The fitness industry plays a key role in facilitating a healthier life in a world that is becoming increasingly health-conscious. Exercise has become a means through which individuals seek to attain physical and psychological well-being. Japan poses no exception to this global trend. The majority of Japanese adults engage in sports at least once a week, and their biggest motivation to do so, is for health reasons. The importance attached to sports and the high participation rate in physical exercise fuels the industry’s sports apparel and sports equipment markets. Various types of sports facilities provide the infrastructure to practice sports while offering a setting to meet peers. Among the many available sports facility types, fitness clubs, which come in many concepts and sizes, attract a certain share of the population into their premises. The market size of gyms in Japan amounts to several hundred billion Japanese yen. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue declined significantly. Despite that, the number of fitness facilities continued to rise, even during the pandemic.
Fitness club population
Albeit there are several tens of millions of people engaged in sports in Japan, only a few million of them are also members of a fitness club. Among the most popular places to exercise are streets, one’s home, and parks, with private commercial indoor facilities being nowhere near the preferred choices. One possible reason for the relatively low fitness club membership rate in Japan might be the reluctance of the population to spend money to do sports (some rather spend watching it). Another reason might be the lacking infrastructure, since urban areas, which are more saturated with fitness facilities than rural areas, show higher participation rates. Interestingly, albeit in general men tend to be more engaged with sports than women, the gender comparison of gym visitors favors women. Figures related to household expenditure on fitness clubs suggest that much of the industry's revenue comes from persons aged above 60. Following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, membership figures declined significantly, as did the overall attendance at gyms.
New opportunities offered by technology
Technology presents new avenues to the fitness industry to expand. Wearables, as well as health and fitness apps, are new ways to provide consumers with highly personalized fitness and health experiences. The penetration rate of wearables in Japan is still in the single-digit area, but figures were increasing in the past few years significantly. Services provided through apps on smartphones form an emerging segment of the fitness market. Fitness and health apps typically provide free or low-cost services that might be appealing to a broader consumer segment. Health and fitness apps were successfully monetized, generating millions of U.S. dollars in revenue. The future of apps seems bright and shiny in the light of increasing internet and smartphone penetration, growing awareness regarding health, and especially under current COVID-19 induced lockdown-prone circumstances in Japan and around the world.
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