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Why is Asia falling in love with functional fitness?
The fitness story around the world right now is mostly one of growth. And one place where that’s certainly true is Asia, with young and old generations alike embracing working out in huge numbers. We recently reviewed the China fitness market, so now we are moving on to look at what’s happening elsewhere in the continent.
One thing’s for sure: as with the rest of the world, the way people work out is changing in Asia. With millennials and a growing middle class powering the fitness industry in most countries, there’s a big desire for a fresh approach to exercise. Innovation is what it’s all about, and functional training is becoming a vital part of the scene.
A new era of health consciousness in Asia
Some of the world’s biggest club operators are on board with the growth evident in the Asian fitness market. Take Fitness First, for example. Back in 2014 they announced a five-year investment programme for Asia, with plans to spend more than US$100 million. The aim was to grow its footprint by around 60%, opening up to 50 new clubs by 2018.
In 2016 Virgin Active announced its own plans for growth in South East Asia, with up to £150 million being invested and almost 2,000 jobs to be created. UFC Gym is also committed to expansion plans in Asia. In late 2016 they opened a new signature gym in Hanoi (pictured below) that's a great example of the level of innovation being achieved in Asia. Randy Dobson and the team at California Fitness did a fantastic job and put their spin on the UFC Gym model. This the first of several locations scheduled to open throughout the region.
What’s exciting for operators is the huge potential for growth. IHRSA reported in 2015 that in India just 0.12% of the population is a member of a club. It was also stated that ‘the health club industry in India has roughly 3,800 health club facilities and nearly one million members’, which is very small for a country of 1.2 billion.
So it’s clear that the opportunities in India are almost unlimited in the short to medium term. Similarly, Statistics Portal says that Vietnam’s fitness industry is expected to grow at around 20% per year through to 2020, with the rate likely to be even more impressive in the high-end market segment.
One of the things driving this growth is increasing health consciousness. This is a point made by Jonathan Fekete, Escape’s Asia-Pacific Regional Sales Manager: “I have been visiting Asia for several years now and I have seen a significant increase in people’s interest in their health. For example, it’s very clear every time I catch up with friends and customers in India that the population there is really getting on board with the need to live healthier lives.”
Jonathan is not alone in spotting this growing interest in health. Industry commentators and analysts are reporting that the health and wellness market is thriving. That applies to the way people eat as well as how they work out. From the Philippines, where three out of five people see staying healthy as an ‘urgent personal concern’ to Singapore, where everything from CrossFit to spinning is on the up, the picture is the same.
Innovation in India
Escape’s Co-founder Matthew Januszek offers up India as an example of a market rapidly picking up pace in terms of quality and innovation: “Far from being in its infancy - which is some people’s perception - parts of the Indian fitness market are very well developed and there are some superb clubs across the country."
Matthew had the pleasure of being invited by Nitrro's MD Prabodh Davkhare to visit his club. Matt was extremely impressed and this is what he had to say: “Nitrro is a bespoke fitness club on a grand scale in Mumbai, with additional locations on the way. Prabodh had a fantastic vision for a club that breaks away from the traditional approach and sets new standards.
“He’s certainly doing that, with a superb-looking club with live DJs, two levels of floorspace and programming across cross training, Group X, Pilates and indoor cycling. Prabodh is now looking to put fully-equipped Escape functional training zones into his clubs too.”
BodyPower India 2017 smashes records
It was clear that this is an exciting time for fitness in Asia at January’s BodyPower Expo 2017 in Mumbai. The BodyPower shows in the UK have always been outstanding, and the first India event lived up to the name and reputation. About 40,000 visitors attended over its three days, which could make it Asia’s largest health and fitness show.
The Escape team were there too of course, exhibiting with our India distributors GymPac. Jonathan Fekete says: “We were blown away by the enthusiasm that visitors showed for functional training. They were fired up and really wanted to get their hands on equipment like our Core Momentum Trainer, Bulgarian Bags, TIYRs and our Deck 2.0, STEP and RISER platforms. People also wanted to have a go at our MOVE IT workouts and challenges.
“One thing that really struck me was the way that people in India are very much into working out with their friends. They love taking part in classes and enjoy the social scene that goes along with that training format. Group training and functional fitness are of course a great match, so I think the future for functional is very bright indeed.”
The show, which was the first large-scale launch of Escape Fitness products in India, was attended by celebrities from across the world, including fitness model superstar Michelle Lewin, Bollywood star Sonakshi Sinha, and bodybuilders Sergi Constance, Dennis James and Sham Singh Shera. Meanwhile, Escape’s Matthew Januszek, Steve Barrett and Tommy Matthews were all part of a packed programme of presentations.
Set for growth: Escape’s new distribution centre in Thailand
Escape is committed to being a part of the Asian fitness story, with our own expansion and investment programme taking shape. To meet the growing demand from across Asia-Pacific for Escape’s range of fitness equipment, we are soon to open a new distribution centre in Thailand. Recruitment for the team who will manage and operate the facility is underway. The distribution centre will stock Escape’s products, alongside those from our partner in the facility, Life Fitness.
Jonathan Fekete says: “The new distribution centre will mean we are better able to meet the needs of our customers throughout the region, especially in terms of faster delivery times. It will also enable us to reduce shipping costs, which in turn we can pass on to our customers.
”The future is looking very positive for our industry in Asia and Escape is excited to be a part of what’s happening. We are of course especially pleased to see a growing interest in functional training, with people demanding innovative workouts. It’s why we are investing in the region, to make sure that we can play a leading role in empowering clubs to deliver world-class functional training experiences to their members.”
Looking for support for your own Asian fitness story?
If you are based in Asia as a club owner or manager, or a personal trainer, and you are looking for new exercise experiences to offer your members, please get in touch: [email protected]
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