Axios Chicago

Picture of the Chicago skyline.

March 04, 2023

Happy Saturday! Herb Scribner here with another Saturday edition of Axios Chicago.

Today we're talking about mental health, working out and consumer spending on wellness products.

Situational awareness: The city celebrates its 186th birthday today with free Wiener's Circle hot dogs, Eli's cheesecake, entertainment and more. 11am-6pm at Chicago Food Stop at the base of the Hancock Building.

Today's newsletter is 752 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Working out is the new group hang

eauden Barrett, Aaron Smith and Tawerau Kerr-Barlow of the New Zealand All Blacks train during a gym session

Nowadays, going to the gym is as much about hanging out as working out. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Three years since the pandemic started upending our daily routines, Chicagoans are turning gyms into the new watercoolers.

Why it matters: As working from home has become the new normal, gyms have morphed into places not just for exercise, but also for screen-free socializing.

Driving the news: The annual Mindbody and ClassPass Wellness Index ranked the Windy City fifth-highest in terms of health and wellness nationwide.

  • Mindbody, a popular fitness booking platform and ClassPass' parent company, surveyed more than 17,000 adults in the 50 most-populous U.S. cities to determine the rankings.

Zoom in: The survey found Chicago residents are focusing on mental health and wellness — not just physical health — and improving their relationships.

  • Three-quarters (76%) of Chicago residents prioritize exercising at least once a week, according to the MindBody survey.
  • Building strong relationships matters a lot to Chicagoans, who ranked third in the country for having close relationships with their loved ones, according to the survey. And they're bringing that mentality to the gym.

What they're seeing: Erik Marthaler, owner of Lateral Fitness, told Axios he has seen people at his gym spend time with their friends, partners and spouses, especially as more people have been working from home.

  • "I don't think people really realized — especially the ones that haven't gone back to the office — how much the social aspect plays a part in mental health and wellness and the happiness in their lives," he said.
  • He added that people increasingly are signing up to work with personal trainers, giving them an opportunity for more one-on-one conversations.

Zoom out: The Chicago findings speak to a trend nationwide, where there's been a shift in how people view working out, according to Mindbody's survey.

  • Nearly 25% of people nationwide said they focus on their wellness to stay connected with others.
  • More than one-third of survey respondents said they were more likely to pick a spa or fitness studio if it's known for creating social connections.
  • For example, Chicago's Strong Hands Gym bills itself as the city's first LGBTQ-friendly training facility.
  • Studio Three — which has multiple Chicago locations — offers group exercise classes and encourages newcomers to meet people and build a community.

The bottom line: Every Michael Jordan needs a Scottie Pippen.

2. Where to go and what to do

Victoria Kainz practices her yoga as hundreds of visitors take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to stroll through the garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden on Feb. 18, 2017 in Glencoe, Ill.

Victoria Kainz practices yoga at Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Ill. Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Looking to hit the gym or fitness center? Here's some info to get you started, courtesy of the Best of ClassPass Awards.

  • The most-popular studio designations were based on a combination of user nominations and reservations on the ClassPass app, according to Mindbody.
  • The most popular workouts were determined by ClassPass booking data.

Most popular workouts:

  • Strength training
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Popular studios:

Popular wellness businesses:

Popular instructors:

3. A booming market

Data: McKinsey Health and Wellness Survey; Chart: Axios Visuals

Wellness is increasingly a priority for consumers, according to the latest research from consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Axios' Sami Sparber reports.

The big picture: Estimated spending on wellness products and services is more than $450 billion in the United States and rising at more than 5% annually, McKinsey found.

  • Digestive or gut health, women's health and sexual health are among the areas driving more of that spending and purchasing power, Anna Pione, a partner at McKinsey, tells Axios.

Between the lines: Millennials are the key group to watch. They prioritize health and wellness more than any other generation, Pione says.

Reality check: Health products like supplements fall under the purview of the Federal Trade Commission, meaning they are not regulated the same way as prescription medication, which is managed by the Food and Drug Administration.

What's next: Consumers want more offerings to fully meet their needs, particularly for sleep and mindfulness, which includes therapy and meditation, per the research.

  • "In both of those categories there's a lot of evolution in terms of what is being brought to the table," from sleep-tracking apps to direct-to-consumer mental health services, Pione says.

4. 1 survey to go

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Participate: Where do you take out-of-town visitors when they come to Chicago? We want to hear from you for an upcoming story!

Our Saturday edition means you'll start seeing new names in your inbox more regularly, including me, Herb!

  • I cover all things entertainment. That's a new role for me. If you've been reading Axios, you may have seen my byline on breaking news stories.
  • I'm a huge NBA fan (Jordan the GOAT). I play NBA 2K all the time. I love Marvel movies and Star Wars. And, most important, KFC follows me on Twitter!

👋 I love getting feedback and chatting with readers. So feel free to email me at [email protected] and say hi!