The stay-at-home fitness trend in China is booming on the back of the stay-fit fever that swept the white-collar demographic during the COVID-19 pandemic, with tech companies beefing up efforts to roll out intelligent fitness equipment to entice new users.
Fiture, a Chinese startup that offers smart home fitness equipment, has launched Magic Mirror－a smart fitness product that detects body movements and gestures through artificial intelligence-powered algorithms along with exercise data－to customize and personalize fitness courses for health enthusiasts.
The startup focuses on developing smart home fitness equipment to offer interactive fitness courses, exercise data tracking and customized training plans, as well as building an online community of users.
It also offers courses including yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, aerobics and strength training as well as professional fitness, diet and health management guidance.
In September, Fiture secured $65 million in a series-A round of financing led by Tencent Holdings Ltd, with participation from its angel round investor Sequoia Capital China. Bertelsmann Asia Investments, C Ventures, Cathay Capital, BA Capital, CPE and All-Stars Investment also participated in the round.
The new funds will go toward research and development to help the company provide users more interactive fitness content, said Tang Tianguang, co-founder and CEO of Fiture.
“In order to develop more attractive fitness courses, home-based fitness companies need to add more features to the intelligent hardware so as to differentiate them from other competitors,” Tang said.
He added that apart from the existing AI technology, some social functions are key to increase user stickiness. For instance, users can make new friends, invite friends to exercise together and participate in online courses simultaneously.
“In the long run, stay-at-home fitness will be a trend in China, which also represents a new kind of lifestyle,” said Tang, adding that this method also helps users save money and time.
Li Zhaohui, managing partner of Tencent Investment, said the company is optimistic about the prospects of the fitness industry. Li said interactive content is improving the fitness user experience, and personalized and refined fitness methods will become a new type of fitness service in domestic settings.
Furthermore, fitness game Ring Fit Adventure and its related accessories such as Ring-Con and Leg Strap launched by Japanese company Nintendo were in high demand across China’s different e-commerce platforms. The two accessories can measure users’ real-world actions and help turn them into in-game movements.
Fitness app Keep said its smart exercise bikes temporarily sold out as demand soared during the peak of the pandemic.
According to a report released by JD Big Data Research Institute, demand for home gym equipment in China－especially high-end, professional-grade equipment－rose during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The report said increased consciousness about health and hygiene has been a trend and consumers have opted to invest in home gym equipment. In addition to smaller and more portable equipment such as chin-up bars, dumbbells, yoga gear and jumpropes, consumers are gradually trending toward buying more professional, large-scale fitness equipment with unit prices of several thousand yuan, and even as high as 10,000 yuan ($1,493).
Moreover, gyms and fitness studios have quickly adapted to offering classes online via numerous livestreaming platforms. The combination of hardware and software such as home-use “smart “exercise bikes that offer classes via apps saw a sharp increase in sales at the end of March, the report said.
Shenzhen-based Qianzhan Industry Research Institute said revenue from China’s fitness equipment sector reached 46.1 billion yuan in 2019, an increase of 10.21 percent on a yearly basis.
Investors are betting that China’s fitness market will grow. Shen Nanpeng, managing partner of investment company Sequoia Capital China, said China’s fitness industry has developed rapidly in the past few years and has become a significant market.
“With improvements in technology, we have seen the disruptive changes of smart-home fitness to the fitness experience,” Shen said.
Nie Dongchen, partner of venture capital firm China Creation Ventures, said the penetration rate of online fitness products has risen during the pandemic. Gyms, fitness instructors and fitness content providers have turned to online models and the traditional offline industry will face a new round of reshuffling, Nie said.