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Coronavirus Outbreak Caused Explosion Of On-Demand Exercise Classes -- And It May Stay That Way For Good

PIKESVILLE, Md. (CBS Local) -- As the coronavirus pandemic limits social contact with others, gyms and exercise studios have been forced to close, leaving members looking for alternative ways to get in their regular workouts. Thankfully, social media and live video technology is allowing trainers to stay close to members from a distance and give individuals ideas for at-home workouts.

In Edina, Minnesota, Barre3 studio is offering classes in real time on Instagram Live. Now their $24 classes are free of charge to anyone in need. "It wouldn't feel right to exclude these live classes from anyone and everyone who wants to join in on them," co-owner Lucy Gardiner told CBS Minnesota.

Similarly, Chris Vlaun, co-founder of V. Art of Wellness based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, teaches a free, 10-minute, full-body workout on his Instagram page. If you do three rounds of it, you can extend your workouts to 30 minutes. "Ten minutes on Instagram is way to connect with people," he told CBS Miami. "It's a quick warm up and then intensified. It's a full-body experience and there is no equipment necessary."

At Local Motion Fitness in Pittsburgh, owner Laura Fonzi has created an exercise class for kids everyday on her Facebook page, Local Motion PGH. "As a mom of four, I know our kids need exercise for their mental health now that their schedules are disrupted," she told CBS PIttsburgh.

One company in particular is bringing a wide range of health clubs from around the country to its members, giving new meaning to the term "group fitness." Hundreds of gyms and studios have partnered with Pikesville, Maryland-based BurnAlong to get their workouts online and give Americans the ability to work out in real-time along with trainers and gym rats near and far.

BurnAlong helps people stay healthy and engaged with their favorite instructor from home. The online fitness and wellbeing platform brings exercise, yoga, meditation, and other health-centric classes to digital devices, partnering with fitness clubs and trainers to allow members the opportunity to get their fix anywhere, anytime. Over the past month, more than 150 new gyms and studios have signed up with BurnAlong, Co-Chief Executive Daniel Freedman told CBS Local.

"It's clear people are feeling both the stress of being stuck at home and the concern for jobs, economy, and their health -- and are gravitating towards emotional health classes along with classes for their physical health, and taking classes live with others for social support," he said.

Freedman says because of the restraints of social distancing, a record number of companies are signing up for their employees. "Employers and insurers are understanding that they have a responsibility to support employees during this difficult time by both delivering to them the physical and emotional health classes they need, and, importantly, their families need too," he said.


The number of classes taken by BurnAlong members has grown seven-fold since March, and more than 25 percent of the classes taken fall into the specialty and emotional support categories.  The increase cuts across all age groups, ranging from 6 weeks -- with parents in particular rushing to fill time in "Mommy and Me" classes -- to those in their 90s. In fact, the oldest active member is 97 years old.

Freedman said members are especially spending more time tending to their mental health these days. The number of yoga and meditation classes taken has doubled since the beginning of the nationwide stay-at-home recommendations. "We are living in a time of lots of unknowns and that's scary. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation helps put those out of the mind and lets people relax," he said.

For people who do prefer to exercise in a live group setting, BurnAlong includes a class where members can invite up to three friends, family members or co-workers to take group classes together in real time where they can see and hear each other.

"When we ask people what they love most about BurnAlong that's keeping them so engaged, they say it's the range of programming - classes for the whole family - and critically the social component, of being able to take classes live online in private sessions with friends, family members, co-workers you see," said Freedman. "People are craving social support now more than ever."

Looking ahead into what life will be like once the outbreak ends and life resumes for Americans, Freedman believes that health clubs will need to adapt to the fact that people will be more prone to working out from home. Whether it's because we've simply grown used to this new normal, or because people will feel safer and healthier at home, the need on-demand fitness likely won't fade. "Post-COVID, with fitness as with work, I think we will see more of a hybrid model. People will be more comfortable than before exercising from home, but will still crave in-person experiences," he said. "So the key for brick and mortar is to make sure people can easily transition between online and in-person, similar to the sports and music industries."

As for some other online exercise options:

Amy Segal is a Miami-based flywheel fitness trainer under her Instagram name @Spinmoma or #amyspin. These days Segal is burning calories and having loads fun off the bike from outside her home with as many fitness friends and fans as she can fit on her daily free Zoom classes.

You can channel your inner prima ballerina with Miami City Ballet star Jennifer Lauren, who, along with two other dancers, is offering free ballet classes on MCB's Instagram @miamicityballet. Classes are offered on Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays, and teachers are available for private lessons as well.

Dennis Dumas Jr., owner of Omni Fight Club in Livermore, California, is now live streaming his fitness classes. He says it's a little bit gritty from his home garage, but he invites anyone to join in.Anyone looking to join just needs log on to Omni Fight Club Livermore Facebook page and fitness comes alive, from his garage to yours.

And finally, from the heart of the Big Apple in Manhattan, is Barry's Fitness chief instructor Keoni Hudoba, who is teaching a daily 30-minute, full-body workout on his Instagram live for free. If you miss his 9 a.m. class, you can find it archived on his Instagram (IGTV) videos.  Thousands of followers sweat along with him daily.

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