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The sad tale of home workout gear

The covid-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented spurt in the sale of home workout gear. From cycles to dumbbells, do people still use them now?

Do you still use your kettlebell at home?
Do you still use your kettlebell at home? (Istockphoto)

The covid-19 pandemic was responsible for a big wave of fitness enthusiasm across the world. The lockdowns and new work and school routines had left people with a lot of time on their hands. On top of that there was a renewed focus on health and immunity. Together, these two factors led to many taking up exercise and recreational sports activities for the first time in their lives. Those who were already active increased the time they spent on their fitness routines. 

Since all gyms and fitness centres were shut, people bought a lot of equipment and set up their own home gyms. From kettlebells and dumbbells to cycles and resistance bands, people lapped up fitness equipment making it one of the most in-demand categories on all online marketplaces for most of 2020. 

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Three years later, the world has mostly returned to pre-pandemic routines, and last month the World Health Organization declared that covid-19 no longer was a public health emergency, but a mere health issue like any other common ailment. All gyms, fitness studios and sports facilities are also open. So, what happened to all the equipment that was purchased during the pandemic?

Bicycle: There was such a demand for cycles that dealers weren’t able to cope and people had to wait for weeks before they could get their hands on a bike. Barring a few who took to cycling seriously and can still be spotted pedalling away on their upgraded road bikes, most cycles are rusting away. 

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Shalin Mehta, a businessman in Kolkata, was aware that something like this might happen and hence decided to buy a basic Firefox bike instead of an entry level cycle from a serious cycling brand, which costs about three times of what he paid for his cycle. Soon as the traffic on the roads started increasing and the artificial turfs reopened, he stopped cycling and went back to playing cricket and socialising with friends. Over the past two years, the cycle has, at best, been used by his teenaged son to go to tuition or to visit his friends. Mehta’s cycle isn’t the only one that has met this fate.

Kettlebells and dumbbells: This particular pandemic purchase remains very useful and is often used by anyone who bought them. The one big difference between pre and post-pandemic is that a large percentage of people who adopted an active lifestyle during the lockdown have stuck to it. 

These people don’t like to miss too many workouts and actually feel guilty when they do. Both dumbbells and kettlebells are very versatile and can be used for a number of strength workouts, and they are still put to good use whenever work or circumstances leave the gym out of reach.  

Resistance bands: Not as ignored as the cycle, nor as popular as kettlebells and dumbbells, resistance bands fall somewhere in between. Business and leisure travel has returned with a vengeance, and those who are reluctant to let go of training completely while on the road put these to good use. Easy to pack, these remain a great accessory for any kind of resistance training as they are a decent substitute for weights.  

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Weighted vests: This is a very popular accessory among the CrossFit community. During the pandemic, many enthusiastically bought these as they didn’t have access to any weights. It remains a very versatile exercise accessory to this day, but with the pandemic firmly in the past and all weights and machines accessible again, the weighted vest, like my own, is pretty much a dead weight gathering dust in the storeroom. 

Pull-up bars: One didn’t need a pandemic to install a pull-up bar on their door frame. But the pandemic definitely made the trend more popular. But ultimately, these have just fallen into disuse, mostly because home workouts have fizzled out. They are likely still stuck in the door frame but used more to hang things than for pull-ups.   

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Indoor connected exercise bikes: The Peloton bike was so popular by the time the pandemic hit that its demand and the company’s share prices both skyrocketed in 2020. This led to a few connected smart exercise bikes being launched in India during the pandemic. 

On-demand video workouts and the flexibility and convenience of doing your workouts at a time and location of your choice made these stationary exercise bikes ideal for the pandemic. Since the world has reopened most people have opted for exercise outside of their homes, making these bikes a mere private screen to stream content from your phones.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.      

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