The China fitness market is expanding rapidly as the growing Chinese middle-class is seeking a healthy and aspirational lifestyle. The number of fitness studios is surging and health/fitness app downloads are booming. The Chinese – like the rest of the world – have jumped on the health and fitness trend.
The fitness industry in China is forecasted to exceed a revenue of 6.2 billion USD in 2024 and become larger than the luxury market segment. As such, it will be the largest fitness market in the world, exceeding the US, India, and Germany.
Wouldn’t it be great to get a piece of this pie?
Are you an established fitness/health brand in the Middle Kingdom and do you want to grow your audience and reach? Or would you like to expand your successful fitness/health brand into China, and are seeking opportunities to enter the market?
Then, fitness influencer marketing on Douyin and Xiaohongshu might be ideal for you!
From sports brands (sportswear, etc.) to fitness and health products (workout gear, weight loss products, etc.), lifestyle items (supplements, organic food, etc.), and more – this China Gravy article got you covered to boost your brand in China with specialized fitness influencers – who have millions of fitness and sports enthusiastic followers – focusing on Douyin (the Chinese TikTok) and Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book, the Chinese Instagram).
Overview of the China Fitness Market
Health and fitness are among the hottest trends in the Middle Kingdom. Fueled by homestayers during the pandemic, a healthy, body-conscious lifestyle is sought after by Chinese citizens, predominantly in Tier 1 cities. Besides, the Chinese government is promoting a healthier lifestyle for its citizens.
The majority (80%) of health enthusiasts in China is between 21 and 35 years old. Yoga is a recent favorite health trend in Tier 1 cities and CrossFit is a Millennial megatrend. Moreover, martial art styles cater to a higher-end and more demanding sports audience.
For the average sports enthusiast, especially among the upper middle class, table tennis and badminton (quasi the Chinese national sports), as well as running, basketball, football, and winter sports are the preferred activities of choice.
Whatever their sports of choice, the main motivational drivers for health and fitness enthusiasts are staying healthy, losing weight, body shaping, and stress release.
Unsurprisingly, the number of gyms and fitness venues continues to practically “explode” in China. This growing health awareness in China boosts the athleisure market, including health apps and fitness influencers.
Generally, there are many fitness parks, which are mainly used by older people. Therefore, this demographic is overall healthier and fitter in China compared to the rest of the world. Besides, in China, physical activity is an integral part in schools, companies, and communities, where the day typically starts with aerobics or similar physical activities.
Overall, fitness is ingrained much deeper into the culture in China compared to the rest of the world. Not necessarily for body image and muscle building, but to actually be fit, healthy, and mobile, throughout age.
Finally, China has always been a digital first-mover. As such, physical gyms are gradually being replaced by fitness apps, online courses, digital gyms, and other digital services.
Popular fitness apps in China
The most popular fitness app in China is Keep with more than 13 million monthly active users. Likewise, SuperMonkey is a popular sports app. With its convenient WeChat mini program feature, it targets younger fitness enthusiasts and meanwhile has also established more than 70 physical gyms in Tier 1 cities.
During the Covid pandemic and strict lockdowns, particularly in China with lockdowns in more than 40 cities affecting more than 370 million people, home workouts and fitness classes gained extreme popularity and continue to provide a much-needed escape for people.
Fitness Trends in China
Recent developments and the further digital push make the fitness industry more diversified, including boutique and personal training studios as well as overall new gym models, home applications, smart technology, and family fitness.
As part of the wellness sector, fitness, sports, and wellbeing continue to gain importance in China and around the world among the (higher) middle class, who are happy to invest their disposable income in themselves, making it an attractive sector to target for local and international brands.
Finally, body positivity and a wider acceptance of different body shapes and types is also slowly finding its way into the Chinese fitness market.
Future of the China Fitness Market
As mentioned above, fitness is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and part of everyday life for young and old. It typically goes together with mindfulness and spirituality.
Physical activities often take place at parks, schools, or community centers, but not typically at fitness studios – yet. Therefore, the share of the Chinese population who exercise in fitness studios and practice fitness as it is known in the Western world, at present is only 5% (70 million Chinese in the year 2020), with a 3% growth rate.
As this fitness industry grows and matures in China, the market continues to specialize, standardize, and diversify. The key stakeholders include gym operators, fitness equipment suppliers, and fitness trainers, as well as sports, fitness, and wellness enthusiasts (consumers).
Therefore, the health/fitness industry and luxury/sports sector may be worth keeping an eye on, also if you are interested in investing in Chinese stocks.
Influencer Marketing on Douyin and Xiaohongshu
Promoting a brand as well as marketing products and services in collaboration with influencers is a popular strategy, especially in China, where consumers simply love KOLs, KOCs, and Wanghong.
This strategy is especially attractive for global health, fitness, and sports brands that are new to the Chinese market and/or have a limited search engine and social media marketing budget for the Middle Kingdom.
Douyin is THE trending short video app in China, where a young audience with a significant disposable income and a love for health and fitness products, is waiting to be entertained, advised, and indulged by brands.
While the Douyin app is not available in Western app stores, you can download Douyin for Windows, Android, and TV, as well as Mac here. Besides, Douyin is available as a web platform via douyin.com.
Likewise, working with fitness influencers on Xiaohongshu gives you access to a young audience who visits this social commerce platform frequently and eagerly engages on health and beauty topics.
The Xiaohongshu app is available in the Google Play and Apple stores for download. You can easily log in with your WeChat account if you already have one or just easily create a new Xiaohongshu account.
While Douyin is only available in Chinese, Xiahonghsu is also available in English when downloaded outside of China.
And if you are asking yourself, why choose influencer marketing to boost your sports, fitness, or health brand, the answer is simple. KOL marketing is one of the most cost-efficient ways, and trendy as well, to connect with a large ready-to-buy audience in the Middle Kingdom.
In recent times, fitness influencers in China particularly have created a sort of hype among young Chinese netizens. Their easily accessible, motivational, and positive content especially speaks to a young audience who in the past was often shamed for their slim “unfeminine” bodies.
Chinese health, fitness, and lifestyle influencers manage to connect with their fans easily through topics that are important to them, their health, and wellbeing. These influencers serve as a bridge between sports enthusiasts and fitness/health-related brands. In particular, through live streaming and short videos, they enchant their fans and followers.
Top Health & Fitness Influencers in China on Douyin & Xiaohongshu
To provide a more detailed picture of how Chinese fitness influencers present themselves and their cooperation partners, we’re taking a look at the top three influencers on Douyin and Xiaohongshu.
雪总健身课堂 (Account ID: xuezong116)
This female influencer, whose name literally translates to “Snow Chief Fitness Classes”, has more than 11 million followers, and provides free online workout classes. She describes herself as a “creator in the field of high-quality fitness”, CBBA fitness trainer (Chinese Bodybuilding Association), and nutritionist of four years on the app.
Her live sports times are 8am and 7pm, closed on Sundays. The schedule is
- Monday: full-body cardio
- Tuesday: butt shaping
- Wednesday: Aerobic fat burning
- Thursday: hip and leg shaping
- Friday: waist core
- Saturday: Aerobic fat burning
On the Douyin mobile app (screenshot below), on the left hand side, you can see 雪总健身课堂’s profile with two yellow links:
- Product Window (商品橱窗): links to a shop page, where partners can add their own products as well as third-party products that are being promoted (most KOL influencers don’t have their own products). You can see 雪总健身课堂’s on the screenshot below right, where she has 110 promoted products.
- Official Cooperation (找我官方合作): links to an overview of Xingtu (most information is only available for registered users on Xingtu)
Xingtu (星图) is an integrated Influencer platform on Douyin, which we are explaining in detail (including the metrics) below. Click here to jump to this section.
By clicking on “找我官方合作” on 雪总健身课堂’s profile, you can see the Xingtu information (screenshot below).
Left screenshot below
- Xingtu Index: 80
Right screenshot below
- Paid Posts
- Percentage Of Viewers Watching A Live Stream Until The End: 17.5%
- Engagement Rate: 1.2%
- Average Live Stream Clicks: 102,000
张继科 (Account ID: zhangjike999)
This table tennis athlete, an Olympic games winner, and influencer, Zhang Jike, has more than 9.5 million followers. One of Zhang’s biggest assets, which contributes to his popularity, is his mental strength and ability to win sports competitions under high pressure.
He creates a large variety of content centered around sports and spare time.
On the Douyin mobile app (screenshot below) you can see Zhang’s profile (left) and shop (right).
When you click on “找我官方合作” on Zhang Ji Ke’s profile, you can see the Xingtu information below.
Left screenshot below
- Xingtu Index: 65.8
Right screenshot below
- Paid Posts
- Percentage Of Viewers Watching A Live Stream Until The End: 21.6%
- Engagement Rate: 3.5%
- Average Live Stream Clicks: 108,000
仲昭金 Adam (Account ID: zhongzhaojin)
This male influencer Zhong Zhaojin (English Name: Adam), has more than 9 million followers and offers free online fitness classes. In 2016, Zhong Zhaojin was a fitness coach in a popular weight loss TV show in China. Besides, he also participates in a variety of other fitness, sports, and lifestyle TV shows in China. Zhong Zhaojin often does live broadcasts and is a beloved public figure by his fans in China.
On Douyin, Zhong Zhaojin is live daily at 8pm. For a limited time, he offers 50+ weight loss training camps. He also offers youth summer and winter camps.
On the Douyin mobile app, below you can see Zhong Zhaojin’s profile (left) and shop (right).
By clicking on “找我官方合作” on Zhong Zhaojin’s profile, you can see the Xingtu information as follows:
Left screenshot below
- Xingtu Index: 79.6
Right screenshot below
- Paid Posts
- Percentage Of Viewers Watching A Live Stream Until The End: 18.6%
- Engagement Rate: 1.7%
- Average Live Stream Clicks: 53,000
Comparison of Xingtu Values for our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers
|Number of Followers (July 2022)||11,236,000||9,474,000||9,138,000|
|Paid Posts/Percentage Of Viewers Watching A Live Stream Until The End||17.5%||21.6%||18.6%|
|Paid Posts/Average Live Stream Clicks||1.2%||3.5%||1.7%|
|Paid Posts/Average Live Stream Clicks||102,000||108,000||53,000|
Cost Comparison of our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers on Xingtu
This comparison shows the influencer’s managing agency (所属机构) and lists the advertising price depending on video length. For example, a 1-20 second video on 张继科’s account costs 500,000 RMB (~74,000 USD).
Xingtu Index & Key Data of our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers on Xingtu
Personal Video Post Comparison of our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers on Xingtu
The share and engagement rate of Zhong Zhaojin (in the middle) are comparatively low.
Sponsored Video Post Comparison of our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers on Xingtu
As there are no metrics available for 雪总健身课堂, it seems she doesn’t collaborate with an agency (MCN) for influencer collaborations and paid brand advertising.
Follower Data Comparison of our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers on Xingtu
This chart analyzes the demographics of each influencer according to
- gender: e.g. 雪总健身课堂 has 90% female followers
- age: most followers are between 31-40 years old
- device type: could correlate to the disposable income of the followers
- province: mostly Guangdong (the most populous province)
- interest category: gaming for 张继科 and 仲昭金 Adam, food for 雪总健身课堂
Advertised Products Comparison of our Top mentioned Douyin Influencers on Xingtu
For example, Zhang Jike (on the left) doesn’t seem to promote products in his shop, while Zhong Zhaojin (in the middle) has 10 products.
Next, let’s take a look at the key influencers on the “Little Red Book”.
刘畊宏 (Account ID: liugenghong)
This young male influencer has more than 6 million followers. He focuses on fitness videos and is a trending instructor in the Chinese sports ecosystem.
Liu Genghong is originally a Taiwanese singer, actor, and personal trainer who now resides in Shanghai. His regular Douyin fitness live streams, which he started during Covid-lockdowns, became super popular. Liu was even banned temporarily by the Douyin algorithm for being “too fit and exposed”.
But the 49-year-old just kept going, and he’s now doing his fitness classes wearing a jacket. What sets him further apart is that Liu makes his workouts fun, energizing, humorous, and positive overall.
Furthermore, what makes Liu’s classes stand out is that his wife appears in the fitness sessions, representing the average citizen.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, Liu hosts his fitness class at 7.30pm, together with his wife Wang Wanfei. On Saturday, the 90-minute class starts at 9am.
The duo’s videos have gone viral on social media with people imitating the workout routines on their own videos. During Covid lockdowns, Liu’s videos broke Douyin’s live streaming record for 2022 with 40 million views of the most popular video in one month, and the most popular live session attracting more than 1 million live viewers.
All in all, Liu is considered a fitness live streaming superstar in China. He reportedly generates up to ~36,000 USD income per day through fans showering him with virtual gifts on live streams that can be converted into cash.
Liu Genghong is a popular influencer and promotes products in various industries besides sports/fitness, including the automotive industry. In the screenshot below, you can see for example Liu’s Cadillac XT5 advertisement.
李若彤 (Account ID: 203370534)
This female influencer, Li Ruotong, has more than 2 million followers and an overall broader setup with a focus on lifestyle rather than fitness alone.
Among other promotions, Li Ruptong advertises Lay’s chips, which is unusual for a health fitness influencer. This goes to show that “anything goes” in China and that the right story can create an authentic brand message.
钳钳妈阿曼达呀 (Account ID: 381676973)
This female influencer, short: Amanda, has more than 2 million followers. Like Li Ruptong she has a broader lifestyle setup beyond fitness alone.
Born in 1993, Amanda is a young full-time mother, who mainly wants to help other mothers lose weight after giving birth.
Among her promotions are jewelry (screenshot below).
How to Leverage the Potential of the Chinese Fitness Market with Influencers
To lift the full potential of the health, fitness, and sports segment in China with your international brand, collaborating with KOL, KOC, and Wanghong is a smart move.
- Select an influencer that fits your brand and can promote your products and services authentically. Our unique list of more than 150 influencers on Douyin and Xiaohongshu can help you to get started.
- Contact the influencer through Douyin/Xiaohongshu, Xingtu (Douyin), or WeChat, and verify their authenticity. Influencers (and their managers) normally speak English. You can simply ask them to send you a message from the official Douyin/Xiaohongshu account.
- Negotiate terms and conditions. Influencers may do paid promotions or in-kind agreements. If you would like them to promote specific products, it may be necessary to send them your products (for free, of course). Agree on measurable KPIs to determine the success of your promotion.
- Sit back and enjoy the boost of your leads, sales, and brand awareness in China.
- If this sounds too complicated for you or you would like to outsource the influencer research, negotiation, and monitoring, a China expert like China Gravy can help you with this.
Keep in mind that Douyin works with a dedicated influencer broker app, Xingtu.
About Xingtu (星图)
Literally, 星图 means “star map”. In practice, Xingtu is an integrated influencer platform on Douyin.
Douyin influencers typically link to Xingtu on their Douyin profile. Through Xingtu, brands can connect directly with the influencer(s) of their choice, mostly through large Multi-Channel Networks (MCN) – ad companies that typically manage a large number of influencers. This may be particularly interesting for bigger companies with a larger Chinese marketing budget.
On Xingtu, Douyin acts as an intermediary on a commission basis. So you may be able to negotiate better terms and deals when contacting the influencer directly.
These are the Xingtu metrics:
- 星图指数 (Xingtu Index): general index summarizing all other indicators
- 传播指数 (Live Stream Index): how effective the live streams of the influencer was in the last 30 days (viewers, engagement, etc.)
- 涨分指数 (Follower Growth Index): data and trends of the influencer’s follower growth in the last 15 days
- 性价比指数 (Cost Effectiveness Index): historical and estimated future CPM/CPC for orders, follower quality, etc.
- 合作指数 (Cooperation Index): quality of the collaboration (trust, rating, truthfulness, etc.)
- 种草指数 (Promotion Index): quality of promotions (promoted products, click rates, etc.)
- 重点数据 (Key Data): potential clicks that brands can generate on their Douyin account when collaborating with a certain influencer (historical data of the last 30 days), information only available with Xingtu registration
- 粉丝画像 (Fan Portrait): followers of a specific influencer including follower demographic, information only available with Xingtu registration
- 代表作品 (Paid Posts): paid posts by this influencer, rating them either 高 (high) in red (which is good) or 低 (low) in green, which is bad – attention: this is different from the stop light system in Western countries
- 完播率 (Rate in Percentage): how many accounts on average watch a live stream until the end
- 互动率 (Engagement Rate): how many accounts on average like, comment, or share a post
- 播放中位数 (Play Median): average life stream clicks
Here are the various metrics explained based on 张国伟’s Douyin/Xingtu profile. He is another sports KOL influencer, who we use as an example to explain the Xingtu metrics. Kindly keep in mind that Key Data (2) and Fan Portrait (3) are only viewable with a registered Xingtu account.
So, you may ask yourself, what is the benefit of collaborating with influencers through Xingtu vs. contacting them directly via private message?
Advantages of Xingtu
The main advantages of Xingtu over collaborating directly with influencers via private messages are
- transparent price structures
- KOL matching, where Xingtu pre-selects suitable influencers for your brand and niche
- secure payments and conflict resolution
Once you collaborate with an influencer or create content on your own, make sure that it’s fun and positive, relatable, and that it’s posted regularly/consistently.
This brings us to the end of this introduction to the China fitness market and the top KOL influencer in this niche.
China Fitness Market – The Takeway
The fitness market in China is booming. It is expected to be the largest fitness market worldwide by 2024, exceeding revenue of 6.2 billion USD.
Fueled by Chinese citizens seeking entertainment and activities during the Covid-lockdowns, more awareness of health, body care, and wellbeing, as well as digital trends, the sky is the limit for the fitness sector in China.
More and more brands identify the potential of this sector and push into it. Collaborating with popular fitness instructors, health gurus, and entertainers in this segment (KOL influencers) is a smart and cost-effective way to leverage this potential. Keep in mind that collaborations with top fitness influencers can be costly due to their large reach and engagement.
This is particularly interesting for international health/fitness/sports brands that are new to the Chinese market and/or have a limited search engine and social media marketing budget for China.
Easily and quickly connect with female and male Chinese fitness influencers to market your products and services to your Chinese target audience, who is already interested in a healthy lifestyle, sports, fitness, and general wellbeing.
Is your brand fit for the Chinese fitness market?
Bring more attention to your sports, health, and fitness products and services in China, and get new followers on the popular Chinese platforms Douyin (“Chinese TikTok”) and Xiaohongshu (“Chinese Instagram”) to ultimately increase your sales in the Middle Kingdom.
Click here to find out more and secure your Douyin and Xiaohongshu fitness influencer list with more than 150 contacts. Enjoy lifetime access to this dynamic agency list for a one-off fee only. This hand-picked influencer list is well-structured and makes it easy for you to contact them (via WeChat), even if you don’t speak Chinese.
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