Let’s Hit The Gym: China’s Evolving Fitness Industry

Let's Hit The Gym: China's Evolving Fitness Industry

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China's fitness market has been growing for years, fueling the growth of both international brands like Nike and Adidas, as well as local Chinese brands such as Li-Ning and Anta. However, much of this growth in the past has been driven by lifestyle sportswear and sports-influenced fashion trends, rather than by substantial changes in sports participation across the broader Chinese population. 

But this is evolving quickly, as we are seeing a real change in the rate of sports and fitness participation among Chinese citizens. This change was already happening pre-COVID, but COVID has accelerated this change which is being seen across all sectors – in-home fitness, gyms and outdoor sports and fitness. 

At the same time, we are seeing the standards of beauty and body image begin to shift in China – especially for women. In the past, being thin was prioritized over all else, but we are now seeing a growing trend in the ideal body type for Chinese women being strong with defined muscle. In our recent survey of 1,159 consumers in China, respondents cite gaining muscle definition as the primary motivation to work out (51%), followed by losing weight (40%) and preventing health ailments (33%). 

Women Prefer Yoga, Dance and Crossfit while Men Prefer Spin, Cycling & Running

When looking at overall responses from our survey the top fitness activities were: yoga (40%), spin (37%), cycling (32%), dance (27%), running (25%) and crossfit (24%). However if you look at gender responses the top activities shift a bit by gender. 

The Rise of Niche Outdoor and Fitness Brands 

Top fitness brands were led by the largest brands in China: Nike, Adidas, Li-Ning and Anta. However, we also saw strong support for outdoor and specialty brands including New Balance, Arc'teryx, Lululemon and Columbia. We expect new and innovative brands to continue to gain in popularity, including Chinese brands such as Maia Active. 

Olympics, NBA and FIFA Top the List for Popular Sporting Events

Top sports events cited by respondents included Summer Olympics, NBA, FIFA, Winter Olympics and the World Bodybuilding competition. We expect the Olympic excitement to continue to build as we gear up for the Summer Olympics hosted in Japan and for the Winter Olympics hosted in China. We expect the Winter Olympics to be a significant catalyst for winter sports participation in China – similar to the boost in summer sports following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

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