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Research: Fitness gurus earn big on social media in pandemic

March 26, 2021

While health and fitness influencers have been popular on social media for some years now, the events of 2020 acted as a catalyst to firmly establish their place in society. With national lockdowns resulting in gym closures, many people turned to the likes of Instagram, YouTube and TikTok for workout guidance and nutrition advice. Health and fitness personalities have never been in such demand.

A study by Currys PC World explored the world of health and fitness influencers, investigating just how popular the top social media stars are, how much they earn and what type of content they share.

The highest earning health and fitness influencers

It can seriously pay off to be a successful health and fitness influencer, with those at the top of the list taking home millions of dollars per year. Simeon Panda tops the rich list, earning an estimated $17.5 million a year across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok (based on cost per impressions), which could total $140 million across his entire social media career. As a body builder, he specialises in fitness content, with many of his videos over the last year presenting workout routines aspiring weight lifters can do at home.

Matt Morsia, YouTube’s top health and fitness earner, specialises in fitness and nutrition advice, having formerly trained for the Olympics. And Demi Bagby, TikTok’s top earner, rose to popularity off the back of snippets from her adrenaline-packed life, such as acrobatic stunts and extreme sports.

The UK’s favourite fitness influencer, Joe Wicks, is also doing pretty well for himself, after growing his online following with fitness plans, healthy recipes, and most recently, virtual PE classes. The social media personality is estimated to earn $13.9 million a year, working out at over $5,000 per post. Having diversified his content to appeal to all age-groups, including older people and children, he could have the recipe for long-term success.

Highest earning fitness influencers

Name Estimated yearly earnings from Instagram, YouTube and TikTok ($ million) Total followers across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok (million)
Simeon Panda 17.5 9.6
Ulisses Williams Jr. 16.2 10.6
Ingrid Macher 14.4 2.9
Joe Wicks 13.9 6.6
Eva Andressa 13.2 6
Sascha Barboza 10.1 6.2
Felipe Franco 8.9 5.5
Michelle Lewin 8.2 14.3
Anna Lewandowska 7.9 3.8
Jeremy Buendia 7.3 3.8

The most followed health and fitness influencers

Followers and subscribers are a big deal when it comes to finding success as a social media influencer, as generally the larger your community is, the higher you can charge for brand collaborations and advertising opportunities.

Among the top 100 health and fitness influencers, the majority have accumulated more than a million followers across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok; with Chloe Ting topping the list. She’s followed by Demi Bagby who has 16.5 million followers – and happens to be the most followed on TikTok (14M) – and Michelle Lewin who has 14.3 million followers and is the most followed influencer on Instagram (13.8M).

Generally speaking, those at the top of the list are fitness influencers who specialise in workouts users can follow at home, although yoga and nutrition are also popular niches. Chloe Ting, for example, shares entire exercise plans tailored for beginners and fitness fanatics alike. They span over several weeks and promise to help you get fit, lose weight or get toned. Michelle Lewin tends to post shorter videos that offer exercise tips rather than full workouts and are tailored for more advanced fitness fans. Demi Bagby, on the other hand, intersperses workout videos among content covering her high-octane lifestyle – wake surfing, truck racing, somersaults, you name it!

Most-followed influencers by primary niche

Fitness/workouts Yoga/Wellbeing Body building Nutrition
Chloe Ting (20 million) Adriene Mishler (9.8 million) Jeff Cavaliere (13.2 million) Joe Wicks (6.5 million)
Demi Bagby (16.5 million) Elena Malova (2.8 million) Ulisses Williams Jr. (10.6 million) Sascha Barboza (6.2 million)
Michelle Lewin (14.3 million) Juliana & Mark Spicoluk (2.2 million) Simeon Panda (9.6 million) Dr. Eric Berg DC (4.1 million)
Jen Selter (13.3 million) Rachel Brathen (2.2 million) Bradley Martyn (7.8 million) Ingrid Macher (2.9 million)
Patry Jordan (12.7 million) Kino MacGregor (1.9 million) Lazar Angelov (6.4 million) Emily Daniels (303k)

The health and fitness influencers with the highest engagement

While followers are important, engagement is also crucial for demonstrating influence. The index ranks the top 100 health and fitness influencers based on the average number of likes or views on each post.

As the most-followed individual on the list, it isn’t surprising that Chloe Ting ranks first for the highest engagement, averaging 1.3 million likes/views per post. She’s followed by successful fitness personality Pamela Reif, with an average of 899.5k likes/views per post and ex-body builder Juju Fitcats, with 735.7k likes/views per post. Pamela Reif also ranks top for the most engagement on Instagram, averaging 108.5k likes per post and Demi Bagby receives the highest engagement on TikTok, with an average of 638.5k likes per post.

What type of content is found on each platform?

Many of the top health and fitness influencers have a presence across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and while some content is repurposed across them all, each platform has its own niche. Instagram, for example, highlights more of the day-to-day lives of the influencers, while YouTube is the ideal platform for posting longer, more in-depth content like workouts and cooking tutorials.

TikTok, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block, having risen in popularity over the last year. It now has around 1 billion monthly active users and the top influencers on the platform can earn between $50-150k for a successful brand partnership on the platform. With 41 per cent of TikTok users aged between 16 and 24, the platform is all about keeping content fun. On here, you’ll find energetic fitness challenges, dance routines and snappy workout snippets with pumping soundtracks.

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