It's been well-documented that Japan's population is decreasing.
According to Japan's Minister of Internal affairs, a 0.22% decrease in population accord between 2018 and 2019 - the ninth consecutive year of decline in Japan's population.
With an aging population, combined with Japan's overwhelming work schedule amongst salarymen, what does this mean for the future of Japan's fitness industry?
Japan's Aging Population & Low Birth Rate
According to the Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication, In 2019, 75.1 million people were between the ages of 15 and 64, making up 59.5% of the population. 35.9 million consisted of those who are 65 and older, making up 28.4% of the population. 18.5 million are 75 and older, therefore revealing half of Japan's people to be over the age of 65.
In 2019, Japan saw only 865,000 births compared to 1.38 million deaths, therefore decreasing the population by over 500,000. The number of deliveries continues to fall year by year.
Number of births per year:
2017 - 946,065
2018 - 918,460
2019 - 865, 234
With over half of Japan's population over 65, the number of births will continue to undercut the number of deaths per year, therefore decreasing Japan's overall population.
Japan's Elderly Dominate the Fitness Industry
According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), Japan's fitness industry is the fifth-largest in the world, yet the majority of gym members fall in the over 60s category. According to the Japan Sports Council, physical efficiency is more significant in older adults than in their 30s and 40s.
Being over 60 generally means a person's retirement age, therefore having more time to pursue regular gym visits. Due to their busy work lives, Japanese white-collar professionals don't have time to visit the gym after a day's work.
Gyms tend to cater to an older market focus, with swimming pools being the main fitness area while steering away from a younger fitness regime for high visibility results like weight training.
According to Rakuten insight, swimming is the top sport for fitness among men and women. It also revealed that maintaining health is the number one reason for exercises instead of high visibility exercises favored in western culture.
Main Issues of Concern
In terms of general issues for the Japanese fitness industry, the main problems are:
• Low birth rate decreasing the demand for future memberships.
• White-collar professionals from their 20s to 40s being too busy to make time for regular gym sessions.
• Japan's aging population makes up most gyms memberships, which will move on, therefore decreasing the demand for new investments for gyms across Japan.
• As gyms cater to older members, attracting a younger clientele may prove difficult, therefore creating a gap in gym memberships.
Data shown by Rakuten consumer research unit Rakuten insight showed that more than half of people do not exercise in Japan, therefore proving more difficult for modern gyms attracting younger members.
IHRSA suggests that the potential for attracting a younger clientele falls with the smaller, non-chain gyms. Large chains make up 58% of gyms in Japan and target mostly elderly members.
Cultural taboos are also a factor. Many gyms cater to females only as women, pictorially older members, do not wish to workout around males.
The years 2011 to 2016 saw a growth of 1300 fitness clubs consisting of smaller, independent clubs catering to younger members. Increases in independent gyms seem to be a valuable addition in terms of creating new training regimes.
With COVID-19 still affecting the fitness industry worldwide, it's fair to say Japan's development for new independent fitness clubs may stall. As the pandemic has put the elderly at risk, gyms may see fewer regular members' visits.
A change of direction by attracting younger members who may be more health-conscious due to the pandemic could push large chain clubs need by adapting to new trends.
4th January 2021 - Japanese pay most for gym memberships
26th November 2020 - Fitbit names JMDC as exclusive distributor of Fitbit Premium for enterprise customers in Japan
1st September 2020 - Working culture, demographics and healthy traditions an obstacle to fitness’ growth in Japan
1st September 2020 - Traditions and working culture an obstacle to fitness club growth in Japan
29th July 2020 - WTA Pan Pacific Open cancelled due to Coronavirus fears
11th March 2020 - Snap Fitness franchisor announces plans for 300 locations in Japan
19th February 2020 - Research finds cigarette pack warnings ineffective in Japan
18th January 2019 - Japanese stadia to introduce new cashless smart venue concept
28th June 2018 - Japan’s fitness industry adapts to ageing demographics
24th July 2018 - Sportec 2018 offers view of sports and fitness industry opportunities in Japan
6th June 2018 - IHRSA Report shows 22 million members at fitness clubs across key Asia-Pacific markets
19th June 2017 - Japan looks to future sport industry growth
28th June 2016 - Architectural ‘reinvention’ of the modern fitness club at Japanese facility
30th April 2016 - Orangetheory Fitness signs deal for 70 studios in Japan
6th November 2015 - Anytime Fitness’ global growth includes 100 gym openings in Japan