With the rapid rise of at-home workouts in recent years, many have wondered whether in-person fitness would ever return to normalcy after so many community-driven studios took a hit during the pandemic. Thankfully, the skeptics were wrong, and boutique fitness studios have made a full comeback and are positioned better than ever to catalyze change in the health and wellness industry.
After almost three years of collective disease in the world, and stats showing us that life expectancy in the US has continued to trend down to the lowest it’s been in 20 years, fitness studios are poised to make a greater difference than ever, with a more lasting impact as consumers are increasingly shifting energy into their wellbeing.
Illness is not just about the physical, as our collective mental health is suffering too, and the pandemic has only increased the severity of symptoms—specifically loneliness. While studies show that loneliness can be worse for your health than obesity, we know that regular exercise has the power to improve mental health, and boutique studios have a unique way of doing that collectively. Studios offer a remedy that scientifically lifts spirits as our exercise “high” primes us to connect with others and increases the pleasure we experience from the interaction.
Example after example exists within studio walls. I’ve seen yoga studios offering “yoga church” on Sunday mornings, CrossFit studios regularly have community “Murph” workouts, and fitness studios celebrating milestones when members achieve major benchmarks like completing 100 classes. All within the walls of a fitness studio, people come together, overcome personal obstacles, accomplish things together, and end with a smile and a dopamine rush. We are hard-wired to trust each other more as we move and breathe together. And boutique fitness serves this up perfectly.
Our lives have changed pretty dramatically over the past three years, and boutique fitness is quickly adapting to meet the ever-changing expectations of today’s consumers. Since so much of our lives exist online, we now expect that we can accomplish most things in the way we choose. We want the full live and in-person experience or virtually on demand. As a parent, I can attest this isn’t confined to a specific industry.
Parent-teacher conferences, doctor appointments, and, yes, fitness classes all had to acclimate. We, as consumers, have gotten used to goods and services that are personalized to our ever-changing needs, and studios have accommodated them beautifully. You can take your 6 a.m. Vinyasa in the comfort of your living room—or sweating it out next to your mat neighbor in a 105-degree room. Your choice.
Choice is key, and studios realized it was the key to a comeback. And why many are reviewing and revamping their tech stack. Studios have been given the ultimate flexibility to adapt to consumer demand through modern software options like Walla. This includes the functionality to automatically send links to livestream classes, manage rosters of people both online and in the studio, and upload a library of videos for clients to work out on demand. Tapping into the need for personalization in fitness, Walla also helps studios customize client communications based on personality type to nurture both community and loyalty for studios and consumers.
Despite inflation, more and more consumers and even studio owners are not cutting back when it comes to investing in their health and wellness. Studios are investing more in hiring experienced and well-trained teachers, and the bar has only gotten higher for exceptional teaching as competition has grown over the last decade. In recent years, the expectation for physical “results” has become critical for studio success. Studios have designed programming with proven, results-driven outcomes and, most importantly, accessible to students at any level. Modifications and advanced options are now table stakes to customize the experience further, and clients can have a personalized studio journey mapped. With a majority of people needing guidance and accountability to stick with a wellness regimen, studios continue to position themselves as the solution for the 80% of people who aren’t motivated to stick with a gym or an at-home fitness routine.
While boutique fitness has often been accused of being an elitist culture, the tides are changing, and we see it clearly across all types of studios. At Walla, we work with studios offering donation-based classes or “pay what you can” memberships. We have noticed membership scholarships being promoted and studios being more involved with nonprofits in their communities. We also provide a unique credit-based model for the studio, allowing each business to price classes at different rates based on demand, time, and teacher expertise. We often offer income-adapted classes that work for any student’s budget. Studio owners are an incredibly passionate group of people who want to share their gifts and classes with as many people as possible across multiple demographics. They have been resilient and innovative over the past few years and, as a result, can support more people than ever before.
“If it were not for migrating to Walla I would not have had the gumption or fortitude to build out the software for a second studio. You guys make me feel supported. You make it easy for me to grow. Best business decision I ever made!” – Meghan Kinsey, Motivate Barre & Nutrition
About Laura Munkholm, President and Co-founder of Walla, a powerful, all-in-one studio fitness studio software company built to transform how boutique fitness studio owners take control of their everyday operations. As a woman in tech with over two decades of industry experience, Laura co-founded Walla to make business management easy and efficient—and create an empowering environment of success, well-being, and growth. Laura is also a lifelong athlete, yogi, book junkie, and live music lover. She resides in San Diego with her husband, daughter, and son.