How health and fitness became a trillion dollar industry

Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, wellness tourism, fitness, the spa industry, complementary and alternative medicine….

With an estimated global worth of 3.7 trillion and double-digit annual growth across all wellness sectors since 2010, the wellness industry is “one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries” today.

This is pretty phenomenal, especially when you consider recent economic history. In 2008, the world saw one of the worst economic crises in history. The global financial crisis hit many industries hard. Ever since, the world economy has grown at snail pace. Nearly ten years on, some industries are still fighting for breath. Some never recovered.

So how did the wellness industry manage not only to survive the crisis but also to prosper against all the odds?

Rise of lifestyle-related illness

Our ancestors would turn their noses up at the modern lifestyle, which is increasingly centered around convenience.

Compared to previous generations, the modern population is more sedentary – we spend hours watching television and sitting in front of computers, rather than being constantly physically active at home and at work. We’re also unhealthy eaters. Not only do we overeat, the food we eat is poorer quality – a typical modern diet includes additives, fast-food and processed foods. We do anything we can to save time on food preparation, grabbing the nearest takeaway, pre-made sandwich or candy bar while on the run, at home with family or at work.

Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, these poor modern lifestyle choices have dire consequences on our health. The world population has never been so unwell. In 2014, nearly 40% of adults (over 18) were overweight. As for the US only, that number stands at 70%, making it the fattest country in the world. Stress, mental illness and disease are also at an all-time high.

As a consequence of the alarming state of global health, both supply and demand for services and products that promote good health have increased exponentially. As the number of individuals looking for ways to improve their overall health increases, so does the number of businesses capitalizing on opportunity.

Take the modern organic movement, for example. In the last ten years, amongst the growing awareness of the health risks involved with using pesticides, the market need for organic products, such as foods and cosmetics, has grown rapidly. The number of businesses offering organic products has multiplied and will continue to do so. The organic foods market is predicted to grow 16.7% over the next five years, hitting $212 billion by 2020.

organic food farming

Influence of the social media health and fitness movement

Recently, health and fitness have become a social media phenomenon. Whether we like it or not, social media has given a platform to health and fitness professionals and nonprofessionals alike to share their knowledge and advice with the 2.5 billion social media users worldwide. Whether the information they offer is reliable or not, social media influencers are one of the driving forces behind the success of the health and fitness industry.

Social context strongly influences human behavior. The huge number of health and fitness influencers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter normalize exercise and healthy eating and motivate people to follow suit. Image-conscious millennials who use social media more than any other generation are strongly influenced by what celebrities, friends and the general public, buffed and filtered to perfection, post on their profiles. And as social media becomes more disruptive, increasingly used by businesses as an advertising tool, it’s becoming difficult to ignore the constant stream of messages that encourage us to subscribe to a fitness blog, invest in a workout program or buy a pair of training shoes.

Social media has also opened doors to fitness enthusiasts wanting to create a business out of their passion. Influencers such as Kayla Itsines have used social media to build hugely successful brands. After just 12 months of blogging about fitness and nutrition on Instagram, Kayla now has around 1.7 million Instagram followers and an estimated worth of $46 million.

People are more informed about wellness

Aside from social media, there’s a wealth of information out there that aims to educate the general public about health.

There’s a growing number of public health initiatives that promote healthy living. With an increased public awareness about how to lead a healthy life, many people are now treating themselves rather than visiting a doctor or paying for a personal trainer.

The media in general also plays a significant role in driving the health and fitness phenomenon. For example, magazines with dedicated health and fitness columns or supplements. On the web, we’ve got online health and fitness forums, nearly 8,000 fitness apps available to download and, of course, Google –– the search engine that can answer any health and fitness question you have.

huffington post wellnessHealth and fitness information comes at us from all angles, making us more aware of health issues and the things we can do to combat them. As a result, more and more consumers are looking to become more active and eat more healthily, which creates more  business opportunities .

A shift in attitude towards health care

Medical professionals traditionally practice curative medicine –– that is, they seek to cure existing medical conditions. However, preventative health care started to become more popular in the medical world in the 60s and 70s, and is now a fairly common modern practice.

Many healthcare professionals now see the benefits of recommending health and fitness as a means to prevent poor health, not just cure it. They are recommending their patients to carry out healthy activities to maintain good health –– for example, to eat healthily and exercise regularly –– as part of their daily lives. During the first decade of the 21st century, the number of adults recommended by their health care professional to exercise increased by 10%.

The rise in popularity of preventative methods in the health world is also one of the reasons for the staggering popularity of alternative, non-traditional medicines and practices in the modern day, such as yoga, pilates and meditation. These practices have existed for centuries, but have skyrocketed in popularity in the past few decades.

alternative medicine

It’s also influencing our lifestyles and our attitude towards the benefits of exercise in health. Many people now associate exercise with health over performance and incorporate healthy activities and healthy eating into their daily routine to achieve optimal wellness. For example, they go to the gym to maintain a healthy lifestyle over the long term, not just to achieve short-term goals.

So what does this mean for the health and fitness market? There’s now a constant high demand across all sectors of the health and fitness industry, from fitness facilities and classes, alternative medicines to nutrition. It also means plenty of opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs looking to get involved in this highly lucrative industry.

An industry fuelled by consumers

Many factors play a part in making the health and fitness industry the success it is today. But there’s one thing that unites them all: changing consumer behavior. Consumers are more informed about health risks and the importance of maintaining good health and businesses are responding by filling the many gaps in an ever-expanding market.

As for the future, the value of the industry is expected to increase by 17% over the next five years, with new health technology having a particularly big impact. By 2020, the value of the digital health market alone, which includes mobile and wireless health, is predicted to reach 233.3 billion U.S. dollars.

We can only expect the industry to continue its incredible growth.

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Ellie Lord

Ellie Lord

Ellie is a British-born francophile and tech enthusiast based in Montreal. She loves all word-related activities such as speaking various languages, singing and crafting content.