The Fitness Zone

From Gyms to Wellness Sanctuaries: The Evolution of Fitness

Mar 11, 2024 | by Shaun Radford

In today’s consumer-driven world, individuals are increasingly seeking comprehensive solutions that offer maximum value for their investment. This trend has led to a transformation in various industries, including fitness, where traditional models are being reimagined to meet evolving consumer demands.

Today we are finding that consumers in the fitness industry are moving towards facilities that offer more than just the stock standard weights floor and group exercise classes. While traditional fitness offerings remain foundational, there’s a growing demand for holistic wellness centres that serve as ‘one-stop shops’ catering to individuals’ overall health and well-being, beyond just physical fitness.

To understand this, we look at the trends for fitness that are reported each year. Since the rise of technology post-pandemic times, we have witnessed a massive shift in the results. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) predicted that wearable technology would remain the number one fitness trend for 2024, while AUSactive (formerly known as Fitness Australia) predicted Exercise for Mental Health as number one on our shores [1,2].

The above-mentioned surveys are conducted each year to allow the industry to focus on continued development towards the wants and needs of their consumers. Surveys are conducted by professionals, allied health, consumers and market trends analysed for results. What is interesting is not the number one’s in this list, however, but the overall top 10-15 trends for each list. 

In both survey results, there is an overwhelming trend towards holistic approaches to fitness. While in the past it was normal to see ‘strength training’ or ‘group fitness’ in these lists, now we see ‘exercise as medicine’, ‘inclusive exercise services’, and ‘lifestyle medicine’ entering the folds [1,2]. These areas are where we start to explore holistic health and how we are responding.

With the rise in the need and want of consumers for a holistic approach to their fitness, is the industry ready to respond? What services can be developed? And what’s in it for the traditional fitness professional? Well, the industry is already evolving and holistic health IS here! Enter the Wellness Centre.

Defining Wellness vs. Fitness

While the traditional gym setting remains popular, there’s a notable shift towards wellness-focused experiences. Many individuals still prioritise quick gym sessions, but an increasing number are seeking more holistic wellness solutions. First, we must define wellness and how this differs from fitness. 

Imagine a tomato plant in a pot. It can produce one thing that can be beneficial in many dishes. But put this tomato into a vegetable garden, now you have a range of things that can provide a breadth of dishes over time. 

Well in our case, our gym is the tomato plant, and wellness facilities are the garden. Wellness is the overall health of an individual. According to the Cambridge Dictionary [3], Wellness is “The state of being healthy, especially when it is something that you actively try to achieve”. Furthermore, the Global Wellness Institute notes wellness as multidimensional that encompasses physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental states [4]. 

By looking into these aspects, fitness makes up a part of wellness. It helps with the physical state but also crosses over into the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. As we see gyms evolve into wellness centres, we see the gym floor still being central to their services, but their wider product offerings now become so much more!

In many wellness-focused gyms, we are now seeing the emergence of holistic health, areas that incorporate allied health and services all in one space. No more need to refer off to another business when you have a GP or dietician right there in the centre. However, these types of facilities are not new. In fact, this concept has been around for quite some time. It is only now however that we see a greater demand for this type of service, and it is being offered to a wider range of people, not just the ‘elite’.

The emergence of Wellness Centre

Let’s consider the term ‘Wellness Centre’ to encapsulate businesses integrating fitness and health services. While these centres come in various forms, they all share a common goal of providing comprehensive wellness solutions.

Historically, we were privy to a few types of fitness centres, gyms, community or leisure centres, and health clubs. Our early-day health clubs paved the way for many businesses that now encompass wellness as a whole. One that made a big mark in this space was Virgin Active. 

While not the first ‘Health Club’ to open its doors, Virgin Active was and still is a strong contender in the space of overall wellness. Launching in 1999, Virgin Active changed the way they focus business by putting the customer experience first, and continues to do that to this day [4]. 

Hitting Australian shores in 2008, Virgin Active Australia first opened its doors in Sydney. They now offer nine clubs in Sydney, along with another two in Melbourne [5]. You will find the typical (albeit fancy) gym floor like conventional gyms, but you will also see a focus on end-to-end fitness offerings too. Today, Virgin Active offers everything from the gym floor, group classes, rest and recovery services (like spas and saunas), sleep pods, pools, sound healing, and much more [6]. 

Virgin Active is just one type of fitness business that falls into the ‘Wellness Centre’ category. In more recent years, we have seen an even bigger emergence of more clubs like these. The focus on health under one roof is a driving factor. But why? The answer is easy. People are now focusing more on investing in their health and know just how much fitness plays a role here. And with fitness comes recovery…and with recovery comes massage…and floats…and saunas…you start to see the picture. 

Businesses realised that members were having multiple memberships or paying for services to attain these overall wellness goals, so why not make it convenient for them and place it all in one place with one membership?

We are now seeing premium facilities open around Australia that are providing more than just the gym experience. With prices of memberships ranging from $50 to well into the hundreds even thousands per week, these types of facilities are not for everyone. But for those who are prioritising their health (and there are a lot!) the cost of an all-inclusive membership at a wellness facility along with the convenience of everything in one place is attractive. 

Understanding the Wellness Space

To understand wellness in a fitness sense, we need to think about all that makes up health for an individual. As personal trainers, we discuss many things with our clients. Their training, their nutrition, their recovery, mental health, physical health…the list goes on. 

Now when we do discuss many of these things, we are often limited to the amount of information we can provide within our scope of practice, and hence we often have a large Allied Health Professional network which we refer out to. Over the years, I have had many clients that have needed specialised help for their overall health, referring off to doctors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, dieticians, and psychologists. During this time, the need to make these professionals accessible and also understand where we all fit into the ‘story’ of the client is something that takes time to research, connect with the network, and collaborate between individuals.

Now imagine that all these services are within one place, under one roof, with the same common goal and mission for their client. Not only that, there are additional services that can lead to enhanced recovery, relaxation and provide the client with an overall health experience, not just the advice and training. 

Well, that is the wellness space. The creation of this new category of business within the fitness sector now allows individuals to access everything they need in one place, often for one membership or with a small additional charge added (pending the services required). It makes the process of seeing multiple people and attending multiple services easier, more convenient, and efficient. Excellent news in our busy lifestyles!

Josh Bozin from Esquire magazine reported in December 2023 on gyms that are leading a fitness revolution in this space [7]. However the term ‘gym’ doesn’t give these new businesses justice. The facilities leading in this space are offering everything from the traditional gym experience right through to dieticians, registered nurses, doctors, recovery therapies, plunge pools plus more!

For an exclusive offering, Saint Haven in Melbourne opened in 2023 with capped membership, meaning that memberships are limited to a select few and highly sought after. Services offered at Saint Haven include cryotherapy treatments, vitamin-infused IV therapy, and an on-site restaurant. [7] Talk about end-to-end experience!

In Brisbane, Total Fusion Platinum also opened in 2023, offering an experience for its members that has not been witnessed in Queensland before. From the hotel-like reception, you are immediately immersed into an experience with day spa offerings, two levels of gym floor to play on, group exercise studios (seven to be exact), an altitude training room plus a full level dedicated to wellness. On their wellness level, you will find saunas, magnesium pools, plunge pools, allied health, and a snow room. Yep! You read that right! [7]

For businesses opening up in this wellness space, a large focus for their clientele is beyond the training and now looking into recovery too. Hence we see a move away from a sauna or steam room thrown into the bathrooms as a bonus. These facilities are now showcased in their own space to provide an overall experience.

The Move Towards Holistic Health

As noted earlier, we can see that the top trends in fitness both domestically and internationally are looking beyond what fitness can do for the physical body, but further into the realms of holistic health. Clients are wanting more, demanding more, and will go to lengths to look after their bodies and minds.  The population is becoming more health conscious and will seek out ways to get the best services for their bodies. We are now experiencing the first wave of integrated health which will continue to grow in speed and size over the years. 

This certainly does not signify the demise of traditional gyms. Our conventional fitness facilities cater to a significant portion of the population, offering essential resources for maintaining fitness and well-being. Personal trainers play a pivotal role in guiding individuals toward their fitness goals within these establishments. Moreover, conventional gyms often boast affordability, making them accessible to a wide demographic. Furthermore, individuals can still access supplementary services such as massages, saunas, flotation therapy, and other recovery-focused amenities at separate locations, complementing their gym experience.

Wellness spaces serve as dynamic environments where fitness professionals can broaden their horizons and deepen their impact on clients’ lives. These spaces offer a collaborative ecosystem where fitness professionals work alongside allied health experts, including nutritionists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and more. By engaging with these professionals, fitness trainers can gain valuable insights into their clients’ holistic well-being and tailor their services accordingly.

In these collaborative settings, fitness professionals have the opportunity to expand their skill set beyond traditional exercise programming. They can learn about nutrition principles, stress management techniques, and mental health strategies, enabling them to provide comprehensive support to their clients. For example, a personal trainer may integrate mindfulness practices into their workouts or collaborate with a nutritionist to develop customised meal plans for clients seeking weight management solutions.

Furthermore, by working closely with allied health professionals, fitness trainers can refer clients to specialised services when needed. This seamless coordination ensures that clients receive integrated care that addresses not just their physical fitness goals but also their mental and emotional wellness needs. For instance, a client struggling with chronic pain may benefit from a combination of physical therapy sessions from a massage therapist and targeted exercise programs designed by their fitness trainer.

For members, wellness centres offer unparalleled convenience and accessibility to a diverse range of health services under one roof. Whether they’re looking to improve their fitness, manage stress, or optimise their nutrition, members can find comprehensive support within the same facility. This integrated approach streamlines their wellness journey, eliminating the need to juggle multiple appointments with different providers.

Moreover, wellness centres foster a sense of community and belonging, where members can connect with like-minded individuals who share their commitment to health and well-being. Group fitness classes, wellness workshops, and social events provide opportunities for members to network, learn, and grow together on their wellness journey.

In Summary

The emergence of wellness spaces signifies a pivotal moment in the evolution of the fitness industry, signalling a departure from traditional models towards a more holistic approach to health and well-being. This paradigm shift represents a fundamental reimagining of the role of fitness professionals and the services they provide. No longer limited to merely sculpting bodies or improving physical performance, fitness professionals now have the opportunity to become true catalysts for holistic transformation in their clients’ lives.

By embracing this new ethos of wellness, fitness professionals can elevate their practice to new heights, transcending the boundaries of conventional training methods. They can become guides and mentors, helping clients navigate the intricate interplay between physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Through a combination of personalised training programs, lifestyle coaching, and collaborative partnerships with allied health experts, fitness professionals can offer comprehensive support that addresses the diverse needs of their clients.

Moreover, members of wellness spaces stand to benefit immensely from this integrated approach to health and fitness. No longer confined to fragmented solutions or one-dimensional approaches, members now have access to a comprehensive array of services that cater to every facet of their well-being. From high-intensity workouts to mindfulness practices, nutritional counselling, and stress management techniques, members can craft a holistic wellness journey that aligns with their unique goals and aspirations.

Crucially, the rise of wellness spaces fosters a culture of empowerment and collective growth, where individuals come together to support each other on their journey towards better health. It transcends the confines of the gym floor, permeating every aspect of members’ lives and empowering them to embrace wellness as a way of life. Through shared experiences, mutual encouragement, and the guidance of knowledgeable professionals, members forge deeper connections with themselves and others, creating a vibrant community united by a common pursuit of well-being.

In conclusion, the evolution of the fitness industry towards wellness spaces signifies a transformative shift towards holistic health and well-being. By embracing this new ethos of wellness, fitness professionals and enthusiasts alike can embark on a journey towards optimal health, vitality, and fulfilment. Through collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity, wellness spaces have the potential to empower individuals to lead healthier, happier lives. Together, we can create a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and flourish, irrespective of age, background, or circumstance.


  1. Newsome, A’Naja M. Ph.D., ACSM-CEP, EIM; Reed, Rachelle Ph.D., M.S., ACSM-EP, NASM-CNC; Sansone, Jessica Ph.D., M.S., ACSM-EP, EIM; Batrakoulis, Alexios Ph.D., M.S., ACSM-EP, ACSM-CPT, EIM, CSCS; McAvoy, Cayla Ph.D., ACSM-EP; W. Parrott, Matthew Ph.D.. 2024 ACSM Worldwide Fitness Trends: Future Directions of the Health and Fitness Industry. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 28(1):p 14-26, 1/2 2024. | DOI: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000933
  2. The 2024 Fitness Trends are here! (n.d.). AUSactive. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
  3. WELLNESS | English meaning – Cambridge Dictionary. (2024, February 21). Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
  4. What is Wellness? (n.d.). Global Wellness Institute. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
  5. Clarkson, N. (2021, August 13). How Virgin Active thinks beyond the club | Virgin. Virgin Group. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
  6. Virgin Active Australia | Achieve your fitness goals | Virgin. (n.d.). Virgin Group. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
  7. Bozin, J., Rowston, L., & Freedman, R. (2023, December 19). Private Wellness Clubs and Gyms Leading a Fitness Revolution. Esquire Australia. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from
Shaun Radford

Shaun Radford

Having worked and studied in the fitness industry in both New Zealand and Australia for over fourteen years, Shaun has held positions as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer, educator and mentor for personal trainers and training clients. With a passion for education and strong teams, Shaun revels in empowering future personal trainers and businesses to expand their minds and think differently. In recent years Shaun presents at conferences and for businesses on how to take their clients and teams to the next level, aiming for goals to be hit and client retention through inclusive practices and mental health support.

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.