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Women’s Health and Fitness Day and the Growing International Markets for Health and Fitness Products and Services

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Women’s Health and Fitness Day and the Growing International Markets for Health and Fitness Products and Services
Dedicated days to celebrate certain industries, themes or activities have become more common in recent years, with many being a boon for related industries and businesses. Well-known examples include Black Monday and Cyber Tuesday where online sellers will promote deals and special prices, with the intention of driving more traffic through websites and raising the profile of certain brands and products. 
 
This article will look at one such promotion – The US Women’s Health and Fitness Day and the international markets that are growing around it. 
 
 
Women’s Health and Fitness Day – UK and USA
 
The event is US-based and takes place in September every year. It is organised by the US Health Information Resource Center. It is an annual event and one of the biggest health promotion events that takes place in the USA every year. Its chief purpose is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of female US citizens, get more women engaged in health and fitness activities and advertise products and services that can assist women in meeting their fitness goals. The event invites a range of organisations and sponsors to attend and participate in activities throughout the day. This year, the estimated turnout for the event is in the region of 100,000 women at health centres and fitness centres across the USA. 
 
The associated economic benefits of this and similar events are obvious. If people are more healthy, they are less likely to need healthcare and more likely to work and pay taxes. Moreover, a healthier population eases the burden on the public purse, since healthcare costs for people with preventable diseases are enormous and growing. If incidence of common health problems that cause diseases like obesity and cancer are reduced, these enormous outlays can also be reduced. Women, many of whom are mothers and caregivers have a crucial role to play in these dynamics, since if they adopt a healthier lifestyle, the children under their care are more likely to adopt and follow healthy habits and lifestyles. 
 
The US Women’s Health and Fitness Day coincides with National Fitness Day in the UK, which also falls in September. A similar annual event is promoted every year, where sports centres, leisure centres and sports activity providers are invited to participate and open their doors to members of the public to promote their products and services. Promotional challenges like fitness competitions are organised and participants can seek sponsorship and support within their local communities. 
 
 
Women’s Health and Fitness Day and Employers
 
It isn’t just governments who have incentives to make the overall population healthier. Employers also see the benefits of encouraging their employees to adopt a healthier lifestyle, since a healthier workforce is one that takes fewer sick days and, as such, costs employers less. Employers with a healthier workforce don’t need to spend extra resources training people to replace skilled workers, who simply cannot work due to their declining health. Furthermore, businesses with healthier workforces have a lower overall turnover of staff. A high staff turnover is very disruptive for businesses and can result in them not being able to meet demand for their products and services effectively in the period between when an unhealthy worker leaves and a healthy replacement is hired. Given these problems and trends, it is not surprising that employers see the benefit of investing in infrastructure and products and services that will encourage their employees to adopt a healthier lifestyle. For example, many employers now offer free gym membership, cycle to work schemes, or gym equipment to their employees. Other employers are collaborating with gyms and offering membership of gym facilities, as opposed to the creation of “inhouse” facilities, which may not be as well equipped. 
 
 
Health and Fitness Promotions: How Businesses Benefit
 
With the government and employers promoting a healthier lifestyle, multiple opportunities are created for businesses selling products and services, which align with the overall agenda of encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles. 
Consequently, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle encourages people to spend their money to support the adoption of a healthier lifestyle. People who wish to adopt a healthy lifestyle will typically spend money to support their goals, for example on exercise classes, or personal trainers, or related products and services. 
 
Government promotion of health and fitness has had notable effects at a macroeconomic level, for example, in 2019, there has been a major increase in overall expenditure on sports equipment like home exercise equipment and wearable technologies that track fitness. Research has indicated that the overall value of the fitness and wellness markets in the UK alone is expected to reach 22.8 billion GBP in 2020. 
 
 
Fitness Industry and Mental Health
 
Mental health adds an important dimension to the overall picture of people pursuing healthier and fitter lifestyles. The connection between mental health and exercise has been highlighted in study after study, showing that exercise and a healthier lifestyle improves mental health. Gyms and gym memberships are growing on the back of this intersection between physical health and mental health. The trends are being buoyed by increased openness and awareness of mental health issues and the use of sports personalities and stars to make mental health struggles more “normal” and more mainstream. This also has the effect of drawing more and more people with mental health issues into the fitness market. For many people with mental health problems, a fitness plan will often form an important part of their recovery and future management of their condition.  
 
 
Gyms and Classes 
 
Gym membership is on the increase as people start to understand more about how healthier lifestyles can extend their lives and improve the quality of life for many people. Furthermore, demand for personal trainers and weight loss classes and groups has also grown and this has contributed even further to the demand for weight loss accessories and equipment that can be used to support weight loss or fitness goals. 
 
Boutique gyms are on the rise, too. These are gyms that are targeted at smaller segments of the population, for example pregnant women, or women recovering after giving birth. 
 
New fitness trends linked to an increased interest in fitness have emerged from many quarters. For example, fitness classes are being live-streamed to increase accessibility. As a result more people can and do attend these kinds of classes. The group atmosphere attracts many who find exercising alone can be dull and boring. Savvy companies have even developed new technologies like VR interfaces and streaming interfaces, which mimic the experience of the group dynamic for users. This particular trend has proven very popular within the field of “spinning” with virtual spin classes becoming much more common. Spinning seems to be extremely popular amongst people with existing busy lifestyles and the spin class culture is attuned to this with lots of heavy cardio built into short time frames. 
 
Also popular due to the increasingly “busy lifestyle” of working mums and families is the trend for HIIT. This means High Intensity Interval Training and it is particularly popular in the USA. HIIT training uses intense bursts of exercise over shorter timescales to achieve more extreme weight loss results over shorter periods of time. With people increasingly being “time poor” this method of training has grown in appeal and popularity, despite the increased risk of injury. 
 
The markets for boxing, crossfit and bodybuilding have grown particularly quickly, with more and more women joining these areas of fitness. Research conducted by Sport England suggests that the number of women registered as boxers rose from 70 in 2005, to over 900 in 2009. Since women’s boxing was added to the Olympics competition in 2012, the numbers of women taking up boxing has further increased. Some estimates put the increase since 2012 at 25% of total registrations at professional level. 
 
 
Wearable Technologies
 
The worldwide drive towards health and fitness has seen huge demand created for fitness accessories like wearable technologies including fitbits and GPS navigation systems used by runners and hikers. Apps and technologies like the fitbit and the many generic alternatives are now widely available.  
 
Fitbits allow users to track the number of steps they have taken within a given period and also track how many calories have been burned doing exercise. The user gets a much more personalised understanding of their body and they can monitor how their fitness changes over time with the fitbit which will analyse their biometrics like weight and height. Additionally gadgets like fitbits can be linked to smartphones and computers, so the user has much more control and oversight of their biometrics. This helps motivate people to achieve goals over time and the fitbit and associated interfaces for analysis is vital to the user. 
 
Furthermore, online communities have also grown up around the use of the fitbit and analysis of routes for running and hiking. People with similar interests and goals can now communicate using apps and share their fitness goals, interests and aspirations. 
 
 
Healthy Foods 
 
With more and more people on health kicks and fitness drives, the popularity of specialty foods and supplements have also increased, with the supplement market alone expected to reach 15 billion USD by 2023. Moreover, people are starting to understand the links between food consumption and the incidence of preventable diseases like cancer and diabetes. This has brought the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet even more to the forefront of peoples’ minds. Companies like Slimming World and WW (the new imprint of the Weight Watchers brand) have flourished in recent years, as a result. Weight Watchers has rebranded as “Wellness that Works” and hired an array of brand ambassadors to support their brand expansion and desire to operate along similar lines in every country. Additionally, brands like Herbalife and Slimming World have launched their own ranges of healthy foods, aimed to support a healthy lifestyle, reduce hunger cravings and increase focus and concentration. 
 
People have become increasingly interested in foods that are grown and produced naturally and organically, particularly as the promotion of a healthy lifestyle will typically involve reducing reliance on processed and ultra processed foods, which tend to be cheaper, higher in calories and have long lists of ingredients which include preservatives and additives which make the foods long lasting and in many cases, also add flavour and taste. Researchers have suggested that sales of organic food and drink in the UK rose by 6% in 2018 (the sixth consecutive year of growth in this sector), with organic food and drink sales in the UK accounting for an aggregate of 2.2 billion GBP in sales, in 2018 alone. By comparison, growth of non-organic food and drink sales grew by a meager 2% in the same period.
 
A major part of the health food industry is driven by the science that shows us how harmful sugar and hidden sugars in foods can be to our overall health. Excess sugar is a key feature of processed and ultra processed foods and this has become a driver for new reduced sugar product lines. People are willing to pay more for foods that are not packed full of sugar, and as such this is creating new product lines and businesses whose missions are dedicated to the creation of foods with low sugar content and good quality ingredients. 
 
In the advent of Amazon, healthy foods are also becoming much more accessible to the average customer. Traditionally, health food purchases were made in specialty stores and shops. These days specialty foods are widely available on websites like Amazon and this is fuelling the trends where people are willing to treat food purchases as part of a wider “investment” in health and fitness and as such, not something that is chiefly determined by the price tag attached to the food. 
 
 
Sports Clothing 
 
It isn’t surprising that given the surge in interest in healthy living and healthy lifestyles, there has been a surge in demand for sports clothing. The total value of the sports apparel market, worldwide has increased from 173 billion USD in 2018 to almost 220 billion USD in 2019. 
 
Surges in sales of sports clothing have been supported by aggressive social media marketing campaigns. Nike, for example uses a blend of lifestyle photography and fitness images to sell their range of clothes developed specially for women. This has taken advantage of a trend towards athletes being used as content creators, as opposed to traditional reporting of sports news. This has largely been made possible by the increased use of social media as a platform and means of advertising. 
 
Specific campaigns aimed at selling sports clothes to women have included the highly successful #betterforit campaign. Central to the appeal of this particular campaign has been the promotion of clothes lines specially developed for plus size women, and the encouragement of overweight women to participate in sports activities that were traditionally dominated by images of underweight models. The Nike campaigns have also encouraged women to discuss and share their fitness goals and share images of their progress and plans. 
 
Nike has additionally used instagram to good effect in the promotion of their sports clothing products, with one notable campaign being the @nikewoman account which portrays women as strong and determined in pursuing their fitness and weight loss goals. The encouragement of “body positivity” has been adopted by several high profile campaigns aimed at women, and the campaigns specifically aim to appeal to women with higher BMIs and of different ethnicities. Plus size models have been used to give the movement momentum and gather interest from the targeted segments on social media. Also of interest to high profile sports apparel brands is the market for clothing worn by middle-aged women. By targeting these market segments, high profile brands such as Nike and Adidas have benefitted from burgeoning worldwide trends towards achieving fitness goals. 
 
 
Outdoor Pursuits 
 
Promotion of a healthier lifestyle has seen interest in specialty outdoor pursuits soar. Particularly popular are outdoors obstacle courses like mud runs developed by brands including Tough Mudder. For many, these are the perfect antidote to working indoors in stuffy conditions. The open air and the crowds that events like these draw have added to their appeal. Studies of outdoors sports have shown that female entries have increased significantly for events like half marathons and 5k races
 
 
Women’s Health and Fitness Day – The Growing Market 
 
Women’s Health and Fitness Day is a relatively new campaign, and it has been designed to encourage people, especially women to lead healthier and more active lifestyles. These trends don’t exist in isolation, however, and it is important to recognise that healthy living has many related and incidental trends have also taken root and grown as it has. Recognising this allows for a fuller understanding of the products and services that are being sought out by people determined to change their lifestyles. As we have seen discussed in the article the increased emphasis on health living and eating has seen surges in gym memberships, sports equipment and accessories sales and sales of organic and specialty foods and drinks.
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