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Huge Market Share

  • By the year 2030, the IHRSA projects 230 million gym members
  • In 2019 alone, the global estimate for revenue is $94 billion in fitness related goods and services
  • As individuals continue to age, it is important to continue to be active to help maintain good health as a preventative measure
  • Americans spent $3.2 Trillion in healthcare costs in 20151
  • In California alone, the state spent $4.4 Billion in health care for elderly population2

Given the large market share the industry has, it makes sense that it would have many problems as well. Particularly in areas that most would not think about being problematic such as the food they consume or the clothing we wear. All of these things have issues that go deeper into problems in our infrastructure and delivery of said products. 

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What Can We Do

  • Take a proactive approach to head off many of the health care problems we face. 
  • These problems include the majority of degenerative disease and illness that plague our country.
  • Promoting prevention would save the US $3.7 billion alone in healthcare spending.
  • This would be a boom to the overall economy as we would lower our spending on health care expenses.
  • This sounds logical but how do my decisions about fitness relate to environmental sustainability?


Sustainability and Fitness

  • Given the scale of the fitness industry, there are no shortages of business opportunities contributing positively and negatively to the overall picture
  • We maintain an unrealistic ideal of what it means to be healthy and pushing otherwise healthy individuals to adopt less than sustainable practices.
  • Healthy and optimal are based on individual goals vary on what health means to each person.
  • We are marketed to believe in these ideals through television, film and advertising.
  • The current standards are unsustainable at various levels including food production, bottled hydration, clothing and mental sustainability.

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Food Production

  • Increased protein is important for prevention of bone fractures in adults above the 0.8g recommendation but no specific numbers were given.5
  • “In the United States, more than 9 billion livestock are maintained to supply the animal protein consumed each year. This livestock population on average outweighs the US human population by about 5 times”6
  • Given the average fitness recommendation is to consume 1.2-2.0g/lbs to hypertrophy muscle, this along with the general American high protein diet is not sustainable.
  • People need to adopt a diet higher in vegetables and alternative proteins in lieu of animal based products.

Bottled Beverages

  • While the number of reusable bottles have increased, the bottled beverage industry is still big business contributing to landfills as countries refuse overflow recycling.
  • In 2008, The U.S. consumption of bottled water was estimated to be 8.6 billion gallons.
  • Most of this water coming from local waterways only to be packaged and sold back to consumers.
  • With companies taking groundwater, it depletes sources for lakes, rivers and stressing ecosystems due to a lack of water.


  • The majority of athletic wear is often made of polyester and nylon which are microfiber plastics released into our water system anytime we wash them.
  • These plastics end up polluting our water systems and marine life consume this mistaking it for food. 
  • We end up consuming the seafood approximately accounting for 39,000-52,000 particles compared to only 4,000 particles from tap water.8
  • These articles of clothing end up not being reusable only to end up in landfills as they can't be donated.

Mental Health

  • The mental strain of trying to look a certain way is damaging to our psyche and creating a culture of comparison
  • More body positive messages are becoming common but there is still a stigma behind needing to look a certain way which is unsustainable
  • Social media only magnifies this feeling of being not enough.

1 Branning G, Vater M. Healthcare Spending: Plenty of Blame to Go Around. Am Health Drug Benefits. 


Haddad YK, Bergen G, Florence CS. Estimating the Economic Burden Related to Older Adult Falls by State. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2019;25(2):E17–E24. doi:10.1097/PHH.0000000000000816

Raggatt M, Wright CJC, Carrotte E, et al. "I aspire to look and feel healthy like the posts convey": engagement with fitness inspiration on social media and perceptions of its influence on health and wellbeing. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):1002. Published 2018 Aug 10. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5930-7

5  Taylor C. Wallace & Cara L. Frankenfeld (2017) Dietary Protein Intake above the Current RDA and Bone Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 36:6, 481-496, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2017.1322924

David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel, Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 3, September 2003, Pages 660S–663S,

Hu Z, Morton LW, Mahler RL. Bottled water: United States consumers and their perceptions of water quality. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011;8(2):565–578. doi:10.3390/ijerph8020565

8 Human Consumption of Microplastics Kieran D. Cox, Garth A. Covernton, Hailey L. Davies, John F. Dower, Francis Juanes, and Sarah E. Dudas Environmental Science & Technology 2019 53 (12), 7068-7074
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b015178 

Last modified: Wednesday, 6 May 2020, 18:15