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EXCLUSIVE: Life Time Plans Expansion Into Co-Working And Residential, Drops 'Fitness' From Name

Life Time is evolving from a chain of fitness centers into an all-encompassing, “healthy way of life” brand with co-working, healthcare, retail and residential components.

A rendering of the Life Time in Ardmore, Pa., which is the first to include a Life Time Work component.

The 25-year-old company based in the Minneapolis area has changed its name from Life Time Fitness Inc. to Life Time Inc. on all legal documents and will be rebranding nearly all of its existing centers to match. The move is one the company characterizes as a logical progression from years of offering an expanded set of wellness amenities.

“The use of the word ‘fitness’ has sort of pigeonholed us as a gym, and for so long, that’s been a small part of what our business has been about,” Life Time Vice President of Corporate Communications Jason Thunstrom said.

Moving forward, nearly all of the company’s fitness centers will be called Life Time Athletic. Locations in the Minneapolis, Boston, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Philadelphia areas already have healthcare components on site, with physical therapists, chiropractors and even family practice-style doctors with basic diagnostic tools such as blood work and X-ray machines.

Those, and locations near Nashville and Charlotte opening before the end of this year, will be labeled as Life Time Proactive Care wings.

While healthcare may seem a logical extension of a wellness brand, co-working is a more ambitious jump. The first Life Time Work will be part of a location opening in early 2018 in the Philly suburb of Ardmore, as a co-working space “fully integrated” with the fitness component, Thunstrom said. Of the four-story, 80K SF building, the fourth floor — about 15K SF — will be devoted to Life Time Work.

“We visualized how a worker would transition throughout their day and be able to seamlessly transition to Life Time Athletic to get a workout, haircut or even a sandwich, access dressing rooms and get back to their work,” Thunstrom said.

To lead its launch of Life Time Work, the company has brought on James O’Reilly, co-founder of co-working firm NeueHouse, as president of that division.

Life Time’s expansion into co-working comes just days after WeWork announced its intention to incorporate a fitness brand into its offerings called Rise by We, but Thunstrom insists the timing was serendipitous — and that the two companies will have different visions for integrated work and workouts.

“I guess we’re coming at it from different beginning points,” Thunstrom said. “Whereas WeWork launched from its workspace model and incorporated health club elements, we’re leveraging our history of building large-scale health resorts — far larger than a health club, fitness center or gym — and dedicating additional space [to co-working] with the same philosophy we’ve always had to bring in the workspace element.”

An interior rendering of the first Life Time Work location in Ardmore, Pa.

Life Time Work will operate similarly to WeWork, leasing out memberships to a combination of open desks and private offices, with conference rooms and business services provided as amenities on top of the gym.

“The model we’re envisioning now is that you’re signing up for a Life Time Work subscription, and with that comes a Life Time fitness membership,” Thunstrom said.

Life Time Work promises to integrate business and wellness in more ways than simple proximity. The company claims to be designing its Ardmore location based on principles that encourage movement and healthy habits. The company also plans to extend that all-encompassing focus on its “Healthy Way of Life" mission to residential properties with Life Time Living, starting with a Midtown Dallas development scheduled for late 2019 that will have “resort-style” apartments, a Life Time Athletic facility, a Life Time Work, healthcare components and wellness-focused retail options.

“Our CEO, Bahram Akradi, has a vision to deliver in one healthy-way-of-life complex, all the social, medical, retail, work and residential phases that make up your daily life,” Thunstrom said.

Certain locations already have elements of that vision, with full restaurants, cafés, healthcare facilities and conference centers dotting the landscape. But the complete revamping of Life Time will come with what the company describes to be the most aggressive three-year period of expansion in the country’s history.

Life Time has 128 locations in 27 states (plus three in Toronto) and 36 major markets, but it anticipates opening seven or eight locations by the end of 2017, plus 12 to 14 more in both 2018 and 2019. As for what components of Life Time each location will have, Thunstrom said it will partly depend on the success of the initial Life Time Work in Ardmore and Life Time Living in Dallas.

“Much like we would look at a development today and decide whether to offer a two- or three-story development, with or without tennis or basketball, we’re going to continue to look at [each location] on a very flexible basis,” Thunstrom said. “It will hinge on what real estate we have, and what we believe a demographic will bring in terms of interest.”

Thunstrom said that the company will take a modular approach in attaching the different elements of the Life Time brand to each development. Every location will be guaranteed to contain a Life Time Athletic, and some existing Life Time locations could potentially have Life Time Work or Living components added on down the line.

Life Time’s drive to create a seamless experience for customers to lead a healthy way of life is different from a developer’s standard desire for live-work-play communities. The concept of an all-inclusive community for sleeping, working, shopping, eating and receiving medical treatment is ambitious, no matter the organizing principle. Akradi seems intent on seeing his vision through any initial fits or starts.

“I don’t have to worry if we can make money on it,” Akradi told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Not yet. We’re thinking of customer satisfaction only.”