24 7 Fitness – How It Became Big Business

Every January Google Search sees huge spikes in searches for “gym membership” as people look to shift the excesses of the Christmas period.

However, beyond this yearly spike, the fitness industry is now worth a record $100 billion as people increasingly look to become healthier and a gym membership/class pass is now part of everyday life. To put this into context, this market worth is extremely close in value to the auto industry (hire/purchasing of vehicles).

How and why has this trend happened?

Reasons For Popularity Of Fitness

  1. Access to gyms/classes: Health and fitness clubs have simply exploded globally. In 2009, there were 120,000+ of these clubs, by 2017 this had spiked to over 200,000+. Digital technology has been a key driver of this. Signing up for a gym can be done online in less than five minutes, while companies like ClassPass, which offers pay-as-you-go access to classes and gyms have risen to prominence (the company is valued at a whopping $1 billion). All in all, access and availability to fitness has become ubiquitous.
  2. Cost of fitness: The cost of fitness clothing to a gym membership have plummeted. Companies like Blink Fitness (USA – $15 a month), Ben Dunne Gyms (Ireland – $25 a month) and The Gym Group (UK – $26 a month) have become a low cost but good option for the cost conscious fitness fanatic. Meanwhile, clothing related to fitness has become much more affordable, including low cost options from mass retailers like Primark, to the more high end brands like Nike.
  3. Personalisation of fitness: As digital technology has eased access to fitness, it has also enabled performance to become much more measurable (i.e. the “Quantified Self”). Wearable technology like FitBit has helped people to understand how they’re doing in the gym and personalise their approach. Meanwhile, the number of personal trainers, (roughly 577,041 registered PT businesses in America, 21,879 in Britain) has grown exponentially to deal with demand from consumers for more personalised fitness programmes.
  4. Gym & fitness culture: Again linked to digital technology, specifically social media platforms (especially Instagram), gym going and fitness has become its own “culture”. This ranges from food, to clothing, to “how to” YouTube videos on specific exercises.
  5. Government policy: Governments around the world have woken up to the benefits of having a healthier populous, which directly (and positively) impacts upon health services (state or private) and the lowering of insurance premiums also. For example, in Ireland, in 2016 the government introduced its first “National Physical Activity Plan”, with the aim of getting over 500,000 people into fitness (backed by €5.5 million in funding). Meanwhile in the UK, the government has been lobbied to introduce tax breaks on both gym memberships and also gym equipment.

Globally Though, We’re Not Fit Enough

Undoubtedly gym going and a trend towards fitness has taken over in major, developed countries. However, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves – data from the World Health Organisation still estimates that one in four adults are not “active enough”. This amounts to 1.9 billion people. In fact, most worryingly of all, this research found that eight in ten adolescents globally are “insufficiently physically active”.

While gym and fitness culture shows no signs of slowing down in developed countries (and will only accelerate in market value in the coming years) the overall trend still has a way to go globally.

In my next post, BusinessOfSport.Net will look into the rise in the healthy food industry which has become very much a critical part of gym and fitness culture. Until next time, enjoy that gym session a bit more with the above information!