Issue No. 234: Social Fitness

Illustration: Courtney Powell

We’re more connected than ever but struggling to make meaningful connections.

Party of One

According to US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy, chronic loneliness is a public health crisis.

  • Lacking social connection is as harmful as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.
  • Loneliness increases risk of cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and death.
  • 17% of US adults and 24% of people under 30 are experiencing significant loneliness.

Detrimental to individual and societal well-being, in a new report, Murthy said this issue cannot go unresolved:

“Addressing the crisis of loneliness and isolation is one of our generation’s greatest challenges.”

Otherwise, he warns, we’ll be a nation that’s increasingly “angry, sick, and alone.”

Home Alone

In many ways, modern life divides us.

Hunkered down in our homes, we’ve resigned to staring at screens more and engaging with other humans less.

Made worse by the pandemic, habitual isolation has become our default mode.

  • 2013: The average American spent 6.5 hours/week with friends.
  • 2019: That number sank to 4 hours/week, down 37% from five years prior.
  • 2021: Time with friends fell to 2.75 hours/week, declining 58% from 2013.

While these numbers rebounded slightly as vaccines rolled out, learned loneliness is lingering — 35% of Americans believe socializing in person is less important post COVID, and 29% feel anxiety about interacting IRL.

More concerning, in a March Gallup survey, 47% said their lives will never return to pre-pandemic normalcy, meaning we may drift even further apart.

Connected ≠ Connection

Tethered to our phones, we have more “friends” but fewer relationships.

A lifeline during lockdowns, studies have shown that virtual communication is no substitute for in-person interactions.

A step further, as author and Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren writes, digital interactions are  the ultra-processed foods of human connectedness — they’re abundant, cheap, and always available.

Borrowing the sentiment from journalist Michael Pollan, who advocates for a whole-food approach to eating, Warren suggests signing off and opting into real life:

“We have to plunge ourselves primarily into the natural world and embodied human relationships.”

Still, despite mounting evidence, less than 20% of people who often or always feel lonely believe it’s a major problem.

Come Together

A critical component of overall well-being, social connections keep us healthy.

In fact, an 80-plus-year Harvard study found that strong relationships are the single most important factor in long-term health and happiness.

Well aware of the benefits, community is a central tenet of fitness — so much so that it has been likened to religion.

But, as fitness evolves beyond the physical, it’s time to explicitly and intentionally embrace social fitness as an essential part of holistic health.

Looking Ahead

Nothing new, boutique studios, wellness clubsclimbing gyms, and a host of venues are a source of community.

But, as we confront countless health emergencies, from loneliness and mental health to physical inactivity and obesity, it’s important to remember that what we need most isn’t for sale.

Getting back to basics, let’s come together more often to playsweatsoak up the sun, and truly connect with each other. We’ll all be better off for it.

🎙 On the Podcast

Bird&Be co-founder & CEO Sam Diamond discusses the future of fertility care.

We also cover: combining conventional and naturopathic medicine for better outcomes. Plus, at-home diagnostics and personalized supplements.

Listen to today’s episode here

💪 The future of personal training takes shape

As more health seekers hit the weights, the US personal training market rebounded from pandemic lows, topping $14B last year.

Catering to growing demand, gyms, tech companies, and wearable makers are bulking up.

Strength services. Leaning into what they do best, brick-and-mortar operators are doubling down on individual and small-group training to help members make gains.

  • Equinox is hiring 5K performance coaches over the next two years and partnered with Lionel University on an accelerated credentialing program.
  • After retooling its strategy and adding new Eleiko equipment, Life Time expects to break all-time personal training sales records this year.
  • Anytime Fitness recorded a 79% increase in personal training services for 2022 and notched a 13-month high in Q1 of this year.

Connected coaching. Instead of trying to replace human trainers, tech-enabled strength brands are innovating to empower them.

  • Last year, digital personal training service Future raised $75M to scale 1:1 human coaching.
  • ArenaOxeFit, and Vitruvian are expanding commercial sales of their smart strength training machines, targeting coaches and physical therapists.
  • Eleiko debuted a connected powerlifting bar, and Perch recently partnered with equipment makers Life Fitness and PLAE, both bringing velocity-based training to more athletes and coaches.

Tracking gains. Using wearables to optimize strength workouts, WHOOP now measures muscular load, while NextilesSTRIVE, and Catapult Sports capture real-time stats.

Looking ahead: While in-person workouts remain the gold standard for personal training, pretty soon, those that don’t offer true personalization will find their programming outdated.

💸 Coinbase CEO raises $40M to cure aging

NewLimit, a biotech startup attempting to extend human healthspan, added $40M in new funding.

Cell signal. Co-founded by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, the company reprograms cells from old to young in an effort to “cure aging.”

If successful, the team believes it can eventually treat or prevent chronic age-related diseases, including fibrosis, infections, heart disease, and dementia.

Of note, Armstrong joins a growing list of tech founders pursuing longevity enhancement — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos backed Altos Labs, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman invested $180M into Retro Biosciences, and Spotify’s Daniel Ek launched a precision diagnostics company.

Forever young. Still nascent, while NewLimit’s offering takes shape, epigenetic startups are going mainstream.

  • In February, David Sinclair’s Tally Health launched its DTC biological age clock service that combines noninvasive diagnostics and precision supplementation.
  • In May, InsideTracker added women’s hormonal markers to its healthspan optimization platform.
  • This week, ImmuneAGE Bio, a drug discovery firm focused on immune system rejuvenation, received $50K from VitaDAO, a decentralized longevity community.

Elsewhere… From wellness studios to longevity clinics, consumers are taking preventative health and anti-aging into their own hands.

Punchline: As scientists work to reverse aging, we’ll have to confront the implications of living forever. In the meantime, as new therapeutics emerge, the fight over the fountain of youth could mirror the “miracle” weight loss debate.

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📰 News & Notes

  • Peloton recalls all original Bikes.
  • Sweetgreen opens automated restaurant.
  • Fitt Jobs: Take the next step in your health & fitness career.
  • Farmer’s Fridge aims to scale retail footprint 5x by year’s end.
  • Oura partners with John Hancock’s gamified life insurance program.
  • REI doles out $4M for equitable outdoors startups, nature Rx programs.
  • Movano sets price, releases details for its smart ring. [Re-read: Ring Wars]
  • OHM Fitness prepares to open 70 Texas locations. [Re-read: EMS Scales Up]
  • Startup Q&A: Malla co-founder Morris Esformes on the rise of functional medicine.
  • Padel Haus to open pop-up courts in NYC’s Domino Park. [Re-read: Padel’s US Rise]

💰 Money Moves

  • NewLimit, a biotech company attempting to extend human healthspan, raised $40M in a Series A round from Kleiner PerkinsFounders Fund, and others.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Quest to Live Forever
  • Youth mental health platform Somethings secured $3.2M in a seed round led by General Catalyst.
  • Insole manufacturer Foundation Wellness acquired CURREX, a German manufacturer of insoles for athletics.
  • Kallyope, a biotech company researching the gut-brain axis, landed $8.2M in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
    More from Fitt Insider: Microbiome-focused PEDs
  • Digital healthcare guidance company Amino Health raised $80M in financing from Transformation Capital and Oxford Finance.
  • Wellthy, a precision healthcare concierge, added $25M in new funding.
  • Lucem Health, a platform using AI to develop point-of-care solutions for healthcare, closed a $7.7M Series A round.
  • Stella, a trauma treatment platform, raised $7M from Sterling Partners to fund its flagship PTSD treatment center in Chicago.
  • Octave Health Group, a behavioral health practice, raised $22M in new capital.
  • Remote patient care platform Validic acquired connected health logistics company Trapollo.
  • Prime Roots, maker of mycelium-based deli products, raised $30M in a Series B round.
  • Health and wellness media group Pillar4 Media acquired BarBend, a media site dedicated to strength training content.
  • Brompton, a British maker of folding bicycles, raised £19M ($23.8M) in new funding.

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

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