The United States may be at a tipping point. For decades, public health experts have warned Americans about the rising obesity rate, an epidemic that first emerged in the 1980s. Since then, the obesity rate for adult Americans has more than doubled.
Fortunately, the epidemic appears to have stabilized, with the obesity rate plateauing in America around 2010.
A confluence of factors helped curb the surging weight-gain, most notably an increased awareness in healthy lifestyles and the upsurge of fitness as a social norm in America.
Last month, a new report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the obesity rate dropped in multiple states for the first time in a decade last year. Four states, New York, Ohio, Minnesota, and Montana, experienced a decrease in obesity.
This development coincides with a boom in the fitness industry, as more and more consumers begin to embrace active, health-conscious lifestyles. It has given rise to a fitness culture, where tens of millions of Americans rely on health clubs and boutique studios to maintain their body weight. According to 2015 data from Mediamark Research & Intelligence, over 100 million adults in the United States regularly exercise two or more times a week, an increase of 54 percent since 1995. “Personally, there is no better business than the business of helping people get and stay healthy. Professionally, the timing could not be better for those in and entering the fitness category. More people are exercising than ever before. There is a heightened sensitivity and receptiveness to a broad spectrum of fitness related concepts all servicing different niches in the space” stated Tim Kurtz Operating Partner, P-Fit Development owners of nine Planet Fitness clubs.
In the United States, health club memberships are ubiquitous, an expenditure consumers are finding easier to justify. A new study recently found that adults who meet the national exercise guidelines save themselves $2,500 a year, a result of reduced medical costs, which means health-conscious, fit Americans have more money to accommodate their active lifestyles.
The fitness craze hasn’t just manifested itself in the western hemisphere. Emphasis on a healthy, active lifestyle has become a global phenomenon. A 2013 international survey found that more than 27 percent of global adults use health clubs and fitness centers to exercise. In 2016, the international health and wellness market expanded to $3.4 trillion, three times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry, per the Global Wellness Institute.
With this global shift, new spaces have emerged in the market, including the nascent “Athleisure” category raking in $270 billion in 2016. Projections estimate the subcategory will grow by 30 percent by the year 2020. Lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret abandoned one-pieces and mix-and-match bikinis this year in favor of expanding the brand’s activewear line. The move signals a commitment from fashion designers anticipating the latest fitness trends and the peripheral impact it has on style and identity.
Many brands are seeing the value in supporting healthier and active lifestyles. BelVita, the breakfast biscuits brand, for example, saw sales increase by 20 percent last year as consumers gravitated closer and closer towards foods that provide sources of energy, without compromising on nutrition. In response to the recognition that consumers are constantly on-the-go, the brand released an ad campaign focused on “steady morning energy.”
We live in a culture that rejects passivity. A culture that is transient, always changing – captivated by fads ranging from Pokémon Go to steady state cardio. Yet at the same time, the commitment to healthy, active lifestyles appears to be enduring, monopolizing the priorities of millions of Americans. A new segment, focused on longevity and the present moment.