The Fitness World: Transformation from Subculture to Mainstream Lifestyle

Mainstream Lifestyle

“Fitness is a lifestyle”

We’ve all heard the phrase or some variation of it, and I would bet many of us would identify with the sentiment. As the fitness industry has exploded over the last ten years, the unilateral impact it has made cannot be understated. With its growth has come a new era health consciousness that has steadily increased every year.

Even with the fitness boom, categorizing it as a full blown “lifestyle” until recently is an overstatement. Rather, health and fitness have traditionally subscribed to much more of a subculture (a group that deviates from mainstream conventions) definition, than an all-out lifestyle.

Fitness as Subcultures

Typically, fitness subcultures have been known to be extremely passionate about their particular niche, but that passion did not register well with outsiders.

One of the most obvious examples of a fitness subculture is none other than Cross-Fit, which centered its marketing campaigns and business strategies around “being different”. Many other fitness clubs and brands that were established at the beginning of the fitness wave followed CrossFit’s example, which to an extent made fitness more exclusionary than welcoming.

In terms of nutrition, when healthy diets like Veganism, Ketogenic, and Paleo first debuted, they were similarly rejected by the mainstream.

However, now more than ever before, fitness is moving into the mainstream mindset and finally living up to its “lifestyle” reputation, as the famed quote describes. Not only is adhering to a healthy lifestyle now considered “trendy,” but it also has become more accessible than ever through countless brands, companies, and adjacent industries advocating fitness-based products.

Popular fashion, gym technology, hobbies, and food trends have all been infiltrated by the fitness realm, marking its long-awaited ascendence to Lifestyle status.


While big players in the fitness clothing industry, like Nike, Adidas, and Puma, have been popular for a while, athletic clothing has taken on a new face in modern fashion.

These brands pioneered the crossover from producing strictly athletic gear to every day (and trendy) attire. These notorious brands have even partnered with fashion icons to create their own lines, like Kanye West’s Yeezy collaboration with Adidas and Rihanna’s Puma collection.

Traditionally “sports only” clothing items like joggers, tracksuits, and snap pants have been rebranded as high end/high fashion pieces by numerous clothing companies, including luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada.

Furthermore, high-end athletic fashion has surged in both popularity and number of retailers. Yoga-attire brands like Lululemon, Lorna Jane, and Athleta led this trend by producing extremely high quality (and priced) garments that redefined gym clothes as stylish.

The success of these companies has not only created massive cult-like followings as their customer bases but have also paved the way for countless clothing retailers of all price ranges to follow their example. The overwhelming success of these athletic attire brands has even created a new subgenre of clothes called “Athleisure.”

Accessories, Technology, and Hobbies

It’s almost difficult to find technology in 2018 that does not either support integrations from fitness technology or does not already have it installed on the platform. I genuinely had no idea my iPhone tracked my physical activity until one of my friends told me months later.

Apart from the innumerable mobile fitness tracking applications available, wearable products like Apple or Garmin watches and Fitbits have made staying fit attainable and trackable without needing a gym membership.

Popular hobbies, like obstacle-course racing in Tough Mudder of Spartan Races and Ironman competitions, have rebranded fitness as a unique experience instead of just a weekly routine at the gym.

For those who still opt for their gym routines, there have never been more options. Fitness clubs now come in all budgets, sizes, and specialties, allowing unprecedented opportunities for people to stay fit in any way that speaks to their interests, whether that be a traditional gym, yoga studios, SoulCycle spin classes, or OrangeTheory circuit training.

If individuals continue to use traditional gyms, technological advancements have completely revamped the experience. Fitness clubs now use gym software that allows owners to provide the best services and overall experience for their members possible, thus promoting more engagement.

The term “smart gym” has been born out of how many autonomously operated fitness clubs have become, allowing more access than ever before. Guests can now check themselves in at any time or even sign up for memberships independently through online portals or self-service gym kiosks.

Actual fitness technology has made comparable advancements, ensuring that people know exactly what they are getting out of their workouts.

State of the art equipment has also created more training options, ranging from new weight lifting machines to transforming traditional spin classes into competitive races in the Swiss Alps.


On the nutrition side, eating healthy has become equally on trend. Healthy diets that were initially viewed with apprehension are now widely accepted and accommodated for in most grocery stores and restaurants.

Boutique eateries pride themselves on creating healthy options of the most common sweet treats, like vegan donuts, gluten-free cakes, and ice cream made from pressed fruits and vegetables.

The organic movement and health-conscious restaurants have continued to grow in public opinion. Many restaurants now provide calories of meals on menus as well as offer an exclusive “healthy options” menu.

Although healthy food options still tend to be more expensive than processed junk food or fast food restaurants, strides have been made to combat this issue as well.

For example, popular American grocery stores like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s have initiated business strategies that market healthy options at the lowest prices possible. Even notoriously (laughably) expensive supermarket chain Whole Foods experienced a significant price markdown after it was acquired by Amazon.

Another significant change in attitudes towards nutrition stems from how widespread information about eating well is. Fitness influencers, who have been instrumental in this overall transition, have used their platforms to educate about the importance of eating well and how to do so.

Fad diets, like the Lemonade Master Cleanse or Military Three Day Diet, have been replaced with “balanced” approaches to dieting that stress moderation and consistency.

Like fitness technology, nutrition-based innovations have become more commonplace. Applications for tracking diet and nutrition have also made eating well easy to monitor for a widespread audience.

Countless diet plans for all budgets or free of charge emerge on the market every day. Especially in the last year, home delivery services that provide fresh healthy ingredients and recipes for families to make their meals have become extremely common.

Final Thoughts

These almost inescapable aspects of popular culture have redefined attitudes towards health and fitness. For many, health consciousness has become a visceral response. A unique aspect of this thriving fitness industry is how many outside industries have joined forces to bring conceptions of health to where they are today. At least for now, fitness is a lifestyle.

Laura is a Marketing Specialist for Perfect Gym Software. She is a native born Los Angeleno recently relocated to Warsaw, Poland who spends most of her time at the gym, on an airplane, or online shopping. 

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Arlene is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Sports Nutritionist by The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). She completed an MSc in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University and a BSc in Food and Nutrition from The University of Alabama. Arlene has worked in supplement development, sports nutrition and is currently working in clinical nutrition counseling for a rehabilitation hospital. She is a 3-time Olympic swimmer and loves running and paddle boarding. With her expertise in the world of sports, she has been able to apply her knowledge of nutrition to help athletes improve performance and achieve their goals in different sports.


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