Fitness: Fad or the New Normal?
Health and fitness franchises make big money. This was not the case 40 years ago. So, what will this commonplace franchise landscape look like 20 years from now? Will fitness franchises still be doing good business? Or will this interest in fitness reveal itself to be a fad?
There’s no denying it: the world of fitness is susceptible to fads. Most would argue that as a popular pastime, working out only really became prevalent in the 1980s. Gyms had of course existed before then, but not many people had a gym membership or worked out regularly. In the 1980s this changed. But much of what we saw in the ‘80s were not permanent changes, but fads. Olivia Newton-John epitomized this newfound interest in fitness with her hit song “Physical” (and accompanying music video). Jazzercise and Sweatin’ to the Oldies and a litany of other fads followed, but by the 1990’s, few of these fitness programs were still popular.
The world of health and fitness franchises is still subject to fads of a sort, but they manifest differently. Yoga first became popular on a wide scale in the West in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s and while its popularity ebbs and flows over here, it’s remained present in society (and of course, it’s been practiced for millennia in South Asia). What we tend to see today is fads that flare into popularity and then decrease slightly, but never disappear. Hot yoga, Pilates, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and more general mixed martial arts training all became very popular, got a lot of media coverage, and then the media left. But these forms of fitness remain popular. The truth is, the fitness tent has just got bigger, instead of swapping fads in and out. The possible reasons for this are many, but one is simple: as more people work out more often, they want different and interesting ways to work out and ways that suit them. The end results? More people working out regularly and more business for fitness franchises.
Memberships to gyms and fitness centers in the United States have increased steadily since 2000 and today over 60 million Americans are members of a gym or fitness center.¹ That’s nearly one and five people. For further perspective, there are 90-100 million Americans aged between 18 and 65. When you consider that the vast majority of Americans with memberships to a fitness franchise are within this age range, and then consider the number of Americans who are not physically able to join a fitness franchise, then you realize how pervasive gym memberships are among able-bodied American adults. (It should be stated that many Americans with gym memberships do have a physical disability of some description, but not enough to change the math significantly). What does this mean for fitness franchise owners or prospective fitness franchise owners? Well, 60 million Americans are not going to stop working out tomorrow and as children who grew up in a culture where working out is commonplace become adults, and get gym memberships themselves, fitness franchises can expect to do more and more business.
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