How BNPL Enables Affordable Fitness
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Deep Dive: Buy Now, Exercise Now, Pay Later

Exercise can help individuals maintain both their physical and mental health, and there are myriad options available for fitness beginners and enthusiasts alike. These range from extreme sports events like Spartan Races and triathlons to high-end luxury classes like SoulCycle — or simply having a bench press in one’s garage.

All options cost money, however, and high price tags on gear, classes or personalized training plans can deter individuals from achieving their health goals. Many are thus turning to BNPL solutions to finance their personal fitness quests, especially as gyms close in response to COVID-19.

The following Deep Dive examines BNPL options’ emerging popularity for home exercise equipment purchases, as well as how the fitness industry’s growing expenses have driven many individuals — especially millennials — to invest in home gyms.

Fitness Buffs’ Financial Crunches

Millennials could be the most fitness-oriented generation the world has seen, with 76 percent of them reporting that they exercise at least once a week. This compares to just 70 percent of Generation Xers and 64 percent of baby boomers who say the same. This fitness propensity has innumerable health benefits, including stress relief. A 2019 study from Fidelity and the Stanford University Center For Longevity found that individuals experience four stressful life events annually, but that exercise reduces their impact. A Journal of the American Osteopathic Association study supported this assertion, finding that exercising in groups reduces perceived stress levels by 26.2 percent.

Exercise options’ often hefty costs can put a damper on this enthusiasm, however. One study found that average monthly fitness expenses top $155, which equates to $112,000 over a lifetime. This price tag is more than a four-year public college degree — which currently clocks in at $98,440 on average — and includes both gym memberships and fitness classes like Pilates or spin. Factoring in luxury options like Equinox or SoulCycle causes prices to rise even more.

The COVID-19 outbreak and government response urging citizens to stay indoors are also driving individuals to work out in their homes. Gyms across the country — including chains like 24-Hour Fitness, Equinox and Planet Fitness — have shut down, either voluntarily or by mandate, forcing fitness enthusiasts to seek alternative options. Social distancing guidelines are driving even those switching to outdoor activities like hiking or running to move indoors, as the growing popularity of exercise has made it impossible to stay isolated on popular routes or trails.

Some gyms are turning to streaming workout classes, but members can find it difficult to take part in such activities from home. These classes often require access to machines or equipment that chains would normally provide, which could also lead members to make costly purchases.

How BNPL Solutions Bring the Gyms Home

Monthly gym and fitness class memberships can be pricey, but home gym solutions are not necessarily cheaper. Rowing machines, stationary bikes and treadmills can cost anywhere from $800 for basic models to more than $5,000 for high-end machines featuring mounted TVs or heart rate displays. Some luxury brands, like indoor cycling equipment provider Peloton, even include monthly subscriptions to live classes and leaderboards showcasing fellow riders’ workouts.

Sticker shock has driven many individuals to turn to BNPL products for their fitness-related purchases, with options available from both machine manufacturers and third-party solution providers. Peloton provides exercise equipment payment plans ranging from $58 to $70 per month over 39 months, for example, while home gym provider Bowflex offers similar BNPL options over 18 months for its workout machines. Meanwhile, BNPL solutions firm Afterpay has partnered with athleisure companies like Flex-N-Flex, Gymshark and Versus to enable them to offer payment plans for workout clothing.

BNPL financing options can also be good for consumers’ financial health, as they do not affect credit scores the way many payment cards do. They can be helpful for those who want to keep up with their fitness goals, but individuals must use them responsibly to avoid significant debt from overuse. U.K.-based debt advice provider PayPlan cautions BNPL users to pay off all debts on time by prioritizing spending on existing loans rather than buying new items. Doing so can allow customers to continue enjoying the benefits of BNPL options without paying excessive loan interest.

The global population is increasingly staying indoors to avoid COVID-19’s effects, but the mental and physical health benefits of regular exercise should not be understated. BNPL solutions — when used responsibly — can offer convenient solutions to help fitness enthusiasts achieve their goals at home.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.