Issue No. 227: Trend Watch

Illustration: Courtney Powell

Wrapping up the first quarter, today, we’re exploring what’s trending in health and fitness so far this year.

Resetting Expectations

Riding a decade-long bull run into a global pandemic, operators were already facing enormous challenges. Now, bank runs and a full-blown financial crisis have everyone in a blender.

Complicating matters, the latest upheaval comes on the heels of a digital acceleration that saw billions poured into startups across telemedicine, home fitness, and health wearables.

However, as VC dollars dry up, many of those companies have restructured, cut staff, or worse. Meanwhile, our physical and mental well-being continues to suffer.

As calls to prepare for the worst grow louder, driving business returns and health outcomes will replace growth at all costs as the new measures of success.

What’s trending: A fork in the road, wartime CEOs who confront uncertainty head-on could thrive, while others face a culling of the herd amid a funding and innovation lull.

Overhauling Our Diet

Efforts to guard against killer food are gaining traction.

Coaching apps, activity trackers, and better-for-you brands bolster healthy habits, but it’s nearly impossible to sustain change when ultra-processed foods are ever-present.

Going forward, the food-as-medicine movement—including medically tailored meals, personalized nutrition, and metabolic psychiatry—will play a pivotal role in reframing how we eat.

What’s trending: Medicaid-for-groceries is being piloted, insurers are testing the waters, Instacart is laying the digital infrastructure, grocers are getting more personal, and startups like Season Health are making headway.

Prescribing Weight Loss

A topic that’s already dominating headlines, expect the obesity debate to intensify.

With the obesity epidemic expected to cost $4.32T annually by 2025, Big Pharma is pushing a new “miracle” drug, and digital health companies are racing to dispense prescription injections.

Promising significant weight reduction while raising red flags, GLP-1 drugs like semaglutide (aka Ozempic) are fueling a $50B global market. But, who pays the bill presents a problem for individuals, insurers, and Medicare alike.

What’s trending: Joining first-movers like Calibrate and FoundWeight WatchersRo, and Noom recently entered the space, sparking an advertising arms race across social media, TV commercials, and NYC subways.

Finding Fitness

Brick-and-mortar fitness is back, with gym visits outpacing pre-pandemic levels. But, exercisers still prefer the flexibility of hybrid workouts.

Now, after racing to unbundle the gym, there’s an effort underway to reassemble the pieces.

While in-person providers look to holistic wellnesspickleball’s popularity, and reformatted floorplans, at-home brands see mass distribution, lower price points, and greater personalization as essential to success.

What’s trending: From budget chains to premium offerings, Planet FitnessXponential Fitness, and Life Time are bulking up. Meanwhile, Peloton’s ongoing restructuring and Tonal’s recent woes signal continued headwinds for connected equipment brands.

Increasing Healthspan

Beyond performance or aesthetics, living a long, healthy life is becoming a key motivator for individuals and the industry at large.

From movement health to strength training to eating well, a back-to-basics approach to well-being will help counter get-fit-quick schemes.

A step further, as innovation in life extension continues, enhancing longevity will benefit from a renewed emphasis on the pursuit of aging well.

What’s trending: As more holistic concepts scale up, communitymental health, and relational wellness have entered the healthspan chat. On cue, brands are busy refining their offerings to keep pace.

Be on the lookout… As AI takes the world by storm, its impact on health and fitness remains a big question mark. Meanwhile, psychedelics and regenerative agriculture are moving into the mainstream. Next up, concerns over water quality and forever chemicals will reach an inflection point.

🎙 On the Podcast

Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler talk about life after co-founding SoulCycle and how their new venture Peoplehood improves “relational fitness.”

We also cover: restarting the entrepreneurial journey, the power of brand, and community as an antidote to modern times.

Listen to today’s episode here

📈 Winning new fans, Pilates is booming… again

Riding trends in mindful movement and low-impact exercise, Pilates is having a resurgence — especially among guys.

  • Equinox: 47% more men are attending mat-based Pilates than in 2019.
  • Life Time: 25% of Pilates participants are now men, up from 16% in 2017.
  • Mindbody: Classes combining resistance training with yoga/Pilates grew 471% YoY.

Old school. Developed by physical trainer Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, the Pilates method spawned an entire industry that surged in popularity long after his death. But, by 2015, the workout hit a wall, dubbed the Pilatespocalypse.

Now, Pilates is on the upswing once again.

Studios. Leading the way, Club Pilates counts 800+ locations on four continents. Scaling up, [solidcore] has 95+ US locations with a near-term goal of 250 studios.

Expanding from Australia/New Zealand to the UK en route to North America, Melbourne-based STRONG Pilates blends reformer Pilates, HIIT, and rowing into one workout.

Catering to celebs, the ultra-premium offering from Forma Pilates made a splash with referral-only classes between $75–500 per session.

Connected equipment. Giving Pilates reformers the Peloton treatment, Flexia raised $4M last year, Frame added $5M led by 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, and LIT Method’s hybrid rower/reformer garnered an investment from Jay-Z’s fund.

A growing category, Reform RX, ONYX, somato, and Skōp are also bringing connected Pilates into the home.

Fitness creators. OG trainer/influencer Cassey Ho turned Blogilates into a fitness empire, complete with gym equipment sold in Target and her POPFLEX activewear line. Following a similar playbook, Melissa Wood-Tepperberg has built a cult following around the Pilates-inspired MWH platform — amassing 100K+ subscribers paying $9.99/month.

Looking ahead: Whether it’s Bala’s Bangles, CorePower Yoga’s new strength class, or TB12’s “pliability” programming, Pilates is already everywhere. As more consumers turn to recovery- and longevity-enhancing workouts, brands that can make Pilates their own will outperform the competition.

💊 Target adds Gainful, Wonderbelly to boost wellness lineup

Big-box retailers are tapping DTC health brands to court Gen Z.

The latest: Personalized nutrition startup Gainful announced a partnership with Target, its first entry into retail.

Mix-and-match. Getting hands-on, shoppers can peruse Gainful’s protein bases and flavor mixes before mixing their own custom blends. Post-purchase, they’ll gain online access to recipes, nutritional guidance, and the brand’s registered dietitians.

Also this week: Wonderbelly, a clean-ingredient antacid, made its Target debut, rolling out across 650+ stores. Analysts estimate the launch could generate $3M–5M in retail sales.

Targeting wellness. These new launches align with Target’s effort to reach younger, wellness-minded audiences, especially in self-care and beauty.

  • In 2021, vitamin startup Care/of entered retail through an exclusive line of multivitamins for Target.
  • In the same year, it added OTC natural remedy supplement maker Hilma.
  • This month, Target inked deals with women’s shaving startup Athena Care and organic period care company August.

Big-box health. Separate from its in-store health clinics, Walmart stocks products from telehealth companies Ro and hims & hers. More recently, it launched a platform called Clean Beauty at Walmart offering affordable yet sustainable products.

Punchline: In a highly competitive space, DTC wellness brands are turning to third-party retailers in pursuit of wider distribution. In response, stores like Target will happily play curator as the wellness economy booms.

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📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • huupe, makers of a smart basketball hoop, raised $11M in a funding round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Our conversation with huupe CEO Paul Anton
  • Recovery footwear brand OOFOS raised undisclosed funding in a round led by basketball coach Dawn Staley and NFL QBs Derek Carr and Alex Smith.
  • Bionic Health, an AI-enabled preventative health clinic, raised $3M in a seed round.
  • Neutraceuticals company Irwin Naturals acquired Ketamine Media, an advertising and advocacy group for psychedelic providers.
  • Outdoor gear brand Topo Designs received an undisclosed investment from Gart Capital Partners.
  • Tech-enabled fertility clinic Mate Fertility raised ~$4.2M in a Series A round.
  • Mad Rabbit, a tattoo skincare brand, secured $10M in a Series A round led by Lucas Brand Equity.
  • Healium, a VR therapy company treating anxiety and burnout, added $3.6M in a seed round.
  • Sustainable cooking oil maker Zero Acre Farms landed undisclosed funding from Chipotle’s Cultivate Next fund.
  • Mental health platform SonderMind acquired technology and IP from data-intensive mental health company Mindstrong.
  • Sparta Science, an enterprise movement health platform, added an undisclosed sum in a round led by Spring Lake Equity Partners.
  • Vital, an AI-driven health platform for patient experience, nabbed $24.7B in a Series B round.
  • Cognito Therapeutics, makers of a neuromodulation device to treat Alzheimer’s, landed $73M in a Series B round.
  • Bend Health, a digital mental health care provider for kids and teens, added an undisclosed sum to its Series A, emerging from stealth with $32M in funding.
  • Fitness equipment wholesaler National Gym Supply pulled in an undisclosed investment from Aldine Capital.
  • Employee health benefits platform Gravie secured $179M in a funding round led by General Atlantic.
  • Weo, a functional water company, raised undisclosed Series A funding from Korelya Capital.
  • Monarch Collective, an investment firm focused on women’s sports, raised $100M in its first fund.
  • College student-focused mental health platform Mantra Health secured $5M in a Series A extension round.
  • Longevity Venture Partners, an Israeli investment firm focused on solutions for aging populations, closed a $30M fund.

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

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