New yorkers like their speakeasies and corner bistros. but they also like to pack tightly into studios where they pay $35 to balance against a ballet bar. and while the plight of restaurants and bars has rightly been a focus, gyms and fitness centres in the big apple are in equally big trouble.

Last week two new york exercise mainstays, town sports (the parent of new york sports club) and flywheel sports, filed for bankruptcy protection, with the latter planning to liquidate. despondent messages from trainers flooded social media.

The failures are unsurprising given the strict lockdown in americas biggest city. town sports, for example, has just reported first-quarter results. its revenues to the end of march, with only a few weeks of the health crisis under way, were down 16 per cent.

Chart showing peloton quarterly workouts (000s), and requests for walking routes on apple maps.

The natural question then is to ask if new yorkers have been working up a sweat on their own.

Fitbit, the maker of fitness trackers, reported in late march that recorded steps fell in the early days of the pandemic by nearly 20 per cent in both new york and san francisco. and it still seems to be the case that fewer new yorkers are leaving their homes on foot.

Apple tracks mobility methods using requests for directions via public transit, walking or cars. while driving trends are now above apples baseline levels from january, a rolling seven-day average of walking is off 20 per cent. public transit usage is even off more sharply. part of that could be explained by both affluent new yorkers decamping elsewhere and those remaining simply being less active.

Clearly, diy fitness has filled some of the void left by closed gyms and cancelled exercise classes. peloton fitness, maker of the connected bikes, has seen its shares nearly triple this year. in the quarter between april and the end of june, the number of total workouts on its machines jumped 75 per cent. as the summer unfolded, americans also took to outdoor recreation including weights and cardio sessions in parks and playgrounds.

While that was a boon to sporting goods retailers and fitness instructors going freelance, gyms and studios were ravaged. a lot of damage has been done to the citys innovative but pricey fitness scene. and unlike how grocery and takeout have substituted for restaurant dining, there is no necessity to replace physical fitness.

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