Monday, April 15, 2024

Ozempic is heading to the gym scene, and here’s how gyms are reacting to it

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American gyms are changing how they operate because more members are using weight loss medications.

Fancy gyms like Life Time are buying weight loss clinics with doctors who can give out GLP-1s, a strong new kind of medicine that helps people lose weight. Equinox is also creating workout plans specifically for people on these medicines.

Things are shifting in the fitness industry as the older generation, the Baby Boomers, are using gyms less, and new medicines make it easier to lose weight. Famous WeightWatchers commercials, like Oprah’s, are becoming less popular. Instead, doctors and strength training are becoming more important.

In just the last three months of 2022, more than 9 million prescriptions for Wegovy and similar weight loss drugs were written by US healthcare providers. JPMorgan researchers think that by 2030, around 30 million people in the US might be taking GLP-1 drugs, which is about 9% of the population.

Although it’s not clear how much these medicines will affect gyms, they want to make sure they don’t get left behind. Gyms have always made a lot of money from people trying to lose weight.

However, gyms are not just about losing weight; they’re also about building muscles. Some people on these medications lose muscle, so gyms are now promoting their brands to current members who are on GLP-1s, hoping they can get more members in the future as people on these medicines try to keep and build muscle.

Cheaper gyms like Planet Fitness might also benefit as the prices of these medications go down. Right now, GLP-1 drugs are very expensive for most Americans, costing around $1,000 or more per month.

If these medicines become more affordable, gyms, from the less expensive ones like Planet Fitness to the high-end ones, will likely start advertising to get more members, according to Simeon Siegel, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets who covers fitness companies.

Life Time has even opened a clinic that gives members personal training focused on weight loss and access to doctors who can prescribe GLP-1 medications for those who qualify.

Equinox has introduced a “GLP-1 protocol,” which is a special training program for members on these drugs to help them keep and build muscle.

So, gyms are coming up with new plans to adjust to the changes caused by weight loss medications.

Xponential Fitness, the owner of popular fitness brands like Club Pilates, Rumble, and Pure Barre, recently acquired a series of weight loss clinics in Southern California. These clinics have doctors who can prescribe GLP-1s, a type of medication.

Budget-friendly gyms like Planet Fitness believe that using GLP-1s could attract new members who are looking to prevent muscle loss. Some experts agree, suggesting that if this becomes popular, gyms might see a whole new group of potential members who have never been interested in fitness before.

However, not everyone in the fitness industry is convinced. Some say it’s too early to know how people taking GLP-1s will approach exercise and how it will affect gyms.

The fitness industry is just one of many getting ready for a future where more people use these drugs. GLP-1s were originally made to treat type 2 diabetes, but now they are being explored for weight loss. Although Ozempic, a popular GLP-1 drug, hasn’t been officially approved for weight loss, similar drugs like Wegovy have.

Ozempic’s impact goes beyond gyms. WeightWatchers, for example, introduced a new membership plan giving access to doctors who can prescribe these drugs. They also spent over $100 million to acquire Sequence, a telehealth business providing virtual prescriptions for these weight loss medications.

Even food companies are adjusting. JPMorgan reported that current GLP-1 users bought about 8% less food, including snacks, soft drinks, and high-carb products, compared to those not using these drugs. Nestlé, a major food company, plans to invest more in nutritious products like Opifast high-protein shakes, which they believe can benefit people on GLP-1 treatments.

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