Commercial gyms and the fitness industry as a whole is huge and continues to grow at an exponential rate.
Globally, the industry generates around 80 billion US dollars every year and this figure continues to rise along with the number of health and fitness clubs that open. Statistics show that as of 2015 there were more than 185,000 clubs around the world. This figure had grown by over 50,000 from the year 2010. Combined, these clubs serve over 150 million gym members. A figure that, once again, has increased significantly from 2010 where gym member numbers were around the 128 million mark. Just in the UK alone 1 in 7 people are members of a gym.
Whilst it’s clear to see that the industry is booming and grows significantly year on year, where did it all begin?
The word Gym is derived from Gymnasium, a Greek word which itself comes from the word Gymnos which means ‘naked’. This is because Greek athletes were encouraged to exercise naked. Back then though a gym was simply a large room designated for the purpose of exercises such as running as of course there would have been no weight lifting equipment or machinery.
The industry became fairly stagnant after this period as life in the Renaissance period was difficult and labour intensive enough.
If we jump ahead to the 1930’s, this is when the first official public health club was opened up. Over in the States Jack LaLanne could see huge benefits in weightlifting for both male and females and offered training and nutritional advice to his clients. This was not without its difficulties as medical professionals told people to stay away from his club as weightlifting could lead to heart attacks and a decreased sex drive! Despite the negativity surrounding his gym he was able to grow his business so that by the 1980’s he had over 200 clubs within the US.
The very well known Gold’s Gym was founded in 1965 by Joe Gold. It quickly became a mecca for bodybuilders enabling Joe to open up more gyms. He sold off the chain in 1970 but went on to launch World Gym which now has over 200 franchises spread over 19 countries.
24 Hour Fitness, which now boasts the highest number of collective memberships, was founded in 1983. This was closely followed by LA Fitness, launched in 1984, who now have over 800 clubs across the US and Canada.
Here in the UK, Fitness First opened up their first club in 1993 in the seaside resort of Bournemouth and after fast growth and various buy outs the chain was sold to a London based equity group for a whopping £835 million.
So when you look back to the 1930’s and Jack LaLannes first club and jump ahead just 80 years the rise of the fitness industry has been incredible and certainly makes you think where things could be in the years to come.