Issue No. 190: Mid-year Insights

Illustration: Courtney Powell

As Q2 comes to a close, today, we’re revisiting the trends, challenges, and opportunities defining fitness and wellness so far this year.

Disconnected Fitness

Last summer, connected equipment makers were lining up to go public. Now, halfway through 2022, many have endured layoffs as further uncertainty looms.

In April, iFIT officially pulled the plug on its IPO after job cuts and a leadership shakeup. In recent months, Beachbody, Tempo, and Zwift— who planned to launch a smart bike—all restructured.

Meanwhile, Peloton’s continued backslide encapsulates the operational struggles and market headwinds facing the sector.

Staying strong. Despite the downturn, a number of smart strength brands, including OxeFit, Speede, Vitruvian, Arena, and Kabata, have added funding this year.

What’s trending. AI-powered form tracking, differentiated content, and more-affordable offerings are top of mind.

Omnichannel Awakening

Instead of gyms/studios downplaying digital or at-home brands seeking to crush brick-and-mortar, the concept of hybrid fitness is evolving.

In addition to launching a virtual platform, Xponential Fitness is putting studios inside LA Fitness locations. A similar move, F45 Training is setting up shop at hotels, corporate offices, universities, and military bases.

Entering the metaverse, Les Mills and Liteboxer both introduced VR workouts, hoping to reach exercise-seekers beyond the already-fit.

Dealmaking. Bringing together digital and physical, FitOn x Peerfit, Core Health & Fitness x Wexer, and HighPost Capital’s acquisition/merger of Centr and Inspire Fitness, represent new omnichannel bundles.

What’s trending. Identifying unique channels to capture sweat-share, companies must meet consumers where and how they want to work out.

Third Places

At the height of the pandemic, social gatherings were off-limits. Now, fitness- and wellness-focused third places want to restore a sense of community.

Last week, members-only concept fitness club HEIMAT opened in LA. Building on the success of its LA location, Remedy Place is expanding to NYC. And Toronto-based Othership is opening sauna and breathwork studios in NYC and LA.

A different approach, Life Time is pursuing its “athletic country club” model, including live-work-play developments complete with gyms, pools, pickleball courts, lounges, and more.

Boutique belonging. As we detailed in Issue No. 140, meaning-making is big business and brands offering transformational experiences can charge a pretty penny.

What’s trending. Bridging the gap between online and offline, digitally native brands are rethinking their community strategy for a post-COVID world.

Well Care

Blurring the line between self-care and healthcare, brands offering recovery, beauty, and wellness services are scaling up.

Valued north of $500M, Restore Hyper Wellness plans to add 100 franchise locations this year, complete with IV drips, infrared sauna, and cryotherapy. To reduce pain and prevent injuries, Myodetox is expanding its boutique physical therapy concept.

And, with the beauty and anti-aging sector reaching $1T in value, appearance is becoming a pillar of personal well-being… for those who can afford it. Cashing in, Ever/Body, a chain of cosmetic dermatology studios, recently secured $55M for expansion.

Longevity-as-a-service. Offering treatments for aging well, Modern Age raised $33M and opened an NYC flagship. With $6.5M in new capital, anti-aging/longevity franchise Serotonin Centers is eyeing growth.

What’s trending. Biohacking, beauty, health optimization… you name it, brands are productizing wellness services, and consumers are lining up.

Prescription Wearables

With each new iteration, fitness trackers are looking more and more like medical devices.

Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit have gained FDA clearance for ECG sensors, while Withings got the go-ahead for blood oxygen and sleep apnea sensing.

In the CGM space, Abbott and Dexcom share a duopoly over the available tech. But, noninvasive glucose monitoring could be coming to a host of devices — including Apple Watch, Movano’s smart ring, and Know Labs’ palm-reading tech.

Hearty. The leading cause of death in the US, device makers like Omron, Aktiia, LiveMetric, and Apple are eyeing cardiovascular disease.

What’s trending. Aggregating data is one thing, but providing actionable and personalized insights is another. For most, the latter is a work in progress.

All is Well

How consumers perceive and pursue wellness is evolving, broadening the industry’s already-expansive scope.

According to Nielsen, reeling from the pandemic, consumers took a “preservation-focused” approach to well-being, prioritizing mental and physical health, sleep, and care-oriented foods to improve quality of life.

At the same time, exercising for emotional well-being, not aesthetics or performance, has led to mindful movement gaining ground. And when it comes to dieting, a Mayo Clinic survey found that health surpassed physical appearance by 5x as the main motivation.

Prove it. As wellness becomes all-encompassing, questions related to what works versus what sells will need to be addressed.

What’s trending. Making holistic well-being a top priority, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual fitness are all within the wellness purview.

Looking Ahead

Heading into the second half of the year, we’re excited to watch things unfold.

If you want to share your thoughts on the industry or just connect, hit reply — it goes straight to my inbox.

Likewise, if you’re building a company in the space, send me a note — we want to be first in line to back driven health and fitness founders.

🙏 Holistic Hangs

In the quest for holistic wellness and personal belonging, some consumers are willing to pay premium.

On the Fitt Insider Podcast: Remedy Place founder & CEO Dr. Jonathan Leary discusses the founding and expansion of his social wellness club.

We also cover: bootstrapping the company with less than $2K and bridging preventative and diagnostic healthcare.

Listen to today’s episode here

⛺️ Outdoorsy

Stretching beyond yoga, lululemon is hitting the trail.

Gear up. Today, the company debuted a 33-piece hiking collection, dubbed Day Tripper. The line includes 15 women’s pieces, 10 men’s options, and eight unisex accessories.

Recognizing that many customers were already wearing its apparel off-road, lulu set out to create functional, design-forward clothes purpose-built for the outdoors.

Speaking to Forbes, lululemon SVP of design Ben Stubbington said the collection is meant to move with hikers from the trail to urban centers and everyday activities, adding:

“Traditionally outdoors clothing isn’t stylish. We want people to feel as comfortable on a hike as you would in the city.”

The latest activity-specific launch, lulu is expanding its athleisure empire.

Play. As the recreation renaissance reached a fever pitch, it launched golf and tennis apparel lines—what it coined “Play” activities—to reach new audiences and diversify its collections.

Run. Eyeing the $66B athletic footwear market, it released its Blissfeel performance running shoe earlier this year. Getting technical, it unveiled its endurance-improving Senseknit running collection.

Sweat. Integrating its apparel and connected fitness segments, lulu is building an immersive fitness marketplace. According to CEO Calvin McDonald, the rationale is simple: “The more they sweat, the more they spend.”

Takeaway: Chasing category leaders like Nike and adidas, lulu is pushing into new territory while laying the groundwork for record-setting revenue — the company anticipates a record $7.6B in sales for the year.

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🙁 Doom and Gloom

In the US and around the world, social turmoil, political divisiveness, and the lingering effects of the pandemic are wreaking havoc on our health.

Peak unhappiness. According to Gallup’s 2022 Global Emotions Report, feelings of sadness and loneliness are on the rise.

  • Experiences of stress, worry, and sadness are all at record highs.
  • 330M adults go at least two weeks without talking to a single friend or family member.
  • One-fifth of all adults don’t have someone in their life they can count on for help.

Meanwhile, positive feelings, like laughing or being well-rested, declined year over year, dragging the collective positivity index (a 69/100) to its lowest mark since 2017.

Debbie downer. Among Americans, the General Social Survey (GSS) revealed especially troubling trends.

  • For individuals under age 30, unhappiness rose from 16% in 2018 to 30% in 2021.
  • Unhappiness among US adults 35 and over reached 22% last year, up from 18% in 2018.

Community-as-care. Interestingly, the GSS survey found that married couples and churchgoers saw the smallest increases in unhappiness, signaling the power of a communal support system.

Speaking of community, with COVID restrictions lifted, gyms and wellness clubs are fostering connection. Likewise, for sport or adventure, socializing outdoors has become a lifeline for many.

Elsewhere. In recent years, mental health startups have scaled rapidly to curb the crisis, but delivering outcomes has proven more difficult.

Takeaway: With no foolproof solution in sight, we’ll be confronting the negative effects on our collective well-being for years to come.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • STRIVE, a performance optimization platform for athletes, raised $6M in a Series A round led by Future Communities Capital.
  • Fitmint, a move-to-earn startup rewarding workouts with cryptocurrency, secured $1.6M in a seed round led by General Catalyst.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Move-to-Earn Scene
  • Canadian digital sleep clinic HALEO closed CAD$5.2M ($4.04M) in seed funding.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Zzz Economy
  • Germany-based enduco, an AI-enabled endurance training platform, raised $2.1M in a seed round.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Endurance Economy
  • Faeth Therapeutics, a company using metabolic health and nutrition to fight cancer, closed $47M in Series A funding led by S2G Ventures.
  • Investment firm Stone Point Capital acquired Tivity Health, owner of SilverSneakers and other fitness programs for older adults.
  • Ria Health, a telehealth platform treating alcohol use disorder, landed $18M in a Series A round led by SV Health Investors.
  • Multinational food company Nestlé acquired The Better Health Company, a New Zealand-based supplement and manuka honey company.
    More from Fitt Insider: Meet Nestlé, the Health and Nutrition Company
  • Kairos, a Northern Ireland-based creator of sports team management software, secured £500K ($600K) in new funding.
  • French men’s digital health clinic raised €7M ($7.28M) in seed funding and will expand in Europe.
  • 1:1 digital coaching platform TaskHuman hauled in $20M in a Series B round led by Madrona.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, and Ryan Deer.

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