16 January 2018
Author: Rhiannon McGregor
A widespread interest in the health and wellness sectors in China and a willingness among consumers to pay a premium is helping to create a lucrative market. The country’s fitness industry is now worth more than $6bn, having grown at an annual rate of 12% between 2012 and 2017, according to a report by IBISWorld. While America’s fitness industry still overshadows China in terms of overall value, the 2.5% annual rate of growth in the US is diminutive in comparison, promising a brighter outlook in China. The retail sector is also benefitting, as brands like Zodiac Active create lifestyle garments that bridge the gap between sportswear and everyday clothing.
But health and wellness in China extends beyond a two-dimensional idea of physical exercise. Food plays a significant part, with nearly 9 in ten (87%) of Chinese consumers saying they consume functional beverages such as soybean and grain based protein drinks, according to Mintel. ‘In China, [healthy eating] is a recent trend that’s been influenced by American culture, but also one that’s deeply connected with the way many post-Cultural Revolution babies grew up,’ Tian Tian Mayimin, founder and CEO of Shanghai-based V Cleanse told Forbes. ‘As perceptions of health have changed over the years, [people are] beginning to reassess their food habits. And purposeful eating is what they are after.’
As health and wellness becomes entrenched as a mainstream mindset, it is spreading into new areas – moving beyond gyms and expanding across communities and real estate. 'We’re at the beginning of a new movement in home and community design that tackles our uniquely modern problems: sedentary lives, unhealthy diets, stress, social isolation, pollution and nature deprivation,’ says Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow at the Global Wellness Institute. In the US, a large proportion of homebuyers are expressing an interest in wellness communities and the wellness real estate market is now worth £88bn ($119bn, €100bn) and growing at 9% a year, according to the Global Wellness Summit.
In the past few years a lot of research has been done into the relationship between spatial design and its effect on the human brain. Now scientifically led research is taking this one step further. Rather than just simply adding greenery to optimise a visitor’s wellbeing, architects are considering how neuroscience can play a pivotal role in shaping human behaviour through various neuro-architectural principles. ‘Our studies of light, colour and intensity showed that heart rate variability, a sensitive indicator of mental engagement and health risk, changed with only 15 minutes of different electrical light conditions in a controlled space,’ Eve Edelstein, research director of the Perkins+Will Human Experience Lab, told Frame magazine.
More people are becoming active. Americans are now exceeding the recommended amount of physical activity for the first time since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started keeping records. In response, a new wave of social media influencers has emerged that is helping to quash the stereotypes around what it means to be fit and healthy.
Forward-thinking brands like The Everybody gym in Los Angeles are transforming this inclusive sentiment beyond online and into the physical fitness environment, creating spaces in which everyone can feel comfortable working out, no matter what their body size or background. ‘It has always struck me as unfortunate that, in the attempt to align myself with my health, I’ve had to be in environments that are at odds with it,’ says co-founder Sam Rypinski.
Billed as a ‘non-traditional movement’ that welcomes ‘all bodies, genders, races, nationalities, faiths, classes, sexualities, sizes, ages and abilities’ Everybody has non-gendered locker rooms and hosts regular events and programming for specific communities, such as its Fat Kid Dance Party.
Another aspect of Everybody’s accessibility is its sliding-scale membership offer with fees starting at £23 ($30, €26) per month for low-income members, rising to £95 ($125, €108) for an unlimited pass. Similarly, boxer Floyd Mayweather’s franchise of gyms, Mayweather Boxing & Fitness, offer different membership fees based on the area in which they are located. Mayweather also launched a fitness app that features himself as a digital trainer, taking users through his own workouts for those who do not have access to his gyms.
Technology is extending access to healthcare beyond its traditional parameters. We first explored this move from physical into digital spaces in Post Pharmacy Brands – which you can read more about at LS:N Global – as pharmacy brands build trust by providing increased transparency online.
This idea of a more direct approach to healthcare is now emerging as a key development in men’s health, helping to destigmatise conditions that can be difficult to discuss in person. Advances in US telehealth laws, along with the imminent expiry of Viagra and Cialis patents are changing the narrative around male health problems and opening up new possibilities brands.
Figures suggest that traditionally for men the idea of visiting a doctor has been daunting, perhaps due to embarrassment or the perception that seeking help is a sign of weakness. For this reason, men have been half as likely as women to seek medical help in times of need. As a result, online platforms like Roman and LemonAid are offering treatments for conditions like erectile dysfunction that can be difficult to talk about in person. ‘Roman is re-introducing men to the healthcare system and enabling them to start a bond with a physician,’ says Roman’s CEO and co-founder Zachariah Reitano.
Hims is another brand that has recently launched within this space, delivering a range of direct-to-consumer shampoos, serums, vitamins and pills that cater for both baldness and erectile dysfunction directly to customers' doors to avoid the embarrassment of buying over the counter. The platform recognises that while receding hairlines and hair-thinning have typically been associated with men of advancing years, figures indicate that it is in fact a problem that about two thirds of men under the age of 35 have in some capacity and the brand’s visual aesthetic has been designed to be more attuned to this young Millennial demographic.
There is a growing sense that ‘being fit’ is no longer enough. It’s a shift that has served to blur the line between professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts, with affluent consumers increasingly interested in extreme therapies that push their physical and mental capacity to the limits. The next iteration of Pro-formance Training, this wave of new companies is bringing together ideas of Active Recovery and neuro enhancement with services like cryotherapy chambers and EEG brain trainers.
Billed as a ‘human upgrade centre’, Bulletproof Labs offers therapies like Cold HIIT, a fitness system currently being trialled by NASA as a means of dynamic strength gains and accelerated recovery time, to help its members hack their biology. Founded by Dave Asprey, the company offers options for both mind and body, with cryotherapy, Infrared therapy and Oxygen training intended to enhance physical activity and virtual float tanks and EEG brain trainers that enhance brain functionality.
‘Part of the role Bulletproof plays in society is to make people aware of all the things they can do to tap into their full power,’ says Asprey. ‘It’s frustrating to me that this kind of amazing technology isn’t more widely available because it makes such a big difference.’ While cryotherapy chambers are not in themselves new, interest in them is growing and the global market is predicted to exceed $4bn by the end 2024. Brands like 111CRYO, which resides in high-end department store Harvey Nichols, and KxU, the sister studio of luxury members’ club KX, are creating spaces where consumers can feel the benefits of ice immersion, which include enhancing exercise recovery, boosting metabolism and releasing endorphins.
Below Image: Snapbac