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Live Streaming and Fitness: Virtual Workouts in Singapore

The world is currently under a pandemic with COVID-19 taking the lives of thousands worldwide. It has led Singapore and many other countries to take preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease. This has led to Singapore imposing “circuit breaker” measures, which would close many businesses unless they are deemed essential services, and restricting public movements and gatherings. Fitness facilities of any kind are not deemed essential businesses, and this has caused no small amount of inconvenience to gym goers and fitness enthusiasts. Some may have home gym setups and are much less affected, while others rely heavily on gym equipment and pool facilities. However, there is a commonality among these people, and that is the live streaming Singapore of workout sessions in order to substitute what they have lost.

Live streaming fitness and exercise in general is nothing new in Singapore, spanning from the time of television/DVD-based workouts in the 90s. The trend now is fast catching on with mobile live streaming Singapore, and more so in recent times with the “Circuit breaker” providing a catalyst due to restrictions on movement and closure of fitness facilities. Google trend data shows a sharp and robust spike in queries for live streaming fitness in Singapore. As we adapt to the changing times, this method of convenience may have a profound impact on how people choose to pursue their fitness goals.

Benefits of Live Streaming Fitness Workouts

In addition, virtual workouts appeal to individuals who are intimidated by the gym environment or find it difficult to work out around others. Live streaming workouts can be done in the privacy of one’s home, and individuals are not visible to others, which may make it more comfortable for some people. It is also a good option for older adults or individuals with chronic health conditions who are at higher risk for COVID-19, as it allows them to remain active from home without putting themselves at risk.

Moreover, the recent COVID-19 situation has resulted in lockdowns and a reduction in outdoor activity, which has made it difficult for people to maintain their fitness, especially when the gyms were closed. A study revealed that during a lockdown earlier this year, only 20.8% of participants met the minimum physical activity recommendations set by the WHO of 150 minutes per week. Whether we like it or not, the situation with COVID-19 is ongoing, and there may be future lockdowns, so the ability to work out at home through virtual workouts is an option that will enable people to keep active.

Engagement in regular physical activity has numerous benefits for physical and emotional health. Convenience is often a key factor in why people do not engage in physical activity. For instance, lack of time is cited as one of the key reasons people give for not exercising regularly. Engaging in virtual workouts at home provides a level of convenience which is hard to beat. It is not necessary to spend time traveling to the gym, and a workout can be fitted in around other commitments at a time to suit the individual.

Convenience

Convenience would be a major factor for parents or guardians who are looking to workout. They would need to keep an eye on their children and with the latest kiddies nap time being the only free time left in the day, they would not be able to attend a workout class or head out to the gym as it would take too much time. An online workout session would be perfect for them as they can easily keep an ear out for their children and rush off to attend to them should the need arise.

The main appeal of virtual workout sessions or live streaming workout sessions would be that of convenience. Convenience in terms of the time and effort taken to attend a workout. Many of us here would find it a hassle to travel to and from the gym just to attend a workout. It is time-consuming and in between work and rushing to get daily chores done, you might not even have the time to prepare and pack your gear, head to the gym, and then head home and get cleaned up. With an online workout session, you can easily save on the traveling time, as all you would need is to turn on your computer and start the session. This would also be a great motivation for those of you who do not enjoy working out, as this would be one less excuse to not workout.

Variety of Workout Options

In addition to this, fitness services that offer a wide array of exercise options allow individuals to switch to or sample an alternative exercise if they find the current one too challenging or too easy. This is an important feature for beginners who may need to build stamina before trying a high-intensity workout. It prevents the common occurrence of people giving up on an exercise because they may find it too difficult.

Live streaming fitness programs with an array of exercise options provide the best opportunity for novelty, simply because conventional static exercise DVDs inherently lack variety. An example of a site which provides such options is Wello. Wello has a feature that allows users to select group-based classes or private sessions in various disciplines like yoga, pilates, weight training, and even martial arts. Given the growing interest in mind-body exercises in Asia, this is a viable option for someone who is looking to try yoga or pilates for the first time.

Prior research in the field of physical activity participation and adherence has consistently shown that enjoyment is an influential determinant of exercise behaviour. The enjoyment of any particular exercise is contingent on the individual’s own personality and the activity itself. But one of the key factors that affect the enjoyment of an exercise is its novelty. In the context of a fitness workout, novelty may be achieved through variations in the intensity, duration, or mode of the exercise.

For a typical gym goer in Singapore, one of the problems with working out is that the exercises may become repetitive and monotonous. Apart from the personal trainers that offer encouragement and helpful guidance, exercising in a gym may prove to be an unexciting yet necessary chore. To counter this, the Singapore Institute of Management’s Campus Sports and Recreation Club introduced Hip Hop classes to make exercising less of a chore. This is exactly the kind of result that the fitness community in Singapore is looking for.

Flexibility in Scheduling

Having touched on the point earlier that time is often a luxury for most people, it is highly advantageous if one can have the flexibility to workout at any time of the day. Live streaming workouts give us this function. Whether you are a mother who has just put your child to sleep or a corporate high-flyer with unpredictable work hours, having the option to exercise at any time of your choosing will actually increase the likelihood of you being consistent with your fitness regime. Imagine being able to avoid the peak hour traffic after work and still having the option of doing an exercise class in the comfort of your home. In comparison to actually getting to the location of a physical gym or exercise class, this is unmatched convenience.

When it comes to fitness, it’s not uncommon for people to have really good intentions about wanting to get fit. They may even go to the extent of purchasing gym memberships or expensive fitness equipment that will further convince them to carry through with their plan. However, in most cases, such efforts are often short-lived as many realize that they may not have the luxury of time to follow through on their original fitness goals due to the demands of modern living. It is an undeniable fact that work takes up the majority of our waking hours and when you factor in things like household chores, taking care of children and social obligations, it is often difficult to carve a specific timing to head to the gym for a workout.

Popular Live Streaming Fitness Platforms in Singapore

This information was generated in the hopes of providing citizens with a convenient and comprehensive guide that will enable them to make an informed decision as to the choice of platform best suited to their needs in this trying period.

The information for each platform has been extracted from the respective organisations’ official website press releases and media articles, and they are rated in several categories: specs, ease of use, user satisfaction, and content.

These platforms, with the exception of NCS, are heavily invested in helping to improve the health and wellness of Singaporeans and are thus primarily concerned with managing the COVID-19 situation by providing citizens with ways to work on their fitness from the safety of their homes.

There are a multitude of live streaming fitness platforms available for the residents of Singapore. This section will focus on the platforms of four organisations: Sport Singapore, NCS, ActiveSG, and the People’s Association.

Platform A

During the COVID-19 period, Platform A made the right move by conducting outdoor fitness classes instead of indoor classes. It has been beneficial for the company to slowly transition into conducting their classes online as the outdoor class already gives the same result as an indoor class with all the equipment shifted and spaced out, with less than 5 people at once and zero physical contact. From May onwards, the company has conducted live stream classes in place of the outdoor classes. With a good knowledge of how to conduct a class online and an effective system to run the class, Platform A received good response for its online classes. Platform A wants to continue running the online classes, placing it as an option for participants who either have difficulty traveling to indoor locations, if there are any, or just prefer doing it at their own time. Online classes also allow the company to reach out to new potential clients who are not from Singapore. Platform A aims to upgrade its system for the live classes in time to come. With fitness being essential, it’s good to have a long-term online option for the public even after the COVID-19 period, which may still carry on for 1-2 years. This will allow clients to better interact with the instructors and vice versa.

Platform A has been conducting live stream classes for quite some time. It has an instructor based in Singapore who frequently uploads YouTube workout videos. It joined the fitness association in 2010 and has a group of reputable fitness trainers. Platform A only conducts 2-3 classes daily and staggers them throughout the day. It conducts a morning class around 9-10am and an evening class at 7:30pm. There is a members’ tier with a one-time 14-day free trial for new joiners. Classes are done on a 2-way interactive 3rd party app where instructors can give live feedback to participants. An email link will be sent to participants for them to join the class. Platform A has a good ratio of instructors to participants as it uses a more effective and costly system to run the class.

Platform B

Platform B adopts a simple and widely accessible approach to live streaming. Common tools such as mobile phone cameras, laptops and existing social media are used as the means to connect with group members. Video contents are typically shot in a single take with minimal editing and feature familiar surroundings within the neighbourhood. Viewers are often urged to join in the exercises together at the same time as the instructor. In comparison to professionally conducted fitness programmes and larger scale virtual workouts (Platforms C/D), the less financially viable platform B faces less public exposure and is often overlooked when opportunities to promote public health initiatives arise, hence receiving minimal support from national health organisations.

This platform, largely made up of social groups based in specific localities, often operates at neighbourhood community centres or sports facilities. As geographical proximity forms the common denominator in this platform’s social construct, the interactions among individuals within each locality tend to be stronger and more intimate. A Singaporean Chinese focus group participant described this platform in the following way: “In my Neighbourhood ActiveSG (national sports movement) Telegram group, everyone communicates and encourages one another, including middle-aged uncles and aunties who want to improve or maintain their health” (Participant FGG1). These interactions can continue beyond the live stream session itself to include leisure sports activities (badminton, table tennis, etc.) and walks or jogs around nearby parks. The platform leader, usually someone already familiar among community residents due to a current occupation (e.g. grass cutter at the local school, part-time coach), thus takes on the role of an organiser or coordinator rather than a fitness instructor. As this leadership role is often voluntary or comes with a meagre allowance, cost is generally not an issue for participants.

Platform C

The workouts will be conducted by experienced instructors and at times led by some of C’s national athletes. An 8-week Flash program has been developed and 8 pm will be the prime time to tune in.

An extensive sports science-based approach has been used to plan and create these workouts, with the utilization of various training systems, which include specific use of energy systems and muscle groups, and also enhancing fitness traits such as strength, power, and endurance. This will ensure that there is a method to the programming and the effects of these workouts can be measured to provide progression.

This platform joins in the recent partnership between C company and Z company, and utilizes the latest technology. Viewers will be able to watch the workouts live from their mobile devices as well as on a TV screen, and with a new mirroring feature, be able to simulate the workouts on a larger screen at home. Steps are also in place to ensure viewers will be able to watch these workouts in offline mode as well.

The C platform is the latest development by C company, who has a very strong identity characterized by high energy, aesthetic savvy, and an unrelenting strive for perfection. This platform aims to target a wide audience with general fitness enthusiasts as well as those who have an athletic background, and engage them in workouts that are versatile, challenging, effective yet efficient. They aim to be the industry leader for live workouts in Singapore and have taken steps in their development to ensure they are the trendsetters.

Platform D

“What I really liked was the videographer had done several camera setups to capture different angles, such as front view, side view, and close-up, to better visualize how the exercise is done,” said Wayne, a regular client of Pilates Flow as he reflects on a live streaming special class he did.

Other platforms that are not used as often include live streaming from physical locations like Platform D. They have videographers who are using professional cameras which are capable of live streaming and video editing so they can do take and retakes of the exercise program. The final video will be edited and can be replayed many times. An example would be a company like Pilates Flow who has live streaming a special class for their regular clients from their studio and then sending the video link to the client so they can do the class as many times as they want for the next few weeks. This type of live streaming has excellent quality videos but not as interactive as the previously mentioned platforms. The video can be replayed and redone many times, but using the special class as an example, the regular clients can still communicate with the instructor and ask questions about the program when they next meet.

Tips for a Successful Live Streaming Fitness Experience

Live streaming the workout experience grants the capability of interacting with instructors and other participants. A common setback for people who have done exercise using pre-recorded material is that they feel as though they are doing it all alone. Most people are self-conscious and hate to have an instructor hovering over their heads. What makes live-streamed exercises more effective is that if the going gets tough for the participant, they can communicate with both the instructor and other participants to get instant feedback and motivation. This, in turn, is a win-win situation. The participant feels more involved in a group atmosphere while still being comfortable in their own skin.

Adequate workout space is a necessity to run a smooth workout stream. You do not want to be stumbling upon items in a confined space, and nor do you want to be too far away from the device. The camera should focus on the instructor to give a clear vision of what the class is about; having too much space will make the instructor difficult to see. An enclosed area at least 2x2m should be sufficient space for the camera and the participant to move around freely. A solid-colored wall as a background is also beneficial to adding quality to the stream.

Streaming a fitness class can be achieved using a computer, phone, or tablet device. Choosing the right device to stream your exercise is anyone’s best guess. However, the main concern should be whether the device supports the platform you are using to stream the exercise. Most devices do support Flash, Java, or Adobe Media Live Encoder. Devices that support one of these platforms should be more than enough to run the exercise. You might want to conduct a test stream to see whether your internet upload speed can handle the traffic rate. A common mistake made by many streamers is that they ignore the fact that they are also downloading data from the internet. Dividing the internet speed in 2 (download and upload) will determine your total accessible speed. An upload speed of at least 512kbps is the minimum requirement to have a successful stream. Always compare your internet connection to your device to ensure the stream is running smoothly.

Ensure Stable Internet Connection

A stable internet connection is never a guarantee; sometimes there are unexpected technical difficulties or internet outages. Remember to exchange contact information with your workout instructor so that you can easily notify him/her if there is an issue connecting to the session.

Instead of opening your computer and attempting to connect directly into a live streaming workout, ensure that you have a stable internet connection. If you are connecting wirelessly, try using an Ethernet connection instead so that your signal strength is stronger and less susceptible to internet lags and delays. Using an Ethernet connection can be as simple as locating an Ethernet adapter for your laptop, plugging one end into the adapter and the other into your router. This simple step can significantly increase your connection speed and enhance your virtual workout experience. Having multiple internet applications or programs open during your session can also decrease your connection speed. Close any extra applications on your computer to free up bandwidth and increase the quality of your internet connection.

Prepare Adequate Workout Space

If there are multiple classes being held in your home at the same time, families can create separate workout spaces if enough room allows. This will provide the best audio and visual experience for each participant.

Also, keep in mind the safety of those living with you. Try and find a location to workout where you will be out of the way of normal foot traffic in the house. This will lower the chance of collisions with family members and pets. Working out in the garage is a good option.

Keep in mind that live streaming fitness classes are meant to be engaging and practical to enhance your at-home fitness experience. Lay out your exercise mat and weights in a location where you will be able to see and hear the instructor. If you can’t adequately hear the instructor, it may be difficult to follow form correction and instruction for exercises. This may result in an unsafe movement pattern, diminishing the effectiveness of the exercise and possibly exacerbating or causing an injury. Completing an exercise in the wrong way repeatedly will only strengthen the improper movement pattern potentially making it more difficult to correct in the future.

Interact with Instructors and Other Participants

A sense of interaction and community is created with a routine fixed schedule. It allows participants to recognize familiar individuals in the session and will eventually lead to the setup of “workout buddies” among the participants. These “buddies” can create their own miniature workout groups and plan their program, share experiences, and motivate each other on and off the internet. This is the ultimate long-term goal in creating a sharing community to aid one another in achieving their fitness goals.

The beauty of a live streaming exercise session compared to a pre-recorded session is that it is live. A simple yet overlooked advantage is the fact that it creates a routine to set aside a fixed time and day for the exercise session. This creates a sense of commitment to a fitness program. A fixed schedule also allows participants to plan their day ahead and get a fix on what time to start their session and to prepare for the session, hence maximizing the physical and mental benefits of the exercise program.

Interaction between participating individuals has always been a key element in exercise activities, regardless of indoor or outdoor situations. Interaction creates a sense of belonging and a sharing community, which is crucial in aiding individuals in achieving long-term fitness goals. In a virtual world, the key to interaction is communication. Participants may communicate with their instructors or other participants via phone calls, emails, or even the use of chat rooms. However, the best form of communication would be one where there is instant feedback, whether it be a query or a response. This can only be achieved in a live two-way audio interaction.

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