Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Neda Talebian Funk Headshot

Fitness: The New 'It' Bag

Posted: Updated:

Remember when dinner conversation between friends was once all about kids, fashion, and where you were traveling next? Today, the topic in vogue is fitness. It may start with, "Who is your favorite spin instructor and what class are you taking tomorrow?" and an hour later, the group is likely still talking about where and how they get their sweat on.

Fitness is the new fashion, and -- not surprisingly -- it is quickly taking a greater portion of wallet share. At over $20 billion, the U.S. fitness market continues to grow at a solid clip. Further, the introduction of "a la carte" group fitness classes has created a growing market of fitness-goers who spend north of $300 per month on their group fitness classes alone. The boom in boutique studios and fitness apparel is proof. Fitness is not only what people are talking about, but it's what they are doing. As Technogym's Nerio Alessandri so perfectly once said, "Fashion is looking good outside; wellness is feeling good inside. It's the new frontier of luxury."

What makes getting your heart rate up with a sweaty workout the new luxury?

The Rise of the Boutiques.
Let's face it: The gym has not changed very much over the years. The big box format offers everything -- its cardio machines, group fitness classes and locker rooms -- all under one roof, and has remained pretty standard. Thanks, Jack LaLanne. Yet, in recent years, there has been a proliferation of "boutique" fitness studios offering a specialized workout. These workouts embody the "3 E's," as coined by fitness consultant, Jonathan Fields: efficiency, effectiveness, and engagement. Boutique studios also tend to be upscale: think $30+ per class in major cities. In fact, over the last three years despite the economic downtown, the NYC market has seen an incredible rise in the boutique studio -- up over 30 percent, according to FITiST internal research.

Chanel, Oscar de la Renta... and Lululemon.
Walk down the street in NYC, LA, or any other metropolitan city and you will see more women in yoga pants than jeans. It's a fact and a lifestyle. Fashion fitness brands such as Lululemon have revolutionized the fitness apparel industry. Remember working out in baggy soccer shorts and big t-shirts? Not anymore. Flattering, formfitting and highly technical sportswear is being worn not only in the gym, but to lunch, on weekends and even in the office. Want proof? Lululemon has posted over 30 percent year over year sales gains for the past nine quarters, and now boasts a market value of $10.4 billion... Yes, that's billion. In the last quarter, the company's sales per square foot were over three times that of luxury retailer, Neiman Marcus. And fashion designers themselves are mixing sportier styles into their lines and even doing collaborations with sportswear labels. Stella McCartney's collaboration with Adidas has been among the more prominent designer athletic lines to date.

The Celeb Factor.
Simple truth: Thanks to the likes of Us Weekly, our culture is obsessed with celebrities' every move, including how they sweat. Why do we all know Tracy Anderson? She trained Madonna and now Gwyneth. And who doesn't want to look like Gwyneth Paltrow? People are more likely to fork over $35 for a class at a studio when they know it's where Kelly Ripa gets her sweat on, Lady Gaga spends her birthday, or Matthew McConaughey blows off steam.

In conclusion, fitness is simply the new "IT" bag, the season's most talked about story -- "seen in" is now "seen at."

For more by Neda Talebian Funk, click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.