For making athletes better without the use of illegal performance enhancement. Catapult was born following a poor showing by the Australians in the 2000 Olympics, but it wasn’t until 2014 that it went mainstream. Its latest technology allows any athlete to wear GNSS and LPS tracking devices that measure every piece of data imaginable—including heart rate, speed, and power—to determine acceleration and fatigue. In the past year, sales have grown by 70%, the staff has expanded from 15 to 50, and even Mark Cuban joined as an investor. Catapult has secured deals with more than half the teams in the NFL, a third of the teams in the NBA (including the champion San Antonio Spurs), 30 major college programs (including 2013 NCAA BCS Champ Florida State), and 10 different national teams.
For showing that weight loss can be a simple equation. Last year, the popular calorie-tracking app hit new levels of excellence: Its users around the globe have now lost almost 200 million pounds by leveraging an endless database of more than 4 million foods. The average active user drops 10.3 pounds within the first 30 days, which represents an increase since MyFitnessPal's recent strategic partnerships with quantified-self devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness. Nearly 80% of all wearable devices now sync with the platform. In early 2015, Under Armour acquired the app for $475 million.
For improving the entire health and fitness industry. Exos continues to find new ways to help everyone become healthier. The company launched a Performance Specialist Certification to upgrade fitness education for sports coaches, personal trainers, and therapists. It expanded into healthy eating by unveiling a large corporate nutrition program that serves more than 50,000 employees. And Exos continued with its traditional high-level sports performance by training the German national soccer team and conducting a study with the U.S. national soccer team that investigates the relationship between sleep and performance. The company helps prepare hundreds of college players for the NFL every year, and it built on this program by reaching a deal with the NFL Players Association to provide lifestyle services to current and former players that deal with health, wellness, and life after football.
For creating cool fitness gear that really does have a benefit. The new athletic apparel brand, backed in part by Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob, is embedded with EMG technology that is usually reserved for science labs and doctor’s offices. Each item of clothing currently includes 12 different trackers that provide real-time feedback during workouts, sending information via Bluetooth directly to your mobile device. The clothing can monitor how hard your muscles are working, your heart rate, and even your breathing level. Whereas an EMG machine might cost $5,000 to $15,000, the athletic wear is currently priced at $99 plus $199 for the core technology. And if you were wondering: Yes, the gear can battle sweat like your favorite brands, and is machine washable.
For creating a digital, affordable version of nutrition coaching. The principles behind Precision Nutrition aren’t new—it’s the same type of advice Dr. John Berardi has been sharing with Olympians and professional athletes. What’s different is that now anyone can work with Berardi and his team of coaches for less than it costs to join a CrossFit gym. The PN philosophy is different than most: Instead of counting calories, Precision Nutrition takes a behavioral approach to improving habits and dropping pounds of fat, and offers a money-back guarantee. The company increased revenue by nearly 50% in 2014, surpassing the $10 million mark for the first time. It also expanded its certification program, and has educated more than 17,000 coaches across 80 countries. To keep members of the coaching platform even more incentivized, the program gives away $250,000 in cash prizes annually for the best transformations.
For creating a more comfortable exercise environment for at-risk overweight gym-goers. If you’ve ever walked into a fitness facility, you know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed or intimidated, especially if you’re new to fitness or feel out of shape. Downsize Fitness is pioneering a new type of facility specifically geared toward healthy weight loss (think the opposite of The Biggest Loser) for people battling obesity. Instead of four-week quick fixes, the business offers 18-month plans that are sustainable and affordable. The gym is part health care community and part fitness center. Members are satisfied, too, as retention rates are a staggering 95%, which is more than 30% higher than the typical gym. Downsize is on the verge of launching its franchise model, and more than 350 inquiries from around the world have flooded the business within the last six months.
For creating the all-purpose tracker. Polar has been around for 35 years and is one of the pioneers in tracking, so it’s no surprise that its latest offering is the best and most popular. With purchases that have tripled since its initial launch in late 2013, the Polar Loop handles exercise and heart rate, and even tracks sleep patterns and provides feedback as to why you might not be performing (or feeling) your best. And when those "off" days occur, the device offers instant motivational feedback and alerts to help guide you to better health behaviors. The heart rate monitor on the Loop has surpassed prior limitations and can now track every type of activity, including swimming (without heart rate) and underwater sports thanks to new waterproof technology. Even if you’re not superactive and just count steps, the Loop will send you a reminder if you’ve been sitting too long.
For cleaning up the dirtiest business in the fitness industry. As the unofficial voice of scientists and researchers, Examine.com took the slow route to cleaning up the supplement business by fighting hyperbole and marketing with real science. The site currently boasts more than 35,000 peer-reviewed studies that act as the foundation for rating more than 350 supplements. The site is ad-free and no specific products are reviewed, meaning bias isn’t an issue. Instead, you can learn what ingredients do and don’t work, and discover what might be the best supplements for any condition or goal. The website is visited by more than 20,000 people per day, and revenue has increased 160% in the past 12 months, allowing it to hire a director (with an MPH and MBA) and a review board to assess all content. Most impressive? An internal survey of its customers found that it impacted (not buying versus buying) more than $10,000,000 in supplement sales.
For creating a buffet for all levels of fitness. Rather than forcing one type of workout, the company has cornered the marketplace by offering multiple options for at-home and in-gym experiences, certifying trainers, and even supplying nutrition shakes. While you might think Beachbody lives off products like Insanity or P90X, the biggest boost might be occurring at the trainer level. The networking and marketing business has grown more than 70%, and the number of Beachbody-certified trainers surpassed 30,000 in 2014, including international expansion in the U.K., Germany, and Australia. By working at the educator level with its own certification process, Beachbody is able to reach more of the active audience, adding an average of 250,000 new customers each month.
For bringing the digital age to the archaic gym environment. Equinox is known for its high-end approach to fitness, with services often better suited to a spa than a gym. But in 2014, the brand revamped its mobile app with a special feature: Users could now sync their wearable devices (think: activity and calorie trackers) all onto one platform. (A partnership with Apple Health helped.) But that’s just the first step. The app suggests how to improve your fitness approach, and even sends content on topics of interest. Worried that the information might be from a meathead trainer? The brand created an advisory board of influential people in the world of health and fitness to be the backbone of the shared information, including tips on exercise, nutrition, recovery, and sleep.