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Brief Published: 9 Feb 2021

Elevating Home Fitness: VR, Live Streaming & Esports


Home workouts are booming in the pandemic – but lockdowns have also left consumers longing for human connection and escapism. Smart brands are harnessing virtual reality (VR) and real-time content to create more immersive, social exercise offerings. We spotlight some standout new examples.

  • The Metaverse Gets Moving: As noted in Five Wellness Trends to Watch, tech and fitness brands are converging in the gaming metaverse. Facebook rolled out fitness-tracking software Oculus Move across its range of Oculus VR headsets last autumn, enabling users to monitor their progress during any virtual reality activity.
    In January 2021, Swiss VR company Holodia released its multi-experience fitness platform, Holofit, on the Oculus e-store. Subscribers can experience virtual cycling, rowing and running in simulated settings, ranging from tropical landscapes to cities. The content can be played on any Bluetooth-enabled exercise equipment, such as a rowing machine or exercise bike; alternatively, users follow equivalent bodyweight exercises.
  • Live Streaming Goes Elite: Providing a socially distanced, virtual alternative to water sports, US rowing machine brand Hydrow completed a $25m funding round last June and reported sales had soared 400% since the pandemic began (Bloomberg, 2020). The company’s high-tech ergometers feature touchscreen monitors and front-facing speakers, allowing users to join live-streamed water outings hosted by elite athletes, or enjoy unguided rows along scenic on-screen waterways.
  • Esports Goes Up a Gear: Amid a global boom in esports (see Next-Gen Sports Fandom), US start-up Zwift – a multiplayer running and cycling training platform – has seen a 300% year-on-year rise in daily user activity during the pandemic and emerged as a hub for competitive e-racing. Its growing series of e-tours, including the Tour de Zwift, has professionals and amateurs vying for real and virtual prizes. The platform’s success is spawning online spin-offs; the unaffiliated Zwifthub app, developed by a fan, offers user hacks for improving Zwift gameplay to around 40,000 followers.