Leading the way with the power of innovation
Athletech News is proud to present The Most Innovative Fitness & Wellness Companies of 2023. As the world’s only award dedicated to recognizing the pioneering achievements of brands in this fast-growing industry, this list serves as the ultimate authority in recognizing the organizations that are revolutionizing fitness and wellness and, by extension, positively influencing society.
From VR fitness to cutting-edge recovery tools to artificial intelligence, fitness and wellness companies are working on some truly amazing products and services, and it’s clear they’re just getting started.
An esteemed panel of outside judges, along with ATN’s founder and executive editor, spent many hours analyzing, debating and ultimately selecting the winning companies from a pool of many deserving applicants. It’s been our privilege, honor and duty to select the 23 companies we collectively feel are most deserving of a spot in the ATN 23, along with a select group of honorable mentions, our “Ones To Watch.”
We’d like to sincerely thank everyone who applied to the ATN 23, making our jobs as judges very difficult but highly rewarding. We hope you enjoy learning more about the Most Innovative Companies in Fitness & Wellness.
Meet Our Esteemed Panel Of Judges
Edward HertzmanFounder & CEO, Athletech News
Josh LiberatoreEditor, Athletech News
Jon CanarickManaging Partner, North Castle
Jim CrowellManaging Member, The SageHouse
Emma BarryCEO & Founder, Trouble Global
The 23 Most Innovative Fitness & Wellness Companies Of 2023
For bringing AI to boxing
Dubbed the “boxing bag with a brain” by founder Mauro Frota, Bhout uses artificial intelligence to give boxers and fitness enthusiasts the feel of boxing with a human. Bhout’s AI-powered boxing bag uses sensors and computer vision so users can track their punches, improve technique, avoid injuries and have more fun boxing.
Bhout recently raised an impressive €10 million in seed funding to improve its bag and scale its brick-and-mortar studio concept model. The company has a waitlist of consumers interested in purchasing a Bhout bag, and it’s actively looking to expand its studio footprint to the U.S., Spain, Brazil, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Frota isn’t letting the funding and accolades go to his head.
“Celebration done,” he wrote on LinkedIn just after announcing the seed round. “Time to get back to building something special.”
For collaborating with Amazon to bring biometric entry to gyms
Getting two million members through your doors has never been easier thanks to Crunch Fitness’ partnership with Amazon this past year.
By way of Amazon One technology, Crunch members at select locations can now enter the gym just by swiping their hands over a device. Crunch is the first gym brand to utilize the technology and has since received an excess of positive feedback.
“Implementing Amazon One at Crunch gyms has been a win-win for our members and for our Crunch team,” said Molly Long, chief experience officer at Crunch. “The feedback from our members has been positive—they appreciate the ability to enter the gym swiftly and efficiently without the need to remember to bring their membership key tag or open the mobile app.”
The technology captures and encrypts images of a palm before sending it to an AWS Cloud to establish a unique signature that matches with each user. The tech is also available to help users make purchases at outlets such as Whole Foods markets, Amazon stores and certain sporting venues.
For leading the ‘smart fitness’ revolution
Fitness brands taking off post-pandemic have been a common yet encouraging storyline over the past year. However, few have soared as far into the stratosphere as EGYM, a Munich-based maker of smart fitness equipment and software solutions.
The fit tech company reeled in $225 Million (€207 Million) this past year in growth capital after striking an investment agreement with Affinity Partners and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and former advisor to President Donald Trump. The startup-turned-success-story intends to use a large percentage of the investment to acquire an IPO, EGYM’s co-founder and CEO Philipp Roesch-Schlanderer told Bloomberg News.
“We don’t often come across companies with revenues in the triple-digit millions that are close to doubling in size year-over-year, said Asad Naqvi of Affinity Partners. “In EGYM, we are backing an incredible team with a long track record of execution and success, and we look forward to supporting the company on its path to an IPO.”
With the funding, EGYM also aims to further digitize health-focused workouts and one day bring the entire fitness industry online.
For disrupting the 5-day workweek
Bit by bit, the commercial world continues to chisel away at normalities, including the traditional, five-day workweek. In an attempt to combat burnout and employee stress, sports performance and corporate wellness company Exos has begun experimenting with a four-day workweek. Exos rolled out its “Readiness Culture Code” earlier this year and ran with it for six months.
“We can’t stop all the inevitable stresses and fires that come with day-to-day life. But we can help ensure your mind and body are ready to take them on so you can thrive,” said Exos CEO Sarah Robb O’Hagan. “Businesses must operate differently, and the Exos Readiness Culture Code is a ground-breaking blueprint to help them pave the path forward.”
Exos worked alongside the Wharton School of Business, organizational psychologist Adam Grant and doctoral candidate Marissa Shandell to study the experiment’s effects on employee well-being and company performance. Barring any extremely negative feedback, the company stated its intentions to continue the program after the trial period ran out.
For leading the VR Fitness push
FitXR hasn’t just hitched itself to the trailblazing wagon that is virtual reality (VR) Fitness, it’s taken up the role of driver. In addition to creating its own workout content, the new-age fitness company recently partnered with top brands like Zumba and Disney to bring VR fitness content to a whole new class of Meta Quest headset wearers.
The Zumba collection offers 32 classes featuring the unique music and upbeat workout style which helped the dance fitness company become a household name over the past two decades. That, plus the benefits of VR fitness, represents an exciting duo, according to FitXR co-founder and CEO Sam Cole.
“We’ve worked closely with Zumba to make sure that the virtual experience is as energetic and lively as it is in person,” said Cole. “It’s great to see a well-established brand like Zumba expanding into the virtual world – with their brand value of making fitness fun, they are a perfect partner.”
For bringing gyms and studios into the corporate wellness conversation
Thanks to Gympass, fitness and wellness has joined the fraternity of benefits made available to a large percentage of workers this past year.
The worldwide leader in corporate wellness recently raised $85 million in a Series F funding round at a $2.4 billion valuation. The company’s growth certainly bodes well for its mission to make gym access and other fitness perks a financially feasible commonality for employees.
“There is a growing demand for comprehensive wellness benefits encompassing mental health support, meditation guides, nutritional advice, sleep aids and financial literacy programs,” said Gympass chief revenue officer Carolee Gearhart. “Offering these resources can directly bolster employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity, thereby proving beneficial for both the employers and their staff.”
That mission promises to benefit both employees and employers, as evidence suggests that companies enrolled in wellness programs see a decrease in healthcare costs and utilization of sick days.
For bringing contrast therapy into the 21st century
Sore joints and muscles haven’t been able to figure out if they’re in a blizzard or heat wave after Hyperice unleashed its newest line of contrast therapy products.
The tech performance company launched multiple recent products under its “Hyperice X” line, which allow users to toggle between hot and cold temperatures in a flash to alleviate pain and swelling. Featured in products such as the Hyperice X Shoulder or Hyperice X Knee, the technology also increases both blood flow and flexibility.
The company prides itself on making its products useful for the world’s most competitive athletes as well as anyone struggling at home with a basic injury.
“We define the word innovation within our organization as thinking outside the box, being ultra creative and trying to find interesting ways to bring our products and technologies to life for the everyday consumer,” Hyperice CEO Jim Huether told ATN back in July. “Also, our relationships with some of the world’s best athletes, sports-performance experts and fitness experts have allowed us to see around the corner on product development.”
Huether added that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had the first Hyperice X product ever made. Making $45 million a year, he can certainly afford the product, as can almost anyone else with it being under $400.
For offering a truly holistic approach to fitness and wellness education
Almost all forms of fitness and wellness education are now accessible under one metaphorical roof. After acquiring the Health Coach Institute and Functional Nutrition Alliance, the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) went from being a mere leader in education to an all-in-one education solution in the fitness and wellness space.
ISSA has expanded its educational arsenal beyond personal training into broader arenas such as life coaching and nutrition, along with yoga and wellness. With the recent acquisition, the organization plans to expand its range of courses and add over 36,000 members to the Health Coach Institute and Functional Nutrition Alliance.
The merger pushes forward ISSA’s mission to become the industry’s “most holistic view of health and fitness certifications.”
For bringing EMS training into the home
Electrifying the fitness world from a literal and figurative standpoint, Katalyst deserves a round of applause for breaking through as the first and only company approved by the FDA to produce full-body electro muscle stimulation (EMS) suits for at-home use.
“The (EMS) studio model has been around for about 15 years, there are over 10,000 studios worldwide. It’s a massive market, but it’s an expensive product,” Katalyst CEO Bjoern Woltermann told ATN in October. “I really want to democratize this technology, so instead of paying something like $100 for two sessions you can buy a Katalyst and use your EMS suit as often as you want and take it wherever you go.”
The suit activates up to 90% of muscle fibers compared to around 40% in a typical workout. With that, the company offers a scientific shortcut to getting fit, as it claims that its product delivers what a normal, two-hour gym workout would in a mere 20 minutes.
For disrupting the crowded fitness franchise space with fresh branding
This past year, MADabolic carved its own pathway to success both inside and outside the gym.
The strength training franchise runs on kettlebells, medicine balls and dumbbells rather than your typical barbell workouts. No bars, no problem, as the unorthodox approach has been well received. MADabolic currently boasts 29 open locations with 83 more on the way.
But the appetite for innovation goes beyond training alone, as the company prides itself on providing an excess of hospitality and motivation for its guests. While MADabolic members aim for that extra mile in their workouts, the staff does the same. Trainers undergo in-depth sessions before starting — learning how to be more like actual coaches than simply cheerleaders. MADabolic co-founder and chief concept officer Brandon Cullen dubs the approach “unreasonable hospitality.”
“We would offer a world-class training system complemented by world-class hospitality, a concept that would reject trends for the sake of being trendy, a concept that would, instead, be rooted in structure and distinctively anti-average,” Cullen says of the vision he and co-founder Kirk Dewaele had when creating the brand. “These themes still ring true today.”
For changing the way fitness and wellness businesses raise cash
The software company recently launched Mindbody Capital, which equips fitness, beauty and wellness businesses with the funding they need to grow and prosper. With 36% of fitness studios, salons, spas and wellness businesses listing securing capital to grow as their top challenge, Mindbody Capital cuts directly into what’s been halting business growth.
Mindbody emphasizes the program not as a loan, but a cash advance. There’s no interest, credit checks, or collateral needed and repayment is based on future sales. It’s a groundbreaking move that cuts through red tape and promises to fuel the industry for years to come.
For breathing new life into fitness wearables
For something we do a thousand times a day, breathing resembled a segment of health and wellness relatively untouched by the latest wave of tech. At least, that was until Oxa launched a variety of “breathing coach” products this past year.
The company released a line of wearables that monitor users’ breathing to improve sleep and recovery, and reduce stress. This is accomplished via “resonance breathing,” which helps users pace their inhaling and exhaling adjacent to their heart rate.
Oxa’s products are the first of their kind in a wearable device, evolving and expanding health and wellness at its most foundational level.
For bringing the benefits of cold plunging to the masses
Taking a dip into a 37-degree tub of water might not entice too many in the month of December, but Plunge has found success while mass-producing products that offer such an experience.
With its namesake cold-plunge tubs, Plunge has kicked down the door of the cold water therapy market, offering in-home access to a service that once seemed impossible.
“We saw a major gap. There wasn’t a cold plunge that we could, at the income level we had, really afford that we actually liked,” co-founder Ryan Duey told ATN of the inspiration he and fellow co-founder Michael Garrett had for creating the company. “We already knew amongst ourselves and our friends that there was an interest, although we didn’t quite grasp the potential real size of the market, both where it’s at now and where we envision it going.”
Recently, Plunge released the “Plunge All-In,” an evolution of its original cold-plunge tub with an array of new features to increase its lead in the cold therapy manufacturing race. The product pairs with an app that manages temperature and lets users know when to replace filters. It also cools 20% faster than its predecessor and carries an upgraded variable-speed fan that offers a quieter experience.
Restore Hyper Wellness
For democratizing access to high-end recovery and wellness solutions
Via its products, distribution, and pricing, arguably no other wellness company has got more people on the road to recovery this past year than Restore Hyper Wellness.
After another year of expansion, the franchise now has 225 locations spread out across the U.S. Restore utilizes cutting-edge therapy options such as Infrared Sauna, Red Light Therapy, Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (mHbOT) and compression therapy just to name a few, all at an affordable rate.
Not getting lost in the wide array of wellness options, Restore designs its solutions to cater to specific individuals and their varying needs.
“This almost always includes multiple therapies and goes beyond the four walls of a studio,” Restore Hyper Wellness co-founder and CEO Steve Welch told ATN in October. “This is an entirely new client services process that starts with understanding our client’s desires and then working with them to build a roadmap to achieve defined goals.”
Even after all that, the company is still prepared to feed the world’s growing appetite for recovery. Welch stated that Restore plans to open 500 locations in the next five years.
For bringing high tech products to beauty and wellness
In a world where people often work out solely to accomplish the goal of “looking good,” Therabody is targeting that objective with a more scientific bent.
This past year, the wellness tech company made large strides in bringing the beauty world into the fitness and wellness fold with its TheraFace Mask. The mask carries 648 medical-grade infrared LED lights to reduce signs of aging in its wearer’s skin. The product illustrates Therabody’s growing commitment to its newly launched beauty division. Following the TheraFace Pro, the TheraFace Mask represents the company’s second launch of a beauty device in as many years.
“We’re not stopping with the announcement of TheraFace Mask,” Therabody founder Dr. Jason Wersland told ATN back in October. “We are dedicated to innovating in the facial health space by bringing tech to beauty to deliver non-invasive, effectual solutions that are easy to do at home.”
For getting the 55-and-over crowd into the strength training craze
Father Time met his match in the fitness space with Tonal. The at-home digital strength training brand continues to go against the status quo, this time targeting those 55 and older with specific workouts.
Tonal’s “Ageless Strength” program features three different formats based on intensity. They all assist users with balance, coordination and stability, and feed a segment of the population that often gets left out of the strength-training conversation.
Powered by AI, the Tonal system makes working out safer by suggesting weight adjustments and with its self-explanatory “spotter mode.”
“Our members who are 55+ are more consistent at strength training week-to-week than other age groups,” Matt Bean, Tonal’s head of content and senior vice president of programming and research, has told ATN. “Our algorithm indicates that, across all levels of expertise, the average Strength Score increases by 60% after 12 months.”
For decluttering your home gym with smart strength training
With “artificial intelligence” and “remote” being two of the biggest buzzwords over the past year, Vitruvian made waves by marrying them in a piece of strength training equipment that fits under your couch for easy storage.
The in-home digital gym now uses AI to determine the amount of weight needed for individuals across a variety of workouts. The program represents a groundbreaking advancement for the company, as it continues to perfect the concept of exercising in an isolated environment.
“Strength training can be intimidating and many embark on the journey by themselves,” said Vitruvian founder and CEO Jon Gregory. “We take the guesswork out of the equation and enable people to take charge of their health in the most effective and scientific way possible.”
The AI advancement is just another win for the Australia-based Vitruvian. The company’s signature Trainer+ product was named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2022 for its all-in-one functionality and portability.
For bringing new-age wellness solutions to gyms and fitness clubs
Many can now share the best seat in the house thanks to WellnessSpace Brands, formerly known as HydroMassage. The company made waves with its Lounge and Bed products, which circulate water at different temperatures from inside a chair or bed to give a massage effect without getting users wet.
The company also manufactures CryoLounge+ chairs and RelaxSpace Wellness Pods, allowing gyms to feature products that branch out beyond typical recovery methods. The growing focus on recovery in fitness and WellnessSpace Brands’ commitment to the modality has led to a partnership with Life Time.
“More and more athletic and fitness clubs have realized that recovery and wellness products aren’t a luxury – they’re a necessity,” said Paul Lunter, WellnessSpace Brands CEO and founder.
WellnessSpace Brands has no plans to slow down either, as Lunter aims to triple the brand in size by 2030.
For bringing strength training into the world of fitness wearables
In the never-ending battle between gym-goers and injuries, Whoop launched something of a nuclear deterrent this past year.
In May, the wearable tech company released Strength Trainer, a product that tracks and monitors potential strains in its users while lifting weights. Wearable products, such as the Hydrokit Band, link with the company’s app to make using the software a simple task.
“For years, Whoop has researched and developed technology that can quantify the impact of weightlifting on the human body,” said Will Ahmed, founder and CEO of Whoop. “We are proud to be first to market and release a feature that helps coach our members while strength training.”
Strength Trainer also focuses on users’ post-workout experience by monitoring recovery and sleep. The company also added a stress monitoring system, expanding its overall arsenal of products aimed at assisting in human performance.
For gamifying fitness software to bring gyms closer to their members
Gyms and studios that use Wodify software get an added engagement and retention bonus over those that don’t.
The Philadelphia-based software provider, which helps users digitally connect with gyms at approximately 5,000 locations, took advantage of the competitiveness of gym-goers by gamifying portions of its software. Members of Wodify-connected gyms and studios can track their progress and compete against each other and themselves via tech integrations like heart-rate tracking.
“We are all kids at heart and games entice us,” Wodify has said of its gamification features. “Keeping ‘score’ keeps clients coming back to class so they can work to beat either their own or their classmates’ results, resulting in a feeling of accomplishment.”
Wodify says its software fosters community, helping gyms and studios increase retention by up to 20%.
For giving boutique fitness enthusiasts – and studios – something to celebrate
There’s been no shortage of remakes and spin-offs of Spotify’s “Wrapped” feature. But in the fitness industry, Xplor Technologies got to the moon first.
Xplor’s new “Year in Motion” feature catalogs a boutique fitness member’s past year, showing attendance, top instructors and tracking any hot streaks. Part of Xplor’s Mariana Tek boutique fitness software platform, YIM allows users to reflect on any met or failed goals from the past calendar year in a fun and informative way, all across a sleek interface.
“YIM was designed to be a shareable way for consumers to celebrate their year on social; it also serves as a great marketing campaign for our studio partners,” says Shannon Tracey, Xplor’s vice president of business development. “In the same way one can learn of a new artist or song from a friend’s Spotify Wrapped social share, you might learn about a new instructor or try the studio you’ve been meaning to get to from a YIM share.”
For taking boutique fitness into the Metaverse
The race to the Metaverse now has another participant, and it’s a big one. Already the world’s largest global franchisor of boutique fitness brands, Xponential Fitness is taking Pilates, barre and other fitness modalities into the world of VR, AR and MR.
The fitness giant announced the launch of Xponential+ for the Meta Quest 3 this September, bringing its brands like Club Pilates, StretchLab and Pure Barre into homes around the world.
“This app represents a new era in fitness technology, offering our users a truly immersive and dynamic workout experience,” said Garrett Marshall, president of Xponential+.
For revolutionizing how fitness enthusiasts support their instructors
Every little bit counts both in a workout and in your wallet. Zumba recognized that this past year after debuting its Class Management Dashboard, which contains a power feature that allows Zumba class members to tip their instructors. Despite tipping being an American custom as old as the dollar itself, Zumba became the first fitness brand to introduce such a feature, to the best of the company’s knowledge.
“People tip their waiter or their Uber driver, but they don’t tip their fitness instructor, the person who changes their life the most,” Zumba co-founder and CEO Alberto Perlman told ATN in September.
The feature has the potential to change lives on the other end of the exchange as well, as it naturally opens the door for fitness instructors to earn more for their time and efforts.
Ones To Watch List
These companies have piqued our interest, and we eagerly anticipate what they will unveil in 2024.
As a bridge between your fitness devices and cloud storage, this software firm established itself as a trustworthy and foundational piece behind the growing tech and fitness relationship.
See more here.
Adding a kickboxing workout, a sleep meditation mode and Beyonce-themed exercises to its arsenal this year, Apple Fitness+ continues to be a leader in innovation and execution. Throw in a first-of-its-kind partnership with Anytime Fitness, and there’s every reason to believe the tech giant is just getting started on its fitness and wellness journey.
See more here.
Establishing its own global music service, partnering with Factor to launch ready-made meals and linking up with Therabody this past year, the boutique fitness pioneer continues to stop at nothing to help its members meet their fitness and wellness goals.
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A leading manufacturer of outdoor fitness equipment, BeaverFit is also pushing into the boutique fitness space, becoming the provider of choice for brands like Rumble Boxing, SPENGA and MADabolic.
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Bringing personalized trainers to your doorstep, this NYC-based fitness company caters to anyone with the equipment, space and desire to improve their health — but needs some extra guidance.
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With around 300 sold locations, BODY20 has become the world’s top electro muscle stimulation (EMS) fitness franchise. There are no plans to slow down either, with the company looking to expand its presence in New York, Chicago, Seattle and California during the upcoming year.
See more here.
Body Fit Training (BFT)
The Australia-founded fitness franchise is distributing its hybrid strength and conditioning workouts at a rapid pace across the globe, recently opening locations in London, Hong Kong, Dallas, and New York. Expansion in the U.S. has really taken off since Xponential Fitness acquired BFT in late 2021.
See more here.
Chris Hemsworth’s fitness and wellness brand launched a variety of products including new app content and a variety of fitness equipment, seamlessly blending the physical and digital worlds.
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The Fit Guide
This startup grades boutique fitness studios across the globe according to a standardized rating system. The Fit Guide is leaving no stone unturned, moving into Dubai this year after already establishing a presence in New York, London, Singapore and Sydney.
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The brand surpassed one million orders this past year and inked a deal to feature its products in Target stores, taking a significant leap in its mission to expand personalized nutrition.
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Healthy Posture Club
This wellness company instructs participants on ways to improve their posture with a series of workouts from within their own homes and on their own time, bringing attention to an area of health that doesn’t get enough shine.
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This Austin-based fitness equipment company makes working out more functional than ever with its unique take on dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells, along with its signature weighted hypervest product.
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iFIT reached new heights literally and figuratively, conducting its first-ever livestream from Mount Everest. The brand continues to push boundaries with new and engaging forms of fitness and wellness content.
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Launching new workout options in the Metaverse, starting programs for people who’ve yet to develop workout habits and bringing “Ted Lasso” star Brett Goldstein into the fold, Les Mills successfully reeled in Gen Z this year.
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Life Fitness bolstered its product line with the Discover SE4 Cardio Console and LFX functional training system, an impressive bit of expansion and innovation for one of the world’s largest fitness equipment suppliers.
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Matterhorn Fit addressed a massive hole in the fitness and wellness industry this year after franchising its pain management studio concept. The company makes the same cutting-edge pain-management programs used by professional athletes accessible to anyone.
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This company produces a wearable that assists your workouts at the most foundational level, using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze nitric oxide levels and consequently improve blood flow.
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Gaming collides with health via SymGym’s independent limb motion workout equipment which launched this year. Users play against friends or themselves as they pump and pedal to fly through on-screen adventures.
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This boutique fitness brand has seen success with its intense Pilates-inspired workouts, and is now kicking its expansion plans into high gear. [solidcore] plans to more than double its studio tally from 100 to 250 over the next five years.
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This company created a shirt that measures your breathing and overall endurance while exercising. You throw it on, download the app and get moving. It’s a simple formula with a seemingly unlimited potential for workout enhancement.
See more here.
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