Issue No. 219: Rebundling the Gym

Illustration: Courtney Powell

Putting the pandemic behind it, the future of brick-and-mortar fitness is taking shape.

Building Back

As it turned out, killing off gyms and studios was much more difficult than anticipated.

  • Rising last year, gym visits were up ~32% for the first two weeks of January 2023 vs. the same timeframe in 2022.
  • During the pandemic, 70% of fitness consumers reported missing the gym as much as they missed family and friends, per McKinsey.
  • Returning to IRL workouts, members are seeking motivation (81%), instructors (74%), and accountability (61%), according to Mindbody.

While plenty of exercisers still prefer at-home options, in-person fitness isn’t going anywhere — but it is evolving.

Rebundling the Gym

After unbundling during the pandemic, health club operators are adjusting to accommodate the holistic exerciser.

  • 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions.
  • 87% of consumers plan to maintain or increase spending on wellness services.
  • Last year, wellness services rebounded faster than gym visits, with 44% of consumers seeking recovery treatments like massage, cryo, and sauna.

Borrowing elements from boutique studios and spas alike, big-box gyms are getting an upgrade.

The latest: Fitness International, operator of LA Fitness, City Sports Clubs, and Esporta, debuted a new boutique-focused gym facility called Club Studio.

The 40K-square-foot houses five dedicated group fitness studios—HIIT, hot yoga, cycling, boxing, and reformer Pilates—paired with cryotherapy services and more typical big-box offerings like free weights, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and more.

New formats. Catering to demand for mindful movementlow-intensity, and strength+ classes, the great re-bundling is on.

  • Fitness International previously struck a deal with Xponential Fitness to put 500+ studios inside select clubs and recently launched a digital membership with Les Mills+.
  • New York Sports Clubs acquired omnichannel strength/HIIT boutique Fhitting Room and is remodeling its gyms’ spaces, programs, and services around high performance.
  • Last year, Life Time launched Ultra Fit, an in-house metabolic conditioning program, joining its group concepts Alpha (Olympic weightlifting) and GTX (cardio + strength).

Elsewhere, World Gym launched Legacy, a strength-only club, and a boutique-focused Signature concept. Iterating on its MMA offering, UFC GYM is scaling a low-overhead, class-based concept designed for strip malls.

Back to business. The boutique-in-a-box may be gaining traction, but the shift toward specialized studios and experience-driven workouts isn’t new.

  • From 2013–2017, US gym memberships grew by 15%, while boutique studios grew by 121%.
  • In 2018, 42% of all US health and fitness club participants were boutique studio members.

Exploring the shifting fitness landscape, in 2019, we detailed the studios, clubs, and communities that were reimagining the boutique experience. Even then, from Dogpound to Remedy Place to StretchLab, many of the concepts mentioned were busy defining the industry’s next act.

But, when COVID forced brick-and-mortar operators into survival mode, digital and connected fitness was heralded as the next big thing, supplanting in-person exercise.

In reality, though, in bringing personal well-being and human connection to the forefront, the pandemic ultimately gave rise to a new era of holistic and social offerings.

Looking Ahead

As the pendulum swings from one extreme to another, the future of fitness won’t be defined by a single modality, format, or technology. Instead, the focus should be on providing more options for more people. And for now, that means catering to consumers seeking physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

🎙 On the Podcast

JOON co-founder Jonathan Shooshani discusses the company’s wellness benefits platform, covering fitness, food, mental health, family care, and more.

We also cover: building a Spotify-like recommendation engine for personalized well-being.

Listen to today’s episode here

📉 Americans fall short of minimum exercise guidelines, again

A new report examining 2020 data revealed that most US adults weren’t meeting the CDC’s recommendation for physical activity: 150+ minutes of aerobic activity paired with two days of strength training.

  • 52% of adults met aerobic guidelines only.
  • 35% completed adequate muscle-strengthening activities.
  • 28% met the combined guidelines for both.

Here and there. Geographically, adherence to both guidelines was significantly lower in rural communities, and the lowest ranking US South underperformed the most active US West by 6.5%.

Of note, data was collected during pandemic lockdowns, and activity was self-reported, not tracked.

Stuck in place. This new data mirrors global data from the WHO’s inactivity report. But, if accurate, it would be a modest gain for Americans. In years past, the number who completed both aerobic and strength requirements was below 25%.

Still, the census data is nothing to celebrate — and by multiple accounts, many Americans dropped exercise routines entirely throughout the pandemic.

Looking ahead: The world’s fourth-leading cause of death for the past decade, inactivity is a pandemic in itself — only this one is well-understood and highly preventable.

Some encouraging signs, Gen Z exercises more regularly than its predecessors and strength training is gaining popularity. But the numbers don’t lie, and the real concern is helping the other half get moving.

🤝 WHOOP and Hyperice sync to quantify recovery

Two high-performance brands are linking up.

The details: Wearable maker WHOOP is teaming with wellness tech brand Hyperice to explore the connection between recovery and overall health.

  • WHOOP members can log massage gun or compression boot sessions utilizing Hyperice products, revealing the impact on biometrics.
  • The Hyperice app will recommend recovery routines based on activity data in the WHOOP app.

Quantified performance. Trickling down from elite athletes to everyday exercisers, the quest to quantify performance has taken hold.

But, more than output alone, proper sleeprecovery, nutrition, and mental wellness are essential to holistic performance. A step further, new tech and synergistic partnerships hope to enable personalized protocols.

  • Oura teamed with Therabody to help members optimize sleep.
  • Hyperice acquired meditation trainer Core to quantify mindfulness.
  • Supersapiens uses CGM data to optimize energy management for endurance athletes.
  • Elo Health syncs performance data from Apple Watch to customize supplements and dosage.

Looking ahead: As Hyperice CEO Jim Huether put it, leveraging real-time feedback and insights into holistic health will “continue to push the wellness space forward.”

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👀 Have you checked out Headlines yet?

ICYMI: Last week, we debuted Headlines, a newsletter covering the mental health industry.

The goal? To be a hub of knowledge where founders, investors, and operators can stay informed on trends, challenges, and solutions taking shape across the mental health space.

Get caught up: It’s written by Mel Song and delivered every Sunday; head here to read the latest issue and subscribe.

📰 News & Notes

  • AllTrails rebrands, refreshes premium app.
  • Remote work slows Sweetgreen’s salad empire.
  • Exos taps Vuori as official performance outfitter.
  • Fitt Jobs: Health & fitness industry careers updated daily.
  • Garmin launches FDA-approved ECG app for AFib detection.
  • Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney readies a CBD energy drink.
  • Layoffs hit HydrowGymsharkImpossible FoodsNoom, and Tonal.
  • Sportstech investor Sapphire Sport closes oversubscribed $181M fund.
  • Tia re-ups with Cedars-Sinai to expand women’s healthcare services in LA.
  • Nike sues lululemon, says the company’s footwear infringes on its patents.

💰 Money Moves

  • Metabolic health platform Levels landed $7M in a Series A extension round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Metabolic Health Report
  • Mighty Health, a fitness and nutrition platform for those aged 50+, raised $7.6M in a funding round co-led by Will Ventures and GFT Ventures.
  • VitaDAO, a decentralized longevity research community, closed $4.1M in a funding round from Pfizer VenturesShine Capital, and others.
  • Global bicycle manufacturer Giant acquired a minority stake in cycling tech company Stages for $20M.
  • Italian luxury fashion house Zegna acquired a minority stake in Canadian technical running brand Norda Run.
  • Firefly Recovery, makers of portable athletic recovery devices, raised $1M in a round co-led by Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings and NFLers Shaq Thompson and Darren Waller.
  • Free from Market, a food-as-medicine platform for low-income individuals, added $2.1M in a seed round led by Bluestein Ventures.
  • TBD Health, provider of DTC sexual health services, raised $4.4M in a seed round.
  • Elaborate, a platform that pairs contextual insights with the delivery of lab testing, secured $10M in a seed round led by Tusk Venture Partners.
  • Personal health data company Crescendo Health pulled in $3.4M in new funding.
  • Irwin Naturals, a nutraceutical company, acquired Braxia Scientific, operator of 17 ketamine-assisted mental health clinics.
    More from Fitt Insider: Psychedelics as Medicine
  • Psychedelic medical clinic WITHIN closed $1.1M in a Series A round to fuel expansion.
  • People Science, a DTC clinical research company for alternative medicine, raised $5.3M in a seed round and will enter food as medicine.
    More from Fitt Insider: Food as Medicine
  • Oneleaf, a Paris-based self-hypnosis platform for lifestyle intervention, landed €4.7M ($5.1M) in a seed round.
  • Teal Health, a digital platform for women’s health screenings, raised $8.8M in a seed round.
    More from Fitt Insider: Closing the Gender Care Gap
  • Meati Foods, makers of mushroom-based alt-protein products, raised $22M in an oversubscribed Series C extension.
    More from Fitt Insider: Shroom Boom
  • Tivity Health, parent of the Silver Sneakers brand, acquired digital fitness platform Burnalong.

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

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