Issue No. 275: Spiraling

This issue is presented by

Premium supplements on the cutting edge of science.

We’re in a bad headspace.

Top of Mind

The data doesn’t lie; mental health is on the decline.

  • 23% of US adults, or 59M people, experienced a mental health condition in 2022.
  • 21.5M people had both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder.
  • 5.2% of people had serious thoughts about suicide.

Young people are hit hardest, with 36% of 18–25-year-olds reporting a condition and 19% of adolescents (12–17) suffering a major depressive episode.

Sounding the alarm, 90% of Americans say we’re in a mental health crisis.

All of the above. Despite growing awareness, there’s no clear response. Still, Americans are seeking help wherever they can get it.

  • 21.8% of adults received mental health services in 2022, up nearly 40% since 2019.
  • Use of antidepressants has increased by ~65% in the past 15 years, per the APA.

With demand for traditional talk therapy or psychiatry outpacing supply, tech-enabled solutions proliferated, fueled by $10.3B in venture funding since 2020.

Last year, as mindfulness apps stalled and teletherapy faltered, B2B platforms, wearables, and AI journals emerged — but outcomes haven’t improved.

Blurring the lines between patient and user, DTC offerings are still striving for efficacy.

Mainstream Stigma

Mental health issues are no longer taboo, especially for young people.

But it’s possible our threshold for being “okay” has changed. With social media stoking compulsive self-introspection, everyday stressors could be conflated with mental illness.

Unequipped to deal and deconditioned for resilience, healthy people may be overdiagnosed.

  • 15.9% of those in talk therapy don’t have a mental disorder.
  • ~44% of those on antidepressants could stop without relapse.

A pitfall of mental health culture, and “optimizing” mindfulness, there’s less incentive to graduate. And for digital brands, full rehabilitation leads to churn.

Vicious circle. A delicate subject, mental wellness and mental illness are not the same — the latter involves clinical diagnosis and treatment.

In either case, greater access and less stigma are crucial, but addressing root causes and developing self-regulation skills are key.

Along those lines, interventions that minimize cheap dopamine, eliminate isolation, prescribe exercise, and promote healthful eating are taking shape.

Breaking Out

Already in motion, run groups, walking meetups, and cold plunge clubs fill a void, while military-born approaches like GORUCK and Deep End Fitness hone resilience.

But, needing a clear clinical pathway, some companies are putting behavioral adjustments back into behavioral health.

  • tapouts and Legends gamify social-emotional health and confidence training for kids.
  • NatureQuant and Lithuania’s Walk15 are piloting outdoors and exercise prescriptions.
  • Meru Health taps metabolic psychiatry, while Modern Health launched physical activity programming.

Not one-size-fits-all, providers must separate stress and sadness from something more serious, while creating logical offramps, to ensure people get the right care when it’s needed.

Looking ahead: Counseling and teletherapy are effective, and mental wellness apps have their place, but relying on tools engineered to retain users won’t curb the crisis.

🎙 On the Podcast

James McMaster, CEO of Huel

Huel CEO James McMaster talks simplifying healthy eating.

Hacking meal prep, the company makes nutritionally complete instant meals, drinks, and powders. Catering to time-strapped consumers, it wants to replace junk food with “human fuel.”

We also cover: creating a lifestyle brand, Huel’s sustainability ethos, and the rise of holistic health consumers.

Listen to today’s episode here.

💸 Equinox adds fresh capital, plots new clubs

The high-end gym chain secured $1.8B to refinance maturing loans and set the stage for expansion.

Ups and downs. A luxury brand promoting high-performance living, Equinox Group operates 107 clubs globally, as well as Equinox Hotels, SoulCycle, and Blink Fitness.

Gaining steam pre-pandemic, recent years have been a rollercoaster.

  • 2019: Equinox had ~350K members and upwards of $1B in revenue.
  • 2020: As gyms shuttered, losses topped $350M on $650M in revenue.
  • 2021: An exploratory SPAC merger valued the chain at $7.5B.

By 2022, CEO Harvey Spevak said the chain had rebounded, with membership sales reaching an all-time high. Continuing its upward momentum, revenues grew 27% in 2023.

Expansion mode. Gaining liquidity while restructuring its debt, Equinox is building 25 new clubs and exploring international growth. Beyond physical locations, its digital offeringloyalty program, and holistic health services represent untapped potential.

Punchline: Leveraging its premium positioning, Equinox is banking on its brand to sell people on high performance. But, as it enters new markets, it has to deliver on its luxury sales pitch.

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🥗 ClassPass enters food and beverage

The health & fitness booking marketplace is adding healthy snack and meal partners to its platform.

Taste test. Kicking off in NYC and Miami, users can redeem credits at participating eateries like Springbone Kitchen, Avo, and Dr Smood.

All-in-one. Well before Mindbody acquired ClassPass in 2021, the company was broadening its offering. Now, food and bev joins fitness, salon, and self-care for a one-stop wellness shop.

Book it. As wellness spending surges, software platforms are scaling up.

  • In 2021, PE firm Advent International created Xplor, merging Mariana Tek, admin solutions zingfit and Triib, and PT app TrueCoach.
  • Thoma Bravo-backed ABC Fitness acquired coaching app Trainerize in 2020 and European studio platform Glofox in 2022.
  • Booking sites Boulevard, GlossGenius, Fresha, and Vagaro raised funding while adding medspa, mental health, and TCM services.

Elsewhere… Employer-focused aggregators Gympass and Germany’s Urban Sports Club both scored massive funding rounds last year.

Punchline: The wellness industry originated as siloed sectors. But, as consumers take a holistic view of well-being, operators are adapting — and the software infrastructure must evolve.

📰 News & Notes

  • Technogym unveils in-gym longevity screenings.
  • Holistic health club THE WELL enters real estate.
  • Daily Harvest adds retail distribution through Costco.
  • Future, Hyatt partner on hotel-specific training programs.
  • RXBAR founder Peter Rahal debuts new protein bar brand.
  • Enterprise AI platform Vi expands its wellness advisory board.
  • Prenuvo, Sollis Health partner to redefine preventative healthcare.
  • Health & fitness PR specialist Jack Taylor opens office in Australia.
  • StimScience hires Fitbit vet Tim Rosa to lead sleep wearable Somnee.
  • Dexcom receives FDA clearance for prescription-free glucose monitor.
  • Health tech platform Lenus launches digital academy for holistic training.
  • Brain training company names Dr. Olivia Lesslar as Science Director.
  • Fitt Jobs: Top health and fitness companies are hiring. Join our free talent network to be considered for open roles. Hiring? Enlist our recruiters for your search.

💰 Money Moves

  • Luxury gym chain Equinox secured $1.8B in new capital to refinance loans and support expansion.
  • 9Round Kickboxing Fitness acquired iLoveKickboxing (ILKB), operator of 56 franchise kickboxing studios.
  • Integrated fitness platform FitLab received $65M in financing from Atlas Credit Partners.
    More from Fitt Insider: FitLab Acquires Assault Fitness, RPM Training
  • Canned water brand Liquid Death closed a $67M funding round at a $1.4B valuation.
  • Healthy baby food brand Serenity Kids closed a $52M Series B round led by Stride Consumer Partners.
  • Legends, a confidence training platform for kids, emerged from stealth with $6M in funding.
  • Digital health company mPATH Health raised $1.1M for its preventative cancer screening platform.
  • Cognitive health assessment platform BrainCheck added $15M in a funding round led by Next Coast VenturesS3 Ventures, and UPMC Enterprises.
  • AI-powered muscle analytics company Springbok Analytics received a $1.7M grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an algorithm for rotator cuff tear treatment.
  • Alternative milk brand MALK Organics closed a $7M internal investment round led by Benvolio Group and Rotor Capital.
  • Functional beverage brand ROAR Organic secured a $10M investment from Factory LLC.
  • Pro Shop, a new golf media company, raised $20M in a Series A round led by Powerhouse Capital.
  • Employer-based mental health provider Spring Health acquired exclusive content rights from self-guided therapy app Bloom.

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

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