A Brief History of the Gym Business – From Venice Beach to Community Reach

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Fitness | 0 comments

Fitness and body care were part of health consciousness, but the concept of a public gym took centuries to catch on. Once it did, it brought an exciting future still taking shape today.

A History of the Gym Business

Gyms have their roots in Ancient Greece. They were more like schools than the health club we’re familiar with. Young Greek men were educated for competition and battle in these gyms (women come in later in the timeline), creating an environment of physical fitness alongside educational subjects and even hygiene.

Athletes openly trained for the Olympics in Greek gymnasiums, which included the Academy with Plato and Aristotle’s Lyceum.

The Gymnasium Evolution

The fitness lifestyle fell out of favor with the fall of the Greco-Roman empire. Many things Greeks and Romans favored were frowned upon—music, art, and even the sculpted human body.

There was an attempt in Germany in the early 1800s to revive the gym and fitness business, but they floundered. In the mid-19th century, when schools supplemented their athletic programs with gymnasiums to help athletes condition for sports, the public became interested in physical fitness again.

The First Commercial Gym

The first man credited with starting a gym business is a French gymnast, Hippolyte Triat. His first fitness center opened in Brussels, followed quickly by a second in Paris in the late 1840s.

Eugene Sandow, a strongman, created the world’s first physique contest. To promote it, he developed a marketing strategy around fitness publications, equipment, and dietary products using his own gym businesses throughout Great Britain.

It was in London in 1844 when the world saw the opening of its first YMCA, where the fitness business caught the public’s imagination and made it accessible to many men. The first YMCAs with gymnasiums were opened in 1869 and spread across the globe from there. A YMCA staff member named Robert J. Roberts first used the term “bodybuilding” and built exercise classes that are recognizable in today’s fitness industry.

The Early US Gym Business

The first US fitness studio opened in Oakland, California in 1939 under the entrepreneurship of Jack LaLanne, who became a fitness industry legend. Jack’s innovative ideas for machines designed on a pulley-cable system to help strengthen muscles using counterweights are the mainstays for today’s machines.

He was even an early proponent of women in the fitness industry at a time when doctors advised against lifting weights for men, let alone women. Jack LaLanne marketed his gym locations as European Health Spas, and they continued growing in popularity across the US.

Still, gym owners operated primarily dusty training facilities where men lifted weights to pursue training for a sport rather than overall health and wellness. Maybe they specialized as a boxing gym or other targeted fitness club.

Then Joe Gold opened Gold’s Gym in 1965 in Venice, California, and he changed how the successful gym business plan looked—thus beginning the first big-box gym concept. Anyone was welcome. Joe Gold followed this successful chain up with another chain, World Gym, in 1977.

Today’s US Gym or Fitness Center

Enter the women. Thanks to Jane Fonda in the 1980s, women entered the fitness industry in droves, looking for aerobics and group fitness classes designed to slim down, keep in shape, and even body build.

So many people were joining the fitness industry as members, Personal Trainer became a viable career, gym equipment became more refined, and new chains were opening across the US. 24 Hour Fitness opened in 1983, and LA Fitness followed in 1984. Jack LaLanne’s fitness spas hit 200 locations before he licensed them to Bally Company, and they got rebranded as Bally Total Fitness.

Elevate Your Entrepreneurial Journey: Becoming a Visionary in the Evolving Gym Business Landscape

Big-box gyms have, since the 2000s, given way to smaller, more personal health clubs that cater to giving members customizable attention. Smaller, boutique-style studios focus more on personalized programs and building a community spirit that appeals to every fitness level and age bracket.

To start, our fitness equipment is more advanced than ever. This, combined with the technology of wearables and apps, has enhanced how we exercise and personalize our fitness routines.

Today’s investor looking for gyms for sale understands that a community component creates a successful gym with a growing gym membership. Ultimately, people have many-faceted goals for fitness, whether they’re beginners or have advanced experience. Having a flexible gym model that supports active instructors, engagement with fellow gym goers, and being part of a community of people around them boost the achievement of those goals.

RiseUp Fitness embraces the future of gyms like these with an eye toward technology and community spirit. First, we give our members the technology that helps them track their fitness with MyZone fitness trackers and InBody scanners. These tech advances allow RiseUp Fitness to provide accurate, detail-orientated results that can be quantified into data and understood by users.

Next, we support our gym owners as part of our commitment to people. We love to see people succeed, whether that’s a member trying to gain muscle or lose weight, an investor becoming a new business owner for the first time, or a seasoned RiseUp Fitness franchisee opening another location as a multi-unit operator.

We love supporting those who look to improve their lives, whatever form that takes..
RiseUp Fitness is a recognizable brand led by an experienced team, and we’re eager to give qualified investors interested in opening a gym the chance to do so with RiseUp Fitness. We offer a reasonable initial investment compared to other startup costs. Our franchisees receive thorough training and support in an extremely supportive culture and have access to incredible marketing.

Take the Next Step

Are you ready to RiseUp with a gym franchise that’s the future of fitness? Contact us for more information about our franchise investment program.


Discover the fascinating journey of the gym business, tracing its origins from Venice Beach’s iconic scene to its far-reaching impact on local communities. Plus, explore ‘The Best Franchise Business Opportunities List’ to kickstart your fitness entrepreneurship dreams.

  1. Fitness Center Enterprise
  2. Health Club Venture
  3. Workout Studio Industry
  4. Exercise Facility Business
  5. Wellness Center Enterprise
  6. Physical Fitness Franchise
  7. Athletic Gym Establishment
  8. Bodybuilding Studio Business
  9. Personal Training Enterprise
  10. Yoga Studio Industry

As we conclude this journey through the fascinating history of the gym business, we invite you to embark on your own entrepreneurial adventure. The gym industry’s remarkable evolution, from its humble beginnings on the iconic shores of Venice Beach to its profound impact on communities today, serves as a testament to its enduring relevance. Now armed with ‘The Best Franchise Business Opportunities List,’ you possess the tools to transform your passion for fitness into a thriving business. Seize the opportunity to make your mark in the world of health and wellness, and join us in the legacy of the gym business—a legacy of strength, resilience, and community impact.