Fitness apps thrive in China

Fitness apps thrive in China
A coach and a female trainee livestream a fitness class in a gym in Yangzhou, east China’s Jiangsu province, April 23. (Photo by Meng Delong/People’s Daily Online)

Fitness apps experienced booming development in China in recent years. Among the big names are Keep, Codoon, and Joyrun, through which people learn to shape their bodies and build muscle. The screens of smart devices are more and more becoming a source for the people to learn workout moves.

“I used to hit the gym, but never kept doing it,” said Huang Meiling, a fitness enthusiast working in the financial sector in Shanghai. According to her, some gyms became “runaways” because of operational failure, and she also talked herself out of gym classes due to the boring course setting. Later, she resorted to fitness apps and tried to work out and ran at home.

“But it’s also boring because I’m all alone when practicing,’ Huang said. Fortunately, group classes offered by online fitness platforms in the recent years became her new choice.

Group classes refer to those small and convenient workout services offered by online fitness platforms, a product of the integration of Internet and the traditional fitness industry.

These classes are ordered on mobile apps based on users’ own preferences and schedules, which is completely different from the traditional membership and prepayment model of offline gyms. Being more flexible, these classes are also functional as social and e-commerce platforms, and thus make fitness more attractive.

Group classes sparked Huang’s enthusiasm for fitness again, and she even became a part-time fitness coach herself after acquiring relevant certificates.

“These classes are flexible. You can also take customized courses, and meet like-minded people,” Huang said.

“As the Internet helps digitalize information about fitness activities, we can better provide customized services for users,” said Han Wei, founder of LeFit, a fitness chain based in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province.

Fitness platforms can recommend targeted courses and services to users after collecting relevant information about and feedback from members in a proper manner and analyzing their preferences, Han explained.

During the first half of this year, offline fitness centers and gyms in China suspended operation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although we were closed, the coaches and users were still interacting,” said an executive of Supermonkey, a gym chain based in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province.

During the epidemic prevention and control, Supermonkey livestreamed its fitness courses in an online “training camp” project, the executive introduced, explaining that the 14-day project assigned a professional coach to each class for online guidance and diet supervision.

It helped the company keep quite a lot of customers, said the executive, disclosing that by the end of April, 1,500 training camps had been launched, attracting more than 15,000 users.

“Our courses were designed based on home quarantine scenario,” said an employee of Supermonkey, explaining that rag was a tool used in leg muscle building to encourage the users to clean their floors while working out.

Taking the online innovation helped fitness companies secure stable performance during the difficult period. Though offline gyms have gradually resumed business nowadays, online courses are still popular.

“There are more and more online fitness contents right now, and I prefer to have fitness classes online,” said fitness enthusiast surnamed Zhou in Shanghai.

Zhou, who works in media industry, wan once a fan of group classes, but now she likes to join livestream courses or take part in fitness projects that combine both outdoor and indoor activities.