kim Kardashian and Alicia Keys within their client roster and have such a strong following they could be considered celebrities in their own right. 

In the UK, personal trainer Joe Wicks saw a massive upsurge in his daily podcasts through lockdown, with his first show on 23rd March garnering a massive viewership of 790,000 households. His BodyCoach fitness series still streams live at 9 am, Monday to Friday to a massive audience while one of his YouTube videos has already passed 5 million views. 

While Wicks’ training was primarily aimed at kids, his classes have proven popular with young and old alike and the trainer is now a global celebrity with almost six million followers on Facebook. His stats on other platforms are equally impressive with 3.8 million Instagram followers on his BodyCoach page (8,000 on his personal page) and 2.54 million YouTube subscribers. Not bad for a fitness trainer!

Online fitness advice from sports stars

Exercise trainers haven’t been alone in using social platforms to increase their popularity through lockdown. Sports stars too were quick to jump on the opportunity to increase their follower numbers over all the major internet platforms. 

Footballing star, Cristiano Ronaldo, has a gargantuan following of 236 million on Instagram alone while other footballers follow closely behind: Lionel Messi with 162 million and Neymar with 140 million. 

Sports stars can impart fitness and dietary tips through their social posts, increasing their following and, in turn, their global prominence. Indeed, posting can prove quite lucrative for the more prominent stars. For example, it’s estimated a single post by Ronaldo can earn almost £600,000 with Messi and Neymar having potential earnings of £410,000 and £350,000, respectively.  

The Peloton intelligent fitness bike system

Many believe fitness systems like Peloton offer a glimpse at how the future of personal fitness might develop. The Peloton bike is a highly advanced exercise bicycle hooked up to an interactive, internet-based training system that allows you to race against other riders around the world on real roads and tracks. 

As the incline of a road becomes steeper, so does the strength needed to power the bike, just as in real life. It’s envisaged that in the future we’ll see increasing use of tech combined with real-life physical training platforms to offer a truly immersive environment for exercise. 

The future of personal training beyond Coronavirus

Through lockdown, most of our entertainment and community interaction came from social media platforms as we sought to connect with other people. While we all hope the effects of the virus will soon pass and life will be able to return to normal, it’s quite likely these alternative methods of fitness and exercise will be with us long after the virus has left. 

As gyms and other fitness facilities start to open again around the world, it will be interesting to see whether their popularity remains as high. Perhaps another long-lasting change to come from Coronavirus will be how we view personal training at home and whether we still feel the need to attend mass fitness gatherings, gyms and sports halls.