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What you need to know about fitness in Latin America

Alejandra Rodriguez


August 1st, 2019

Self-improvement is a key trend. Working out for the summer is no longer the only reason why people choose to exercise. The concept of holistic wellness is gaining popularity and people are increasingly buying gym memberships and looking for activities to be healthy, both mentally and physically.

Technology and innovation in the fitness world are not lagging behind in Latin America. Revenue in the fitness segment in 2019 amounts to US$549 million and it’s expected to have an annual growth rate of 6.4%, which means a market size of US$704 million by 2023. The countries with the largest markets are Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, where 81% of the fitness Latin American market revenue is generated.

LatAm fitness

Leading countries

Brazil is leading the way, with 34,509 fitness clubs where there are nine million active members. Between 2009 and 2011, four fitness companies established the basis for Brazil’s growth in the fitness industry: BodyTech, Runner, Companhia Atletica and BioRitmo. The objective of the latter was to make fitness services more accessible to people, which is why it launched SmartFit, a gym chain that offers the quality of premium fitness centers at a low cost. SmartFit not only changed how people exercise in Brazil, but it expanded to other countries in Latin America, such as Colombia, Chili and Mexico and it has more than 2 million clients in more than 550 centers in Latin America.

Mexico has the second largest fitness market with around 12 thousand sports clubs and 4 million clients. In third place, is Argentina, with 7,900 sports and fitness clubs.

The company GFK analyzed regular activities to maintain physical health in 17 countries from around the world. Studies revealed that Argentina is among the top 5 countries across the world with the highest amount of physical activity. This trend has grown compared to 2014, where the country was in ninth position. One of the most relevant trends in the country is E-Fitness which enables people to work out certain groups of muscles without lifting weights. E-Fitness works with electrodes that release small electric stimuli to the muscles.

In Colombia, Fitpal is one of the most successful fitness platforms. Launched almost three years ago, Fitpal is an application that enables users to access more than 400 gyms and fitness centers with only one subscription. “Why go to one when you can go to all?” says Julián Torres, CEO, and Founder of Fitpal, who thought about creating a system that empowers users while providing flexibility: users can choose the number of classes they attend per day, the most convenient time, and the type of exercise. There are more than 82,000 classes and 45 kinds of training. Available for Apple and Android, the business has a presence in various cities in Colombia and plans to expand internationally.

fitness in Latin America

What are the challenges?

According to a report by Fitco, fitness companies in Latin America face challenges related to brand awareness, how they track the number of people who use their facilities and how they can find more effective ways for users to pay for fitness services. Fitco surveyed CEOs and managers of crossfit centers, boutique centers and big-box gyms to find out whether they are using enterprise management software in their business. Surprisingly, 53% don’t use software to manage how they are running the fitness center. However, 50% of respondents are planning on investing in such technology in the next 6 months. Regarding the use of mobile apps, only 26% of fitness centers have a mobile application of their services and products, with crossfit centers and boutiques the segments with the highest percentage.

Fitco provides software and application management for fitness centers. It provides tools for owners and managers to better visualize their business, keep a record of registration and payments, manage classes and personal training, and create a close relationship with clients. The software offers a web online store as well as an application for customers where they can schedule classes, buy products and check their progress. Fitco adapts to the needs of every fitness center, depending on the type of training they offer: crossfit, yoga, functional or mixed martial arts.

Fitness technology in LatAm

Wearables represent the largest segment of the market, with a market size of US$490 million in 2019. The most popular wearables are wrist wear with sensors, which are able to track body activity. For example:

  • Fitbit is a smartwatch that tracks sleep activity, provides data regarding running sessions, registers physical activity and objectives in a calendar and motivates the user with rewards and challenges.
  • Fit3D is a body scanner that is disrupting the industry. The device is equipped with a scanner that obtains a 360º image of a body. It takes only 40 seconds to scan and it creates an interactive report that shows how the customer’s body is changing over time as a result of exercise.

Other technologies that are significantly impacting the sector are smart clothes with sensors and fitness and nutrition applications. Regarding fitness applications, the number of users is expected to increase by 53.7 million by 2023. Among the most popular fitness apps we find MyFitnessPal, Strava, Freeletics, and Savvy.

If you want to be part of the fitness industry in Latin America or are part of the increasingly population who want to pursue an integral approach towards health and fitness, bare in mind that Latin American countries promise to represent one of the biggest and powerful fitness industries and the time is ripe for technology to revolutionize the sector.

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