Coronavirus: We can work it out

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Hello Quartz readers,

Since mid-March, Quartz employees around the world have been working remotely, meeting virtually, and growing intimately familiar with one wall in each of our colleagues’ homes.

We also crowdsource tips on staying active without access to gyms, and keeping mobile without an office to meander around. Quartz CEO Zach Seward starts every day with a walk; editorial audience director Phoebe Gavin planks during meetings (truly). As a company, we now kick off all-hands gatherings with stretches and jumping jacks.

We’re far from alone. Stay-at-home orders sent the fitness industry online at breakneck speed, and that shift will be tested as lockdowns wind down (as will the appetite for crowded, sweaty, brick-and-mortar gyms). So today we’re talking home fitness.

If you want to do something productive without lifting a finger (okay, one finger), how about sharing Need to Know with a friend, family member, colleague, personal trainer, or workout buddy? Newsletter forwarding burns calories. That’s, uh, science.

Let’s get started.

Spinning your wheels

Back in November, Peloton—then a newly public company—aired a commercial featuring a woman who came to be known as “Peloton wife.” In the 30-second spot, she receives a surprise Peloton bike from a man we presume to be her Peloton husband, then a year later surprises him with a video documenting her journey from nervous newbie to forever-changed rider.

Viewers did not like this ad. At best it was awkward, at worst it was dystopian and sexist. Peloton’s stock dipped 15% as detractors on social media roasted the company.  Peloton didn’t exactly apologize, but told CNBC “we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial.”

A few months later, Covid-19 put the world on lockdown, and suddenly a Peloton didn’t seem like such a bad gift after all. When Peloton reported earnings for the quarter ending on March 31, CFO Jill Woodworth said the company couldn’t make bikes as fast as people were buying them, and that orders continue to be backlogged in every region.

Had you bought Peloton stock on Dec. 5, for $31.31 a share, it would be worth about $43 a share now, making Peloton one of the top-performing stocks of the pandemic. Only 10 US-listed stocks have done better, mostly healthcare and tech companies such as Moderna, which began testing a coronavirus vaccine in March, and video-chatting platform Zoom.

Image for article titled Coronavirus: We can work it out

The brink of a global recession might seem like an odd time for the maker of a $2,245 stationary bike to shine, but Peloton executives will tell you that a stationary bike is not, in fact, its primary product. Instead, the company is pushing Peloton Digital, an app membership that offers non-cycling on-demand classes including yoga, cardio, and audio running programs with its beloved instructors via an app.

Peloton CEO John Foley has described Digital as a funnel for the company’s broader business, where “digital members fall in love with the classes, the instructors, and the community.” And now it’s giving away this entry-level offer—which usually costs $12.99 per month—for free for 90 days, the most aggressive of the many free workout subscription trials now available.

No one can hear your muscles scream

☝️That quick spin is one of many stories from Quartz’s Jenni Avins on the rise of home fitness. In fact, we’re so into this topic that we wrote a whole field guide on it. Here’s the TLDR:

1️⃣ Amid stay-at-home orders, the fitness industry has moved online rapidly, and the competition for home exercisers’ attention has never been more fierce. 2️⃣ Well-established—and well-funded—players, including Peloton, are using the moment to attract new customers with free trials. 3️⃣ Studios, influencers, and instructors that cultivate personal connections with their clients are more likely to make it. 4️⃣ Those connections help fitness businesses compete with the free universe of workouts on social media. 5️⃣ Even when restrictions lift, the fitness industry will be forever changed.

Our full guide to the home fitness boom (✦) is available with a Quartz membership, which unlike a gym membership loses no value during lockdown. Join now with a seven-day free trial.

A history of gains

Even before Covid-19, home fitness represented roughly a quarter of the $11.5 billion global fitness equipment market, and some modes of exercise have roots that stretch back centuries.

600 BC: The Indian physician Susruta issues the first known prescription for moderate daily exercise as an antidote to diabetes and obesity, advising patients to walk, run, swim, or play sports until they noticed a “sense of weariness from bodily labor,” according to Charles Tipton, a physiology professor at the University of Arizona.

1796: Francis Lowndes, a London-based “medical electrician,” is awarded a patent “for a new-invented Machine for exercising the Joints and Muscles of the Human Body.” He calls his prototypical home exercise machine the Gymnasticon.

1890: Vigor’s “Horse-Action Saddle” promises users the health benefits of horse riding without the messy inconvenience of leaving the house or owning an actual horse.

1922: A Chicago entrepreneur named Wallace Rogerson records a phonograph album called “Get Thin to Music” that talks listeners through a series of home exercises.

1948: Cleveland’s WEWS television station hires a television personality named Paige Palmer to host a daily fitness TV show, the first of its kind in the US.

1984: The US Federal Communications Commission lifts regulations on ad length, and the infomercial is born. The medium thrives on self-improvement products, including home fitness gear like the Thighmaster (slogan: “We may not have been born with great legs, but now we can look like we were.”)

Choose your own adventure

Your fitness regime most resembles which Quartz employee’s home workout:

🏋️ Phoebe, with the planking

🚶 Zach, with the walking

🧘 Jenni, with the yoga

🛋️ Susan, with the Netflixing

We’d love to know more. Tell us: ✉️ How are you staying active?

🏙 In a previous email, we asked if you felt like cities are losing their appeal48% of you said cities won’t lose their luster, 23% of you predicted a mass exodus, and 29% thought it was too soon to tell.

Keeping it brief

Lastly, a workout for your brain. Quartz’s coronavirus living briefing is updated every business day with information on how Covid-19 is affecting major aspects of the global economy. Members get access to the entire briefing, but the newest updates are available to all readers. Here’s what we’ve been watching recently:

💉 Vaccination: The US government awarded $1.2 billion to UK-based AstraZeneca to speed up the development of a vaccine and reserve 400 million doses—even though the vaccine may never exist.

💳 Finance: Stock prices for the banking giants have leveled off after plunging in April as the number of Covid-19 cases increased exponentially and lockdowns ensued.

✈️ Travel: EasyJet will resume some flights across the UK and France next month. The airline says it will introduce sanitary measures, but continue to fill middle seats.

💰Economy: The percentage of borrowers who were falling behind their debts fell in April. The divergence between a crumbling economy and overdue debts probably comes down to forbearance from lenders.

Essential reading

Our best wishes for a healthy day. Get in touch with us at, and live your best Quartz life by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Jenni Avins, Corinne Purtill, Susan Howson, Max Lockie, David Yanofsky, and Kira Bindrim.