Global Wellness Industry Now Worth $4.5 Trillion, Thanks To $828 Billion Physical Activity Market

MIAMI, United States — The value of the global wellness industry has risen to $4.5 trillion, bolstered by the $828.2 billion “physical activity economy”, according to new research by the Global Wellness Institute.

In a data-packed study, the institute identified the “physical activity economy” as including sports and active recreation, fitness, mindful movement, equipment and supplies, apparel and footwear, and technology. Additional research predicts the market will reach $1.1 trillion+ by 2023.

“This new global data stream is meant to encourage business leaders and policymakers to see physical activity as a comprehensive sector, and one that’s critical in supporting lifestyles that are crucial to good health,” noted Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior researcher and report co-author. 

“Yes, physical activity has become a massive $828 billion commercial segment, but the conundrum is that sedentary lives, obesity and chronic disease are all exploding right alongside the fitness market’s explosive growth.”

Katherine Johnston, GWI senior researcher and co-author, added: “When people think ‘fitness industry’ they think gyms, boutique studios, yoga and fit-tech like wearables, but there are so many ways we can get enough exercise to stay healthy — from playing sports to dancing to biking to work. And there are huge opportunities for businesses to get more people active — beyond affluent urbanites/suburbanites, the young and the already-healthy.”

According to the data, which represents the direct consumer spend for each category (not including the vast expenditures made by governments/the public sector) sports and active recreation comes out on top at $230.1 billion. Fitness and gym follows at $108.6 billion, with mindful movement valued at $29.1 billion — the total of these three core segments making up a 44% share of the market.

Supporting segments: apparel and footwear, valued at $333 billion, equipment and supplies at $109 billion, and technology at $26 billion, make up the other 56% share.

Ninety percent of the world’s spending on recreational physical activities takes place in North America, Asia and Europe, while globally, spending averages $306 per participant per year: $136 on activities and $172 on equipment, apparel/footwear and technology

That number may seem low, says the Global Wellness Institute but the study captures a much broader range of physical activities than the $200/month elite gym membership or $35 spinning class out of reach for most of the world. 

Per participant, expenditures are very high in North America ($1,345) and Europe ($528) while significantly lower in the rest of the world. However, the US and China are by far the world’s largest national consumer markets for recreational physical activity, together accounting for 45 percent of global expenditures.

Global Wellness Industry Now Worth $4.5 Trillion, Thanks To $828 Billion Physical Activity Market
Image Credit: Anupam Mahapatra

Elsewhere, the report also notes that the nations with the highest recreational physical activity participation rates are also the happiest.

By comparing the happiest nations from the 2019 World Happiness Report to the countries with the highest rates for recreational physical activity, the Global Wellness Institute reveals there is avery striking overlap: Fourteen nations make both top-20 lists, with Nordic countries such as Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark all ranking in the top 10 for “happiest” and most physically active. 

Deep-diving into the top three segments of the physical activity economy, the report suggests that the $230 billion sports and active recreation category generates two-thirds of all recreational physical activity spending because these activities are the most diverse, accessible, affordable and prevalent across every region and population group — thirty-three percent of the world’s population regularly engages in sports and active recreation, spending $90/annually on average.

The $108.6 billion fitness category, meanwhile, it estimates, is being driven by the 3.7 percent of the world’s population who are members of gyms or fitness studios, take independent fitness classes regularly, or work out in public facilities or on their own. This cohort is spending $384 each, annually. 

Within the wider fitness market, 190 million people spend money on memberships/training at commercial gyms and studios (258,000 locations across 211 countries), generating $83 billion in annual expenditures, reveals the report. 

Another 58 million participate in fitness classes at (26,000+) public and nonprofit venues that cost much less or nothing, while twenty-eight million people subscribe to on-demand and streaming fitness services online or via apps.

North America is the #1 fitness market ($40.5 billion and a 29 percent participation rate), followed by Europe ($33.8 billion market with a significantly lower participation rate of 9.2 percent).

Lastly, the $29 billion mindful movement category is also skyrocketing, argues the report. Of the world’s population, 3.8 percent now regularly participate in mindful movement, spending on average $101/year. And while the market is currently concentrated in wealthier countries, practices are spreading fast throughout the world.

According to the report, the physical activity economy will grow 6.6 percent annually from 2018–2023, to surpass $1.1 trillion. Asia-Pacific will overtake North America as the largest market, accounting for 40 percent of all global growth through 2023. China and India together will drive nearly one-third of growth, while the US will account for one-quarter.

You can read the full report, here.