The fitness economy in China is on track for a boom with app creators running to take the lead. China’s sports and fitness market was worth $216 billion in 2016 and by 2015it should exceed $725 billion, according to a report published by The Economist and sponsored by the Chinese sportswear giant Anta Sports. The fitness industry efforts are also sponsored by the government which is aiming for a 1.5 trillion yuan increase in national spending on sports and fitness by 2020.
With its 100 million users, Yodo Run knows how to motivate people to get in shape – cash incentives. Launched in 2014, 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. As Yodo Run’s founder Hu Maowei explained (in Chinese), the core idea is to make the user’s experience feel more like a game.
The app also works as a social platform where users can meet runners, compete in challenges, join offline events, and book professional trainers. In April 2017, the company received RMB 100 million in financing led by Nokia Growth Partners (NGP).
When Wang Ning realized there were not many options for a broke and overweight college student like himself to access professional fitness training, he didn’t give up and resort to binge-watching TV like most of us would. He decided to create his own fitness program and in 2014 launched Keep. According to the company’s own data, the app currently has 60 million registered users.
Keep owns a great deal of its success to reaching out to China’s fitness enthusiast which were scattered among social apps like QQ and Wechat, and forums such as Douban and Zhihu. Besides providing exercise videos, activity tracking, and tips, the app continues its reliance on social interaction by enabling users to share pictures and videos. Its most recent investment in Series C+ came from Tencent in August 2016.
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 health food, and share their sweaty selfies.
Codoon made its fame after virtually ripping off the design for its fitness-tracking bracelet from US-based Jawbone UP. This, however, has not affected the app’s popularity which according to their website has 80 million users (in Chinese). The brand belongs to Chengdu Le Dynamic Information founded in 2010. Codoon received US$50 million is Series C financing in May 2016.
Many fitness app developers have realized that they will have to bring their users to the gym in order to get them in shape and to earn money from their apps. Hotbody allows users to learn about fitness, try the app’s video exercises, and connect with coaches and the community, but, according to the app’s founder Xu Weite (in Chinese), the company’s real goal is to build strength in the offline business.
The app went online in 2015 and now claims to have 40 million users. The company secured an RMB 100 million Series B round of funding in November 2016. And in case you were wondering, the Hotbody app is indeed full of hot bodies.
The Joyrun app has everything that a running fan could ever imagine. Besides the activity tracker/social platform, you can also use Joyrun to find a crew to run with, sign up for online running challenges, look up events, register for marathons inside China or discover those abroad. The app features a news feed, training programs, and brands you can follow. For shoe fetishists, there is also has an impressive list of running shoes which can be rated or marked as a favorite.
Founded in 2014, Joyrun now has 30 million users and the company has organized over 150 offline events in 60 cities. The company’s last round of investments was in 2015 when it received RMB 18 million in B Series.
Daily Yoga is one of the rare fitness apps in China that focuses on the overseas market. According to its founder Li Zupeng, when the company was founded in 2012 the US yoga market was too tempting to miss. They decided to replace the classical yoga guru with an app. Daily Yoga enables aspiring yogis to follow video classes, track their fitness data, listen to relaxing yoga music, and join “the biggest worldwide yoga community. “
In January 2016, Daily Yoga received tens of millions yuan of Pre-A financing. At the time, the app had 24 million users (in Chinese). The company plans to cooperate with yoga brands and gradually launch its own. It also started its O2O program in 2015 and made its foray into smart TV. The next stop will be conquering pilates, aerobics, and dance.
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.
Since its launch in 2012 Pacer has amassed 50 million users (in Chinese), including 27 million overseas users. The company is keeping a close eye on trends in China with latest updates bringing a new social platform, online and offline events, and prizes. Looks like the only sure way apps can keep us fit is by bribing us.