Latest News

Back to Latest News back


Japan’s fitness industry faces up to post-Coronavirus lockdown challenge

Japan’s fitness industry faces up to post-Coronavirus lockdown challenge
February 17, 2021

While the world focusses on Japan’s preparedness for the Tokyo Olympics, the nation’s Coronavirus state of emergency is also having a significant impact on its fitness industry.

In a feature on the Asian Leisure Business website, freelance writer Richard Young highlights that restrictions to handle Japan's third wave of COVID-19 cases, which began to spike late last year, are also affecting Japan's already struggling fitness industry.

Gyms and fitness centres are currently limited to shorter hours, including numbers of members present at one time. Although Japan has the fifth largest fitness industry globally, the country's membership penetration rate is on the lower end of the Asian market at 3.3%.

With the excessive work rate of salaried Japanese workers, the primary target market for Japan’s fitness industry is the elderly demographic (65 years and above) as retirees have more time to attend fitness classes and join health clubs.

Large chain franchises, which make up 58% of the overall market, tend to cater to older members, sacrificing a younger audience. Cultural taboos may also cause large-scale gyms to attract a younger client as more senior members, particularly women, may not wish to workout around more youthful men.

Young cites, John Holsinger, Asia-Pacific Director at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), explaining the cultural taboos in Japan's fitness industry, explaining “female-only clubs are taking hold, but again many with older populations.

“Cultural taboos mean older women do not wish to work out with males nor see themselves in the mirror when working out.”

Japan's COVID-19 outbreak caused much distress to many industries, including the fitness industry. As smaller gyms would have less financial backing, closing their doors or limited hours caused severe hardship to obtain a steady income to keep the business alive.

Upon Japan's first Coronavirus state of emergency back in April of last year, major fitness chains like Anytime Fitness, Gold's Gym and Joyfit temporarily shut their doors.

Gold's Gym subsequently filing for bankruptcy due to COVID-19 related shutdowns caused shock among fitness enthusiasts in Japan for, as one of the leading fitness franchises in Japan, the fall of the gym whose brand strength commenced with Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1977 bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron, showed the pandemic’s impact on the fitness industry.

With COVID-19 identified as affecting the elderly more than most other age groups, and Japan’s fitness market focused on that demographic, the fear of gyms as a location for passing bacteria saw many of these elderly members avoiding them.

Health issues were also a concern regarding whether members would return once gym restrictions lifted.

When discussing gyms in Japan, Holsinger added "Japan is almost at a 100%" of membership return as the country came out of their second wave of COVID-19 cases late last year. With case numbers currently declining, it's optimistic to think gym member returns will follow a similar route.

Click here to read Richard Young's full article on the Asian Leisure Business website.

Images: Central Sports Tokyo (above) and Anytime Fitness Japan master franchisee Toru Yamazaki announcing 2015 plans to grow the group's Japanese network to 100 facilities (below).

Related Articles

11th February 2021 - International fitness bodies launch leadership initiatives

18th January 2021 - What Does Japan’s Low Birth Rate Mean For Its Fitness Industry?

4th January 2021 - Japanese pay most for gym memberships

2nd January 2021 - Japanese Prime Minister insists Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 2021

26th November 2020 - Fitbit names JMDC as exclusive distributor of Fitbit Premium for enterprise customers in Japan

10th September 2020 - Ritz-Carlton opens luxury resort and spa on Japanese mountainside

1st September 2020 - Working culture, demographics and healthy traditions an obstacle to fitness’ growth in Japan

24th August 2020 - Japanese athletes give Tokyo Olympic stadium a test run

20th July 2020 - Gold’s Gym acquired by German owners

7th May 2020 - Gold’s Gym files for bankruptcy protection in the USA

7th April 2020 - Two-thirds of the world’s fitness clubs are currently closed

31st March 2020 - With clubs closed fitness providers go online

11th March 2020 - Snap Fitness franchisor announces plans for 300 locations in Japan

30th November 2018 - IHRSA report shows China as the fastest growing fitness market in the Asia-Pacific region

13th August 2018 - Japanese fitness group to share expertise in dementia prevention across Asia

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

28th June 2016 - Architectural ‘reinvention’ of the modern fitness club at Japanese facility

6th November 2015 - Anytime Fitness’ global growth includes 100 gym openings in Japan

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

TicketSearch Pty Ltd

TicketSearch is focused on providing businesses, organisations, and venues with affordable, efficient, and powerful self-managed ticketing solutions. The organisation has offices in Australia, New…

read more

Attractions / Entertainment / Technology / Ticketing / Venues



Ausfit began in 1992, providing software services to the health and fitness sector including ClubWise, a fully hosted web-based product which combines state of the art club management software,…

read more

Billing / Finance / Fitness / Technology


Summit Fitness

Summit Fitness Equipment is now part of NovoFit - see

read more

Fitness / Recreation / Technology / Wellness


Fun Wheels Pty Ltd

Fun Wheels Pty Ltd are the premium dealer in Australasia for the Dutch company BERG’s commercial and domestic products. Our flagship product is their revolutionary pedal go-kart – the…

read more

Attractions / Tourism / Venues


The Jump Pad

The Jump Pad is a safe, flat inflatable made in a variety of sizes which can be used indoor or outdoor. From 3mx3m up to a whopping 9mx21m. Markets include Indoor and outdoor playgrounds, schools,…

read more

Attractions / Entertainment / Play


The P.A. People

The P.A. People is a specialist integrator and contractor in sound reinforcement, audio visual systems, performance lighting and production communications. Over its almost 50 year history the company…

read more

Entertainment / Events / Sport / Technology / Venues


Abel Sports

INTRODUCTION Abel Sports is Australia’s leading manufacturer and suppliers of Goal Posts, sports ground safety netting systems and coaches boxes for Stadiums ,Sports Clubs, Councils and…

read more

Recreation / Sport / Venues


Pico Play

Pico Play is a global leader in the planning, design, development and construction of world-class themed attractions and entertainment that deliver extraordinary and memorable experiences to millions…

read more

Attractions / Consultants / Design / Recreation / Tourism


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business