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What should you consider for virtual group exercise?

Photo courtesy of Fitness on RequestFred Hoffman tackles a subject that is certainly timely: virtual group exercise. Fred points out that it is more than just setting up a large screen.

Q: "I have been assigned to implement a virtual group exercise program at the club.  What are the most important factors to consider?  What are the costs behind it and what other resources to I need to implement something like this?"

A: This is a timely question and subject, as technology and the Internet are having a huge impact on numerous aspects of the fitness industry, from the use of social media for marketing and community building to proposing ‘virtual’ health club memberships.

Consider the following issues and each one’s associated costs to help you get started:  

  1. Clearly define the concept and create a business plan. Determine exactly what services you would like to propose, the target market, and when you would like to launch it. Work backwards from the projected ‘launch’ date to create a realistic timeline that you can adhere to. 
  2. Determine if the programs and classes will be offered on a membership basis, or if participants can buy single or multiple classes. Create the fee structure, and how clients will be able to make their purchases (PayPal, credit card, etc.) 
  3. Design the website where the program’s classes will be hosted. Determine if you will have ‘on-demand’ videos, live streaming or both, and if there is a need for special software to diffuse the above mentioned.  Will participants be able to access all on smart-phones and tablets as well? 
  4. Who will be teaching the classes? Do you need to recruit and hire talent for different class formats? Will the instructors need experience working ‘in front of the camera?’ How will they be compensated, and who owns the rights to the material? 
  5. Who will film the classes, where will that take place, and what professional technicians and equipment are necessary to efficiently accomplish this?
  6. How will the programs be marketed, and to whom? Will the marketing be done solely online (website, social media) or by using other and more traditional means (print, radio, etc.)  

Before embarking on a Virtual Group Exercise program, it is strongly recommended to have a clear vision of the concept, create the business model, research the costs involved and determine how it will all be carried out!

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed
Fitness Resources



 Editor's note: There are other options available - Fitness On Demand, Fitness On Request, MyRide and Wexer Virtual, to name a few - if a facility cannot tackle implementing virtual group exercise. 

One of the most frequently consulted sections of IHRSA’s Website,, is “Best Practices,” which features answers from industry experts to a wide range of thought-provoking questions. Beginning this month, we’ll highlight some of them in this new CBI column.

Visit to read responses to more than 100 questions such as these or to submit a question of your own to be answered.

Reader Comments (4)

I simply HAVE to give my answer to this question, as I am a supplier of a virtual class concept through my company Wexer Virtual and also run health clubs (Fresh Fitness in Denmark).

Wexer Virtual has clients in the UK, US, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Australia and New Zeeland. Based on experience and feed-back from clubs using our concept as well as end-users, we have a very clear picture of what the key issues are in regards to virtual classes and what benefits it brings to clubs.

In regards to technical set-up, you basically need a screen, a projector and a computer connected to the internet that stores and runs your classes. It is typically possible to run the sound through the existing audio system in your group exercise studio.

Most systems will allow you to either pre-schedule classes or let your members choose classes "on-demand". Since most clubs will not allow a single member to decide what happens in the group exercise or cycling studio for the duration of a class - most clubs prefer either only pre-scheduled classes or a combination of pre-scheduled and "on-demand". The benefit of pre-scheduled is that you can promote a very extensive group exercise schedule that would typically exceed that of your competition by far. And that is a proven sales tool: We made a questionnaire in my clubs (+1,100 answers) proving that the vast majority of members had been influenced in their buying decision by the fact that we offer classes all day long (combination of live and virtual classes).

The installation is easy and fairly inexpensive – but prices do vary significantly between the suppliers of virtual class concepts. A total installation with our system would be about 3-4,000 USD and I believe we are among the cheapest in the market. In addition to the initial cost most virtual class providers charge a monthly license fee. Ours is in the price range 250-300 USD per month (per player per month).

A significant consideration, besides choosing a system that is very stable, well supported and easy to use, is content (the actual classes). Your members will want quality classes with great instructors – and they want variety in both level, duration and type of classes. So make sure to choose a supplier that offers that.

To me the obvious benefits of virtual classes is the fact that it optimizes utilization of your studios (no dead space at any tine), it maximizes flexibility for your members – and it is a cheap sales and marketing tool, that will most likely also helps increase your retention.

These are some of the companies offering virtual group exercise systems:
Fitness On Request
Fitness On Demand
MyRide (only cycling)
And finally my company Wexer Virtual (

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

I'm suprised neither author commented directly on how this will increase club revenue. You could easily spend several thousand dollars on cameras, equipment, actors, etc. without increasing club revenue. Is your virtual system going to drive these customers to use your qualified personal trainers more? Are people going to be able to access this product away from your gym, and if so how will that increase your club revenue?

keep your eyes peeled for products that my company is developing to help clubs drive revenue through smarter use of technology
December 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShane
Rasmus, Thanks for the additional info. Shane brings up a good point...would be nice to see actual case studies with revenue or member feedback or retention studies.
December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJay Ablondi
Rasmus nailed it. Trying to pull off all the nuances of this solution on your own would be insanely costly and also a massive investment of resources and time to bring to bear.

The organizations he mentioned all have unique spins on the marketplace. It would absolutely be worth your while to educate yourself on what the vendors in this space are offering before trying to go it on your own. There is a reason most people choose a partner to deliver pre-recorded fitness classes!

Our company, Fitness On Request, was also created in partnership with club owner/operators and innovated most of the concepts that are now expected from a solution in this space. We also have some very unique programs and services coming out in 2013 that will help you better understand your clientele through social integration and data collection.

I think all the vendors in this space would agree that, while it may be fairly simple to buy a nice video playback system, the real reason to choose a partner to offer pre-recorded classes is the power of the underlying platforms to keep things fresh for your customers and help you interact with them and better understand their preferences and activity in your club!

Dave Kraai
Fitness On Request
December 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave Kraai

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