Fitness has gone from being a new year resolution to year-round reality. Fitness equipment, gym memberships, fitness DVDs and activewear are finding buyers who are serious about transforming their physical image to something better and healthier. While the fitness industry has a dedicated segment for a variety of needs, one of the interesting developments has taken place in the activewear market. Sportswear, which catered to a particular segment of customers, has given way to activewear, which is becoming a part of the fashion circle and overtaking the sportswear segment.

Fashion forward

Activewear has proven so comfortable that it is not just a part of gyms and yoga centres. People even do their daily chores in activewear. It is chic and comfortable, making it a perfect substitute for regular denim. Track pants and tops have also become a part of New York's fashion week.

Unlike sports gear, activewear can be worn anywhere since it is also more flexible in style. The concept of activewear is keenly followed by sportswear brands and luxury sports brands are concentrating on style with performance. Brands have started blurring the distinction between sports gear and activewear. This has ensured that clients can now easily find high-performing, stylish sports gear.

According to a study conducted by market research company NPD Group Inc, in the last three years, the activewear sector has developed steadily and it has also managed to surpass the market growth levels of regular apparel. "This is because consumers are wearing activewear not only to the gym, in the gym, and for the gym, but they are working out, going out, and even hanging out in activewear. Retailers and manufacturers across the board know that activewear is truly active, and they all want a piece of the action, says the group's Chief Industry Analyst, Marshal Cohen.

The assuring growth of the sector has led Swedish retailer H&M to launch H&M Sport in 2014. One of the biggest advantages of entering the activewear retail business is that brands can easily shift from competitive fashion outfits and earn higher price points with fitness apparel. Another brand that vouches for expanding opportunities in activewear is Canada-based yogawear brand Lululemon. Though it lost some of its market share to high-end brands recently, its journey from an unknown local store to US$ 1 billion retail business testifies to activewear's rising demand.

The big picture

Activewear has expanded the supposed limits of fashion and performance. Sport-specific requirements in garments like temperature control wear, odour-killing fabrics and activity-tracking wearables are now the basic requirement of customers. The Lululemon Swiftly T-shirt's silverescent fabric inhibits odour-causing bacteria from growing. The Athos capris come with a built-in sensor that tracks health data and sends it to the wearer's smartphone.