Issue No. 237: Going Global

Illustration: Courtney Powell

Eyeing growth, gyms are pushing international expansion.

New Frontiers

Rising steadily for years, COVID wiped out the industry’s gains. But gyms and studios around the world are bouncing back.

  • United States: Falling from $35B in 2019 to $15B in 2020, gyms notched $37.5B in revenue last year and are on pace for $45.4B by 2027, per IHRSA.
  • Europe: Fitness industry revenues grew by 66% to €28B last year, on par with 2019. By 2030, the region is expected to add 40M gym members, topping 100M.
  • Asia-Pacific: With wellness spending surpassing $1.5T annually, the fitness sector is gaining — by 2026, the region expects 21.5M members and $23.7B in revenue.

Worldwide. From Latin America to the Middle East, increased emphasis on well-being combined with rising disposable income is fueling a fitness boom in untapped emerging markets.

Bulking Up

During the pandemic, gym owners were adamant that exercisers would return to their coveted third spaces. Now, they’re seeing the validation.

  • Just 15% of exercisers see digital platforms as a replacement for the gym, per Mintel.
  • A Les Mills study found that exercisers work harder and feel happier during in-person vs. at-home workouts.
  • Consumers say intangibles like motivation (81%) and accountability (61%) are primary drivers for returning to gyms, according to Mindbody.

Looking closer, as hybrid routines take hold, even at-home exercisers are venturing out more often.

In the US, individuals that preferred in-gym exercise at least half of the time rose by 8% YoY, per a New Consumer survey. And in Europe, a Deloitte report saw the at-home-only segment fall by 4%.

Combined with growing interest in wellness clubs and one-on-one coaching, the brick-and-mortar industry will benefit from serving as a much-needed community hub.

Here and There

Plotting new outposts around the world, US brands feel confident in resuming their expansion efforts.

With $1B in system-wide sales Stateside, Xponential Fitness is accelerating overseas. While its 2021 acquisition of Body Fit Training (BFT) solidified its presence in the APAC, the company is also signing master franchisees to enter additional geographies, with studios open or sold in 16 countries.

Nearing 2K North American locations en route to 4K domestic stores, Planet Fitness is taking its budget model to new locales. Appealing to the majority of people who don’t belong to a gym, the company is scaling in Latin America with plans to enter Europe.

Putting the pandemic behind it, Orangetheory Fitness CEO Dave Long said the company is “picking up the pace” of new openings. With a goal of 5K total studios, OTF is adding 100+ international locations this year.

While 24/7 gym chains like Snap Fitness and Anytime Fitness have reached 20 and 40 countries, respectively, boutique brands—especially boxing- and MMA-focused concepts like TITLE Boxing Club, UFC GYM, and 9Round—are taking to new territories.

On the move. Boosted by a $396M investment last year, UK-based PureGym debuted in the US under the Pure Fitness banner while also entering the Middle East, UAE, and North Africa.

Elsewhere, Australia-born brands are expanding their footprint — functional strength studio Fitstop landed in the States, Strong Pilates is growing in the UK, and boxing concept UBX recently opened in Singapore and England.

Looking Ahead

A cautionary tale, when preparing to go public, F45 Training outlined a path to 23K global studios. But, efforts to keep pace posed new challenges that ultimately hamstrung progress.

Now, as more brands pursue scale, meeting the needs of members and franchisees grows more complicated. Meanwhile, as competition intensifies, certain modalities and formats will hit a ceiling, stifling expansion.

But, whether it’s club-in-club models, new holistic or exclusive concepts, or consolidation, the rise of the wellness consumer promises to fuel growth the world over.

Want more international health and fitness insights? Check out WellToDo — a newsletter from the Fitt Insider team dedicated to industry developments in the UK, Europe, Asia, and around the world. 

🎙 On the Podcast

New York Sports Club chief marketing + creative officer Kari Saitowitz discusses the boutique-ification of health clubs.

We also cover: NYSC’s acquisition of her studio Fhitting Room and the rise of functional fitness.

Listen to today’s episode here

📱 Apple pushes deeper into health, fitness

The tech giant announced a number of health-focused upgrades at its Worldwide Developer Conference.

Top of mind. Updating its Health app while adding a Mindfulness app for its smartwatch, Apple now tracks emotional state of mind — assessing a user’s mood and conducting mental health screenings to be shared with a doctor.

Confirming leaks from this spring, the company also unveiled Journal, a prompt-based reflection and gratitude tool.

Making moves. New Apple Watch features boost the experience for hikers and cyclists.

Encroaching on Strava and AllTrails, new route-planning tools include elevation and points of interest, allowing users to search nearby trailheads by trail length, type, and difficulty.

Catering to serious cyclists, the smartwatch now connects with power meters, estimates functional threshold power, and enables cycling-specific workout stats — like elevation, race route, and speed.

Meanwhile, as workout apps push personalization, Apple quietly upgraded Fitness+ with Custom Plans and Stacks, letting users build exercise routines around the day, duration, workout type, and more.

Mixed reality. Apple did release its much-hyped AR/VR headset, but fitness isn’t a central focus of the first-gen Vision Pro. Instead, while it prepares to take on Meta Quest’s fitness platform, Apple rolled out an immersive, VR version of its Mindfulness app.

Looking ahead: While many wearable makers and health apps sync up for health optimization, Apple wants to own the entire experience — from general well-being to clinical data, headsets to health insurance.

🍎 Consumers rethink food choices for better mental health

Eating well isn’t easy, and consumers are stressing about their diet.

What’s happening: In a recent International Food Information Council survey, US adults acknowledged what they eat impacts mental and emotional well-being.

  • 74% indicated the food & bev they consume moderately (35%) or significantly (39%) impacts their mental well-being.
  • 60% report being somewhat or very stressed, leading to 51% saying it led them to make less-than-healthy food choices.
  • 61% said the state of their mental and emotional well-being in turn impacts their food choices.

Of note, while 61% consider and actively attempt to avoid processed foods, 54% know next to nothing about nutrition guidelines, and 68% have seen misinformation on what food choices are considered healthy on social media.

That lack of awareness and incentive could be the biggest barrier to mindful eating.

Killer foods. As we’ve detailed on multiple occasions, the standard American diet is a recipe for disaster — contributing to a host of health issues, from cancer to chronic disease and early death.

And, when it comes to mental health, research is emerging that names UPFs as a culprit for depression and cognitive decline. A two-way street, constant psychological stress is tied to the incidence and worsening of gut health issues.

With a healthy gut linked to everything from mood to exercise motivation, some startups are attempting to reverse UPFs’ damage by scaling the practice of metabolic psychiatry.

Big picture: Poor food is linked to poor mental wellness. But, with a majority of people confused about what constitutes a balanced diet, prioritizing access and information could be the key to promoting healthier options.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • Selva Ventures, a health- and wellness-focused VC, closed $34M in capital commitments for its second fund.
    More from Fitt Insider: Our conversation with Selva Ventures co-founder Kiva Dickinson
  • OxeFit, makers of a connected strength training system, closed an oversubscribed Series A2 round after investment from soccer star Harry Kane.
    On the Pod: OxeFit CEO Rab Shanableh
  • mend, a nutrapharma and behavioral health platform, raised $15M in a Series A round led by S2G Ventures.
  • Personalized nutrition platform AHARA landed $10.25M in a funding round led by Greycroft.
  • Functional nonalcoholic spirits brand Aplós secured $5.5M in a Series A round led by McCarthy Capital.
  • British biosensor manufacturer Rockley Photonics received a €32.6M ($35M) strategic investment, exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
    More from Fitt Insider: Rockley Photonics Decodes Glucose Monitoring
  • Hyro, a healthcare-focused conversational AI startup, raised $20M in a Series B round.
  • Ritual, a mental health platform using guided audio practices, added $4.8M in a funding round.
  • Modulo Bio, a biotech firm developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, emerged from stealth with $8M in funding.
  • Ski resort operator Alterra Mountain Company acquired Idaho ski resort Schweitzer.
  • Mycelium “bacon” maker MyForest Foods secured $15M in a Series A2 round.

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

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