In 1992 Mike Balfour and Christopher Pearce opened a health club in Bournemouth, England. Within the next three years, six more clubs had been built and Fitness First became the first health and fitness company to float on the Alternative Investment Market. It is now in 15 countries with over 500 clubs servicing over 1.2 million people.
In 2003 Fitness First was taken into private ownership with Cinven, one of the leading UK private equity houses as majority shareholder.
Because it was first set up in Bournemouth, the company director decided to sponsor the rebuilt Dean Court football stadium, home of AFC Bournemouth, which was completely redeveloped in a quick process in 2001. For sponsorship reasons, the stadium is now known as Fitness First stadium, though the ground retains the name Dean Court as its official name.