Rise of pandemic home gyms in Singapore

Mr Ken Tan felt that it was safer to exercise at home during the pandemic. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - When Mr Ken Tan moved from a four-room Housing Board flat into a two-storey terrace house in September last year, he converted one of the rooms into a gym.

He cancelled his boxing and gym memberships and decided it was an opportune time to set up a home gym as he moved to a bigger place.

The 40-year-old, who is a solid wood craftsman, also felt that it was safer to exercise at home during the pandemic.

"I used to travel to two different gyms - one for combat training and another for weight lifting - and it took up a lot of time.

"Compared with a gym outside, it is also safer to work out at home now especially during the pandemic," says Mr Tan, who is married and has no children.

The fitness buff has spent about $8,000 decking out his 140 sq ft gym with equipment such as a free weights machine, full squat rack, water rowing machine, double-end bag and workout bench.

Sales of exercise equipment have soared during the pandemic as more people like Mr Tan work out in the comfort of their homes and keep themselves safe from possible exposure to Covid-19.

Sports retailer Decathlon Singapore recorded a 190 per cent spike in sales of cross-training bands and toning bands from January to July this year, and a 57 per cent increase in sales of dumbbells, kettlebells and weight sets in the same period.

From May 8 to 30 this year, during the phase 3 heightened alert when gyms and fitness studios were closed, there was a 290 per cent increase in the sales of cross-training and bodybuilding sport equipment.

Commenting on the surge, Mr Mave Goh, commercial leader at Decathlon Singapore, says: "We have been experiencing a heightened alert phase for the majority of the year, causing many gyms and studios to close. Hence, people are more willing to invest in home equipment that they can easily use during this period."

The most popular items, he adds, are smaller ones such as resistance bands and dumbbells as these are cheaper and easier to fit in one's home.

Training bands, such as resistance and glute bands, cost between $7 and $20, while dumbbells are priced between $12 and $65.

Another reason for the popularity of smaller equipment could be due to the Government's advisory to avoid strenuous exercise for two weeks after getting the Covid-19 jabs, adds Mr Goh.

"People would then prefer to start off their fitness routine with simple exercises instead. Picking up smaller and affordable equipment has been an effective and convenient way to stay active."

Mr Chen You Soon, co-founder of Gymsportz, a sporting goods store, noted an average increase of 20 to 30 per cent in sales of home gym equipment since May last year.

His customers are mostly working adults aged 25 to 40. Some, he says, opt for a compact set-up consisting of a bench, mat and a pair of dumbbells, which costs about $380.

Those who want a more comprehensive set-up of both strength and cardiovascular workout equipment can buy a treadmill, spin bike, bench, mat and pair of dumbbells, which cost about $3,380 in total.

Apart from the unpredictability of gym closures, Mr Chen says people also buy equipment to supplement their workouts at home, including virtual workouts.

Mr Keith Chiang, co-founder of exercise equipment shop HomeGym, says there has been an increase in sales, especially for its space-saving range, which caters to homes with limited space.

At HomeGym, sales of workout equipment in the first half of this year was 21 per cent higher than the second half of last year.

Popular items include spin bikes, treadmills, power racks, multi-functional trainers, dumbbells and weights.

A treadmill can cost between $600 and $4,500, while a power rack - including weights, a bench and mats - can cost $1,000 to $2,500.

HomeGym's Mr Chiang says women tend to buy cardiovascular equipment such as spin bikes and rowers, while men usually get strength training items such as weight machines and barbell sets.

He also sees young couples buying a mix of equipment to convert rooms in their new Build-To-Order flats into gyms.

"There has been a change in lifestyle among people as most are staying at home, so this gives them a chance to improve their fitness and health from the comfort of their home," he says.

Lawyer Margaux Ith, 28, bought a spin bike from rhythm cycling studio Absolute Cycle in April last year when classes stopped during the circuit breaker. She spent $3,900 on the bike and a one-year subscription of rhythm cycling videos from the studio to continue pedalling at home.

Ms Marguax Ith with all of her home gym equipment. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

She and her husband, a 30-yearold tech executive and avid weightlifter, also used some space in the balcony and study of their three-bedroom condominium to put together a gym with equipment worth $5,000.

The couple, who have no children, bought items such as weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, a workout bench and a yoga mat from online shopping platforms Shopee and Carousell.

Despite the space constraint, Ms Ith says they made a "judgment call" to set up the workout space as they did not want their fitness routines to be affected by gym closures.

Ms Ith, for instance, says it can be hard to pull away from the desk when working from home, so having a spin bike right next to where she works is convenient.

She is also less concerned about what she wears during her workouts as she does not need to colour-coordinate her outfits, saving her time. "It has worked out to be a good investment," she says.

Mr Tan, who trains six days a week in his two-storey terrace house, says it is more hygienic for him to work out at home.

"There is also no need to train with a mask on at home nor worry about potential exposure to Covid-19 in the gym, which makes the workout experience much more comfortable," he says.

Most popular fitness gear for the home

Cross-training and body-building equipment are popular with most customers at Decathlon.

But men buy up to three times more equipment than women, says Mr Mave Goh, commercial leader of Decathlon Singapore.

Popular purchases among men include the weights bench, which costs $170, as well as workout or elastic bands with resistance levels of 25kg, 35kg and 45kg, which cost between $7 and $20.

As for women, Mr Goh says those aged 37 to 42 are the brand's biggest purchasers of cross-training and body-building equipment.

Products women opt for are the Ab Wheel with Evolving Mat ($30) and Suspension Trainers ($20). The ab wheel gives the abdominal area a deep workout, while the suspension trainers help with strength training.

At sporting goods store Gymsportz, some opt for a compact set-up consisting of a bench, a mat and pair of dumbbells, which costs about $380, says its co-founder Chen You Soon.

Those who want a more comprehensive set-up of both strength and cardio workout equipment can buy a treadmill, a spin bike, a pair of dumbbells, a bench and a mat. This amounts to about $3,380.

At HomeGym, an exercise equipment shop, popular items such as dumbbells and weights cost $50 to $1,000, while a multi-functional trainer - including weights, a bench and mats - can cost between $2,000 and $6,000.

Mr Keith Chiang, co-founder of HomeGym, says women tend to buy equipment for cardio workouts such as spin bikes, priced from $800 to $3,800, as well as rowers, which cost between $480 and $2,400.

Men usually buy strength training equipment such as weight machines. According to the HomeGym website, a compact weight machine can cost $329, while a more extensive one can cost up to $9,000.

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