Americans bulk up on home gym equipment to stay fit while staying at home

(Reuters) - Once the coronavirus pandemic forced her Orangetheory gym to close, Chiaki Osaka was eager to stay in shape while staying inside her home in Cupertino, California.

She had her heart set on an exercise bike from Peloton, known for its high-tech equipment and virtual classes, but they were temporarily sold out. However, she was able to find a Schwinn equivalent from Amazon.

“I was afraid to, one, get out of shape, and, two, I’m staying inside and working on my computer all day,” Osaka said. “I needed a change, and I needed structure to my life.”

With millions of Americans staying home, demand has soared for fitness equipment to create home gyms - both as a way to stay fit and to relieve stress.

The NPD Group reported fitness equipment sales rose 130% in March from a year ago. Sales of exercise bikes were up 170%, free weights up 181%, and benches up 259%, according to the market research company.

Freelance journalist Hoda Emam in San Francisco bought a trampoline to keep her three kids under the age of five occupied.

“The kids were waking up in the morning with a ton of energy,” Emam said. “Under normal circumstances, they would go to school or preschool, and we did not have a way to get out all this pent-up energy.”

Now, she and her husband can focus on work.

In the coronavirus era, companies are shifting gears, said Ryan McGrotty, co-founder of Rep Fitness, a fitness equipment supplier in Denver.

“A lot of the companies that had previously specialized in commercial equipment are now starting to market things towards the home gym market,” McGrotty said. “I think a lot of companies, if they want to survive, that’s honestly going to be the way that they have to go, at least for the next year or so.”

McGrotty declined to give numbers, but said his company was seeing demand that “exceeds Black Friday levels, every day since March 13.”

Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Rosalba O’Brien