With millions of pounds worth of equipment overall and sessions in everything from Thai boxing to spinning classes London is well served by gyms, health clubs and other specialist centres. And it is not just the capital that is enjoying this golden age of health and fitness choices – it is a big business worldwide, and so much so that we have been witnessing the rise of multinational health and fitness.
Take Virgin Active for example. When you consider the Virgin Group’s empire – everything from airlines to home media to banking to space travel(!) and with interests on every continent – it is not entirely surprising that Branson’s brand has branched into health clubs, but the size of Virgin makes Virgin Active’s success story no less impressive.
The first Virgin Active club opened in Preston in 1998 and today the brand has 268 clubs worldwide, with around 1.2 million members combined. The UK is the biggest part of this estate with 112 clubs, but South Africa is not far behind with 108. Rome, Barcelona, Melbourne and Singapore are among the many other overseas cities in which you will see the easily identifiable logo. The clubs offer a variety of facilities, including weights, cardiovascular equipment, swimming pools, climbing walls and classes.
While Virgin Active branched out east, Athlete Lab expanded to the west – having recently added London to its existing portfolio of Singapore and Sydney. Located in the heart of The City on Cannon Street, Athlete Lab is one for the cyclists and offers members a unique product.
Amateur triathletes Neil Franks and Michael Flynn founded Athlete Lab in 2012, with the idea blossoming from their struggle to balance busy work schedules with training for long-distance races. The result is business district based training facilities in Sydney, Singapore and now London. What sets Athlete Lab apart from regular health clubs is that it uses real bikes, which present the accurate reflection of road cycling that spinning bikes and traditional exercise bikes do not. The lab also has experienced cycling coaches on hand.
The company’s website states “We have an exciting roll out plan. Watch this space!” Businesspeople with an interest in cycling and triathlon in major cities worldwide will be watching eagerly to see if this experience is coming to their doorstep.
Another health and fitness brand with a considerable global presence is Fitness First, whose network – when viewed on a map – forms an almost perfect diagonal line from Belfast down to Sydney via continental Europe, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent and Far East. In London alone there is an astonishing 45 clubs, while other locations across the world include Berlin, Riyadh, Delhi and Kuala Lumpur.
Like its competitors, Fitness First offers a wide range of facilities and classes at its 500 plus clubs, and is also behind the International Fitness Week campaign which was fronted by former Spice Girl Mel B.
From aerobics in Cape Town to indoor cycling in London, health and fitness is indeed a global industry and one that shows no sign of slowing down.