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Asia's boom in virtual fitness may lack endurance

Online exercise is popular but will the sector outlast the pandemic?

A trainer for the F45 Fitness chain leads a virtual class in Hong Kong. (Courtesy of F45 Fitness)

DENPASAR, Indonesia -- In March, when Bali's Odyssey MVMT yoga and fitness group temporarily closed its yoga studio, I began attending online classes via the company's website. As lockdowns and social distancing spread I realized I was far from alone in going virtual.

When Japan urged people to stay at home to prevent transmission of COVID-19, about 40,000 senior citizens logged onto YouTube to watch a free workout video produced by a care-home operator featuring simple exercises and stretches demonstrated by models standing and sitting on chairs. The number of viewers was noteworthy, but its reach was tiny compared to "Get Abs in 2 Weeks," by Brunei-born Australian fitness trainer Chloe Ting. Posted on YouTube in August 2019, Ting's video went viral during the pandemic, racking up 222 million views -- part of a worldwide trend that has seen much of the fitness industry go virtual.

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