The Fitness Business

April 29, 2021
New Opportunities

Every morning and evening it is common to see young and not-so-young men and women perhaps with a dog pet, walking and jogging indulging themselves in some form of exercise. There is a trend and demand for physical fitness and weight loss services in Africa. But how large is the market? In developed countries like America and the European nations, the fitness industry makes a whopping $30 billion every year according to research. They are basically classified into two:  fitness centers and therapeutic programs for weight loss. Gyms generally offer equipment for physical exercise that focus more on building your muscles while weight loss programs involves structured step by step processes that helps people to slim down and lose weight. Weight loss programs mostly include customized diets, surgery, counselling, drugs or supplements. There is a trend of gyms coming up which offer diverse products like dance classes and yoga.

You might think that because Africa has most of its population earning less than average income that perhaps the fitness industry won’t work here but that is far from the truth. A country like South Africa is leading the continent in the fitness industry. Available statistics show that about 60% of South Africa has high density of gyms and health clubs. Nairobi (Kenya) and Lagos (Nigeria) have also become booming markets for the fitness business. Economic growth, urbanization and the ever changing lifestyles due to the western culture influence on the continent has attributed for the growing demand for fitness.

The market here is mostly the middle class which is a fast growing and consumption driven sector. According to the report issued by the Africa Development Bank (AFDB) in 2011, Africa’s middle class is one of the fastest growing population and account for about 350 million people. In the world the middle class is the world’s largest consumer. In the same report it shows that most middle class households in Africa spend between 15 to 115 dollars in a day. When people have more money to spend since they can afford it then they tend to eat more which is why it is not a surprise that obesity is common. Take a look at countries like Australia and the United States trying to battle obesity. Due to this more middles-class Africans are becoming more conscious towards their health, diet and exercising. Regular exercises can reduce the likelihood of falling sick which is the biggest motivation for the fitness industry. Increased access to technology has also been said to have spurred on fitness trends. African millennial have easier access to the media thus are able to read more about what to do to improve their appearance and health long term.

Most individuals cannot afford the full-range gym at home hence it is cheaper and more convenient to join a local gym and pay to use the exercise equipment on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Also gyms provide the support of team work, there is always that motivation when you work out as a group compared to exercising alone. Some people need a community or personal trainer to say motivated and committed to their fitness. To satisfy this need, most gyms provide a variety of exercise equipment which might involve weights to leg presses, treadmills, swimming pools, spas and sports arenas like tennis courts. However, the most successful fitness business is the one where the trainer has a personal touch with their services which involves continuous inspiration to your clients, some encouragement and support in order to achieve the fitness goals.

Virgin active which was launched in South Africa and owned by Sir Richard Branson, a renowned entrepreneur, has over 250 branches across Asia, Europe, Asia and Africa and over 600,000 members in its gyms facilities. So does Planet Fitness, which has lots of active members and is arguably the second largest chain of gyms and fitness centers. This goes to prove how huge and how high the demand is for the fitness industry in Africa and the whole world alike.

So what are the factors to look out for if you are considering to venture into the fitness business?

1. Know your clientele. Understanding your market will be key to tapping this fitness industry. Look out for the demographics, their willingness to spend. Are they women or men, teenagers, young adults or families working together? Then build your products and services around your clientele.

2. What means will you use to market your services? How well can you reach your target market? You will need strategy, networks and capital to be able to impact membership fees in many African countries. You can use referrals and offer incentives to those that bring in new members.

3. Allow for innovation. You will need to keep introducing activities and even structure into your sessions to keep up with the changing dynamics of your clients. For example, Kantaria from Kenya who owns a fitness studio called Reform, for once a month she takes work-out outside the studio. This she does by partnering with outdoor restaurants where customers work out before brunch. What technology will you incorporate in your work out routines? We have heard of indoor cycling having taken off in modern gyms, customers booking online for sessions, online coaching sessions, customers having an online account which makes it easier to gather data and monitor the performance thus allowing you to tailor make special workouts that suit your customer needs.

4. Think of exploring into larger markets. For example, corporates have begun to invest in the wellness of their employees. You can tap into this by providing discounted packages for companies.

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