Community and mental health wellness drive consumers to gym

Growing consumer emphasis on community engagement and mental health in their fitness journey is becoming a trend that is reshaping the industry.

Feeling welcomed into a community and having good mental health are among the primary considerations of consumers in choosing a gym, according to Luke Guanlao, Group CEO of Inspire Brands Asia and owner of Anytime Fitness and SUMHIIT Fitness in Asia.

In an interview, Guanlao said that a majority of consumers today are seeking fitness facilities that foster a sense of community as well as promote good mental health as consumers increasingly recognize its significance alongside physical health.

“We find when that exists in an offering, there is an increased retention of such remember to stay with that brand,” he explained, “We've all recognized, especially at around 250,000 members across Southeast Asia, that your mental health is equally important as your physical health.”

Guanlao mentioned that SUMHIIT Fitness, set to formally enter the market in early 2024, is designed to offer efficient, high-intensity, low-impact workouts within a 35-minute timeframe which caters to the busy lifestyles of consumers while ensuring a balance of mental and physical well-being.

"It's about creating the right balance for a strong feeling of mental health together with physical health," Guanlao added.

However, Guanlao pointed out two main hurdles: market presence and variety. The pandemic led to a consolidation of larger players in Asia, impacting consumer access to fitness facilities. This, in turn, has created opportunities for smaller, more agile studios to fill the gap.

“That's largely due to very large footprint real estate, that was difficult to maintain, from a cost perspective, both during the pandemic and post. So you're seeing some of these larger players conserve their portfolio, which obviously has a direct impact on consumer needs, specifically, more market presence and access to these facilities,” he said.

Additionally, consumers are demanding more diverse and trend-aligned group exercise options, presenting both challenges and opportunities for industry players.

“Consumers want more for less,” Guanlao said, “So some of these larger gyms have group exercise, but there's always a challenge to make sure that such programming and modalities are keeping up to current trends.”

He also said that Inspire Brands Asia is addressing under-serviced demographics, particularly the 50 to 65-year-old age group. While the fitness industry has traditionally catered to the 18 to 35-year-old demographic, Guanlao saw potential in providing tailored services to older adults.

“Our new brand caters to this demographic to provide high intensity, low impact workouts to minimise injury, again, to cater to some of that older cohort, but also to still incentivise a Generation X, Y and Z needs to also attend our facilities,” he said.

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