Top 5 Fitness Apps in China Sports Brands Should Pay Attention to

A growing number of Chinese consumers are paying great attention to their fitness and health conditions. And given China’s rising affluent consumer base and the government’s push to be a more active and healthy nation, there are no signs that the country’s fitness industry will slow down anytime soon.

China’s fitness market was valued at $7 billion in 2022 and the fitness industry is predicted to grow in recent years. In addition to a growing number of sports and fitness enthusiasts signing up for gym memberships, there are many that prefer to train at home, with a help of fitness apps. Let’s take a look at the most popular fitness apps in China in 2023.

China‘s gym and fitness market insights

China’s passion for sports and fitness has been on the rise lately; its health-conscious population saw an 18.5% increase in participation in weekly physical activities since 2014, with more than 15 million now paying for gym memberships across the country! What started out as a modest 500 gyms just two decades ago is today set to break 100 thousand studios by 2022 due to this recent surge in demand from millennials leading active lifestyles.

But it’s not only Millennials engaging in sports. China is making a huge investment in its citizens’ health, introducing an ambitious plan to combat obesity and increase the overall fitness level of its population. With 1.5 trillion yuan ($225 billion) allocated to this endeavor over five years, programs are being designed specifically for teenagers which will hopefully foster healthy lifelong habits – all with the goal of expanding each citizen’s access to sports areas up to 2.6 square meters by 2025!

Due to prolonged lockdowns and Chinese authorities’ encouragement, people of all ages in China start training. Although the Chinese older generation was always rather fond of sports, training taiji, dancing, or doing other traditional sports, now they also start discovering yoga and fitness.

The gym and fitness market in first, second, and lower Tier Chinese cities

Those 100 thousand fitness studios that we mentioned earlier are located mainly in first and second-tier cities. Although, as the fitness trend is growing, there are more and more gyms and fitness courses available in lower-tier cities. It’s important to understand that people in lower-tier cities are also interested in training, which can be seen by the popularity of sports apps among them.

Today, while Beijing and Shanghai are still the largest markets for gyms, but also the first trial choices for studio brands that owned innovative concepts, the market of second- tiers cities is even more interesting for fitness clubs. This is because of lower labor and rental costs, which permit brands to offer more attractive membership packages (source: Statista).

Another factor that brands should consider is related to the market of lower-tier cities. Baidu data highlights a greater interest in wellness throughout China compared to the past, but as many as 79% of searches on sports are made in lower-tiers cities.

Yoga WeChat mini-program with available courses

The Coronavirus pandemic has increased the trend of online fitness in China

As more consumers are hitting the gym in China, mobile fitness apps were already gaining in popularity before the pandemic, but only after social media platforms and instant messaging applications among fitness fans.

Nowadays, COVID-19 has accelerated such a negative trend for physical gyms and increased the rise of fitness apps. In fact, according to Statista: “sports apps such as Keep, Codoon, and Mi Fit have been well received among millions of online fitness users in China”.

Why did Chinese sports enthusiasts turn to fitness apps?

Mobile fitness apps are freeing users from committing to full-year gym memberships and their large upfront payments.

These workout apps attract users with free, detailed tutorials and customized courses on almost any type of workout, from cardio to muscle development without the need for special fitness equipment. Some even have video tutorials featuring social media celebrities to demonstrate the moves.

Fitness apps also provide online communities to fulfill the users’ social needs. By providing a platform to share pictures and experiences, they have made exercise much more fun, and that is why it’s becoming so popular to have a fitness app on your phone.

Summer is the peak season for body-building in China with 104.24 million monthly active users using sports & fitness mobile apps. On average, a user used sports & fitness apps 3.05 times a day and spent 20.17 minutes on them in June 2018. Now the numbers are even higher.

Body-building was more appealing to users from top-tier cities and those with mid-level to high purchasing power.

5 Most popular fitness apps in China

When it comes to the most popular fitness apps in China measured by the number of monthly active users and their engagement, we can list them in this order;

  1. Keep
  2. Yodo Run 悦动圈
  3. Joyrun 悦跑圈
  4. Coodon 咕咚
  5. Pacer 动动

1. Keep

Keep, launched in February 2015, is the number one app in the “Health and Fitness” category for iOS in China. In 2022, Keep reported that it had reached 41 million monthly active users in China.

Keep offers a variety of training programs for different groups of people to work out anytime, anywhere – all while connecting with their friends to share their results as well as comment on others’ workouts and progress.

Keep reported that over 23 percent of its users live in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, or Chengdu – five of China’s largest cities and that 77 percent of users are under the age of 35.

Marketing on Keep

Top international activewear brands including ASICS, Lululemon, Under Armour, New Balance, and The North Face have launched promotional campaigns on this app.

Brands can sponsor fitness classes on Keep to reach fitness-lover communities on the app. There are some popular trainers on Keep who publish their training classes or diet tips… These are seen as KOLs who can cooperate with brands to promote products for specific fitness modules in the fitness sector.

Keep’s Instagram-style social media component that allows fitness enthusiasts to show off their progress provides brands with the opportunity to create social campaigns featuring celebrities, contests, or event promotions.

When Under Armour sponsored Tom Brady’s visit to China in June, it launched a Keep campaign that asked users to write a personal “Exercise Manifesto” for the chance to win an Under Armour shirt.

Meanwhile, Lululemon used the app to promote a yoga class in Beijing taught by a star instructor. It’s an example of offline business promoting in the app.

Keep also features an e-commerce shop that allows users to purchase fitness gear with online payment methods including WeChat Pay and Alipay. The app teams up with other brands for sales promotions such as a collaboration with ASICS that provided users with a tutorial on picking the right sneaker and a link to purchase ASICS shoes in Keep’s store.

In addition to broad fitness apps like Keep, apps on the market targeting enthusiasts in a specific activity like running, yoga, or cycling can reach even more focused niche communities.

2. Yodo Run

Yodo Run is one of China’s leading social health and fitness apps that is well-known for its creative approaches to stimulating users to exercise. Through Yodo Run‘s advanced automatic step counting and GPS algorithm, the app can record various exercise patterns such as walking, running, fitness, and cycling. This way, users can keep track of their day-to-day movements.

The app also includes exercise schedules, video tutorials, and gym music. Yodo Run has its unique feature of giving cash incentives to users. The app tracks user activity and rewards their healthy behavior with virtual red envelopes containing up to RMB 2, medals, prizes, and certificates. Prizes can be used to get discounts in the app’s online store.

The app also works as a social platform where users can meet runners, compete in challenges, join offline events, and book professional trainers.

Fitness apps in china - yodo run
Source: Dribbble

3. Joyrun

Joyrun is a social app focusing on running. The Joyrun app has everything that a running fan could ever wish for.

Besides the activity tracker and social platform as other fitness apps, you can use Joyrun to find a pal to run with, sign up for online running challenges, look up events, register for marathons inside China as well as discover those abroad.

The app also features a newsfeed of training programs and brands that you can follow.

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4. Codoon

Codoon is one of a few apps that specialize in square dancing.

Besides the option to track how many calories you lost with Chinese square dancing, one of Codoon’s more unique features is tuning into live streams from fitness trainers.

It also allows users to track their activity, read articles, shop for equipment and healthy food, and share their sweaty selfies.

5. Pacer

The Pacer Pedometer is the world’s most downloaded daily activity tracking app for iOS and Android, according to the app’s maker. Currently, the app records steps, calories, sleep patterns, and weight loss, but the company’s CEO Liu Yue sees Pacer as different from Yodo Run and Keep.

In the future, Pacer aims to track user activity 24 hours a day and use data mining and artificial intelligence to help users monitor their health.

The company is keeping a close eye on trends in China with the latest updates bringing a new social platform, online and offline events, and prizes.

We can help you promote your products on one of these apps!

Chinese consumers are doing things online, and fitness is not an exception. The fitness apps would not compete but complement the more traditional offline fitness centers in bringing customers smart, convenient, fun, and effective exercise experiences for a healthy lifestyle.

Sports brands are advised to watch out for the development of these apps and be proactive in finding ways to cooperate with them for marketing purposes. Being where people who are passionate about fitness gather and socialize, these apps are an important place to target.

However, since each app has its own unique positioning, functions, and user characteristics, brands should be meticulous to select the right platform with the right strategies.

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