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Leisure Management - Movement = happiness

Editor's letter

Movement = happiness


A substaintial new research study has mapped the global fitness and physical activity market. As well as giving us a benchmark to measure growth, it also reveals some important correlations

Liz Terry, Leisure Media
Happiness and physical activity are correlated

The Global Wellness Insitute (GWI) has mapped the global physical activity market for the first time, with the publication of a study called Move to be well: the global economy of physical activity, authored by GWI’s senior researchers, Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston.

The report shows physical activity with a value of US$828bn, sitting near the top of the US$4.5tr wellness industry in 2018.

In breaking this number down, Yeung and Johnston have split the market into three segments and valued them by expenditure – fitness (US$109bn), sport and active recreation (US$230bn) and mindful movement such as yoga (US$29bn). They also looked at ‘enabling sectors’ – equipment and supplies (US$109bn), apparel/footwear (US$333bn) and tech (US$26bn).

The GWI expects this total for the activity market to grow by 6.6 per cent per annum to reach US$1.1tn by 2023.

Importantly, Yeung and Johnston recognise that much activity people engage in cannot be measured, and have flagged up ‘free activity’ such as road running and tai chi in the park as being in addition to the totals laid out.

GWI has undertaken this research as part of its mission to map the entire wellness ecosystem and so these new numbers for the activity sectors sit within a wider study of the US$4.5bn global wellness economy, which includes workplace wellness, the spa economy, wellness tourism, personal care, beauty and anti-ageing, wellness real estate, healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, traditional and complementary medicine, prevention and personalised medicine and public health.

Yeung and Johnston point out that the growth of the fitness, mind-body sector has been a major driver when it comes to making activity accessible to large numbers of people, with 3.7 per cent of the world’s population (190m people) holding a gym membership. They report that revenues have grown by over 50per cent since 2007, to come in at US$595bn.

Going forward, GWI says the Asia-Pacific region will overtake North America as the largest market for fitness in the next few years, accounting for 40 per cent of all global growth. China and India together will drive nearly a third of growth, while the US will account for a quarter.

It’s interesting to look more deeply into the numbers, and analysis of the GWI research by Katie Barnes, editor of HCM’s sister magazine, Spa Business, notes a strong and significant correlation between activity and mental health. Barnes says: “When you compare the happiest nations from the 2019 World Happiness Report to the countries with the highest rates for physical activity, there’s very striking overlap.

“Fourteen nations make both top-20 lists, with countries such as Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark all ranking in the top 10 for both “happiest” and “most physically active”. The movement and “mood” connection seems powerful.”

With the current challenges being faced in relation to mental health and happiness, understanding powerful influences such as this are hugely empowering for our industry.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 10
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