How Life Time is capitalizing on its major partnership with Apple Fitness Plus and doubling down on digital by investing in original streaming fitness content

  • Life Time is now offering 1,000 live stream classes a week, filmed at 20 of its gym locations.
  • The classes are accessible through the company’s new digital membership program, Life Time Digital. 
  • For $15 monthly, users can also access Apple Fitness Plus, part of an ongoing partnership with the tech giant. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Life Time is taking a cue from its competitors and doubling down on digital to attract new members and carve out an alternative revenue stream during the pandemic. 

The Minnesota-based fitness chain recently expanded its live-streaming capabilities to feature up to 1,000 fitness classes a week including yoga, cycling, strength training, and general cardio. The workouts are accessible through the Life Time Digital app, which for $15 a month also gives users access to Apple Fitness Plus, part of an ongoing partnership first forged between the tech giant and Life Time in December 2020. 

Though Apple Watch has partnered with several fitness companies to expand connected exercise options — including YMCA, Crunch Fitness, Basecamp Fitness, and Orange Theory — Life Time is the first major gym chain to team up on the new subscription platform. 

The classes, which went live on February 1, are led by employees and filmed across more than 20 of Life Time’s 150 gym locations around the country. The digital membership also includes educational components, such as information on nutrition and vitamins. 

According to Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi, while the company had already been working toward building out digital programming in recent years, the onset of the pandemic significantly accelerated the process and shifted internal priorities. 

“We were building our digital platform at a slow to moderate pace in the past years, but the coronavirus and the shutdowns basically pushed demand for technology 10 years forward,” Akradi told Insider. “It was a fast ride, for anybody who was in the digital space. The future is not going to be digital-only. It’s not going to be physical only. The future is going to be omnichannel.” 

Jason Nichols, facilities operation manager, disinfects equipment at the Life Time Biltmore as it re-opens for business in May.Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo

‘We will continue our non-stop efforts on digital’

As the digital fitness boom continues during the pandemic, Life Time’s digital membership is helping the company compete with leading fitness brands like Peloton, at least in terms of digital content. According to Akradi, the app helps position the company as not merely a fitness chain, but also a full-fledged media and entertainment company, turning gyms into studios in the process. 

“From day one, our focus was to build a healthy way of life entertainment and experience company with media and with content designed to evolve to how we live, work, and play,” he said.

Though Life Time had an existing app prior to the debut of its most recent iteration, Akradi said it was not something “to brag about,” noting it was used exclusively by physical gym members and did not feature original content. By the end of 2020, however, the company decided it was ready to go big on digital, solidifying its commitment by becoming Apple’s first major fitness partner. 

Akradi said the effort came on the heels of several years of work with Apple spanning even before the pandemic, as the tech giant started to identify ways to move into the fitness realm.

“There’s been work that’s been going on for a long time in the background on what we can create in this partnership going forward with [Apple] as they decided they wanted to play big in health and we wanted to play massively big in health worldwide,” he said. (Akradi declined to share the current number of Life Time Digital subscribers.)

Life Time also joins fellow gym chains like Planet Fitness in rolling out digital subscriptions for the first time that are available individually from a brick-and-mortar membership, catering to Americans looking to work out at home as the coronavirus outbreak continues. These programs have helped gyms woo new members that may ultimately join physical gyms in the long run, while adding revenue streams amid the pandemic. 

“We basically are accommodating those who want to stay at home and those who want to come to the clubs,” he said. “We intend to be the best healthy way of life company, both digitally and physically. We will absolutely stop at nothing to deliver that.”

Though Akradi remains optimistic that physical gyms will have a major comeback and resurgence as vaccinations increase, he said digital programming will remain a key priority for Life Time as an avenue for widening its consumer base. 

“We will continue our non-stop efforts on digital as well,” he said. “This gives us access to 2 billion people around the world, rather than the 25 or 30 million people that are just near our physical assets.” 

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