Hugo Braam, Co-founder and CEO of Virtuagym

In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Hugo Braam, co-founder and CEO of Virtuagym, a coaching, management and engagement platform for health and fitness companies. Hugo discusses why fitness as a product is fundamentally broken and the future role AI could play in democratising fitness for all.

Introduce our audience to Virtuagym.

Hugo Braam: Virtuagym provides an all-in-one health and fitness software solution for the fitness industry and corporate health market. We support over 9K fitness companies – including Fitness Park, Mrs Sporty, Jetts UK, TrainMore, fit20 and Holmes Place – and more than 45K trainers. A major milestone, our apps have been downloaded over 20M times.

We want to empower fitness businesses and health professionals to maximise their potential through digital tools so they can help people create sustainable lifestyle changes. By providing innovative solutions for management, coaching and engagement, we can help operators improve their client experiences, retention and bottom line.

How did your original business start?

HB: Our company was first created in 2008 by my brother Paul and I as a consumer app utilising digitally driven solutions to help people live healthier, more active lives.

We realised that technology was not impacting fitness industry operations in the same way as other industries. It was too linear and analogue, stuck in its ways and inaccessible. We believed we could change this and develop technology that could make a difference.

The first version of Virtuagym was essentially a consumer-oriented website providing personal training plans and nutrition coaching within a social environment. However, we spotted a real opportunity in supporting fitness businesses and, in 2013, we pivoted to launch Virtuagym as one of the first B2B SaaS solutions in health and fitness coaching. In just two years, we reached 1M app downloads and 1K professional clients.

How have you evolved your ecosystem to modern times?

HB: We have continued to enhance our product and today’s Virtuagym is a flexible all-in-one solution for coaching, club mobile apps, communication, engagement and club management.

We’ve been able to launch innovative products, such as our integrated video workout platform, business analytics, retention planner and, most recently, AI Coach, our first AI-driven product.

An important evolution, we released our corporate wellness solution in 2019 and reacted quickly during the pandemic to launch PRO+, a hybrid, turnkey digital membership and engagement solution, so our clients could keep servicing their customers despite being forced to close their doors.

I believe the future of fitness – and health as a whole – is a connected and holistic one, where fitness clubs and studios integrate with providers to fit their own needs. This is why Virtuagym has an open-platform philosophy; it allows us to seamlessly work with other innovative companies to further enhance our comprehensive tools.

What are the biggest pain points for the post-pandemic fitness industry? And how are you addressing them with new products?

HB: I believe that the product of fitness has been broken for a long time because of its lack of appeal and accessibility for many people.

Technology can be the game-changer – enhancing fitness experiences through proper introductions and supporting better personalisation, engagement and connectivity. The pandemic catalysed greater digital innovation and adoption, effectively lifting the veil on what is possible.

Before the pandemic, the consumer had to adapt their lives for the fitness industry, and that dynamic has been turned on its head. A club member can now engage with their health when, where and how they want to.

The challenge I see now is twofold. First, it’s necessary to keep up with the speed of innovation and ensure that operators – from the biggest fitness chains to single studios and individual personal trainers – understand their options and how to use them.

Secondly, we need to think beyond just making fitness equipment accessible. We should look to deliver informed, targeted and personalised coaching and engagement – driven by technology and automation – to help people develop healthy habits.

We should also continue to encourage operators to integrate automated business management technology for scheduling, booking and more to enhance their efficiency.

Virtuagym is addressing all these pain points with new products, like the aforementioned AI coaching solution for consumers, which will soon be available to our business customers as well. It provides instant, personalised workout plans based on an individual’s statements and questions in a virtual chat.

We’ve also released the latest version of our fitness app, with enhancements to our community and challenge features to help fuel motivation and a sense of belonging for members. Keeping in line with trends, we’ve launched GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring throughout our club mobile applications, and we’ll be taking our payments solutions to the next level with a suite of full-service, automated products.

What role do you think AI has to play for health and fitness operators? And for consumers?

HB: As the speed of early adoption has shown, AI is set to play an influential and, I believe, positive role in the development of health and fitness. As an industry, we are still only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of our use, understanding and development, but the underlying benefits – for operators and consumers – are already apparent.

At a consumer level, AI is the next step in technology’s ability to make fitness more accessible, something I refer to as the “democratisation of fitness”. Fitness training and health management will become more personalised, with members being able to receive instant, tailored workouts and nutrition plans.

For operators, AI can be an integral ingredient for a strong, digitally driven member experience that brings higher customer results and satisfaction. This, in turn, contributes to stronger loyalty and reduced churn.

By integrating AI with other areas, a fitness business can generally improve the service it offers. For example, as well as providing faster, more personalised workouts, a trainer can actually focus on supporting each session and synchronise performance data with other tracked areas, such as nutrition and heart rate.

How are you approaching expansion? Are there any upcoming milestones you’re targeting?

HB: We are always looking to improve our all-in-one solution and extend our services around the world.

This is why we invest so much in our product and are open to integrating with other fitness software providers. Looking forward, our aim is to show consistent international growth as technology continues to have an increasingly profound impact on our industry.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

HB: I’m extremely excited about the future of fitness and health. As technology evolves, we can continue to explore the possibilities of how we can leverage it to remove the barriers that prevent people from successfully engaging with their health.

As innovation in our industry continues to move at breakneck speed, we look forward to playing a leading role.

If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Q&A series, send an email to

Global health and fitness news, straight to your inbox.

Join a community of 20K+ industry operators and investors.

    No thanks.