Is Orange Theory a Cult?

We’ve all heard about Orange Theory, whether it’s from a close friend, a random internet article, or even during a typical workout session. “Yo dude you should try Orange Theory, you’re totally gonna love it!”, “Have you ever tried Orange Theory? You should come to try it with me sometime!”, these are the most common ways you hear about this very unique type of training. In fact, one of my friends approached me with the idea of trying it out together and I told him that I preferred basic weightlifting. However, curiosity got the better of me and when I went home, I decided to dig around the internet to figure out what Orange theory is all about. During my research, I’ve come across what appeared to be cult-like behavior from their communities and this got me thinking, is orange theory a cult?

Although Orange Theory shares some cult characteristics, they aren’t considered one. They’re more of a community where anyone gets together and bonds over an activity that they enjoy. People consider them to be a cult simply because a lot of their members are eager to share how great it is.

In this article, we’ll try to compare the characteristics of a true cult and compare it to Orange Theory in order to find out if they’re the same.

What is Considered a Cult?

In order to figure out whether or not Orange Theory is a cult, we first need to understand what a cult actually is.

And since I’m not a cult expert, we’ll take a look at Janja Lalich who is an American sociologist and writer best known as a foremost expert on cults, charismatic authority, power relations, ideology, and social control, and what she uses to define these particular group of people.

According to her, a cult is a “group or movement held together by a shared commitment to a charismatic leader or ideology. It has a belief system that has the answers to all of life’s questions and offers a special solution to be gained only by following the leader’s rules. It requires a high level of commitment from at least some of the members.”

Additionally, there are some common characteristics that all cults tend to share:

  • A cult’s following displays an excessive commitment to its leader, and considers his beliefs to be the truth no matter what.
  • If a member starts questioning the beliefs of a cult, they’re often discouraged or even punished.
  • The cult dictates how members should think, act, and feel.
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, elevated status for itself, its leaders, and its members.
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and guilt in order to influence and control members.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

What is Orange Fitness?

Well, according to their website, Orangetheory is usually a 1 hour or 1 hour and a half, full-body workout that focuses on training endurance, strength, and power. They implement science into their workouts and use something that’s called Heart Rate Based Interval Training, which is just a fancy way of saying burning more calories post-workout as compared to a traditional exercise.

During the workout, you wear Heart Rate monitors which display real-time body metrics on the big screens scattered around the studios. 

The intensity of the workout is based on your individual Heart Rate zones, which makes it perfect for all fitness levels. Additionally, they have fitness coaches that lead the workout to prevent you from over or under-training.

Orange Theory was founded by Ellen Latham in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2010 and, just like the fitness center’s name, their main branding is the color Orange (this color is literally used everywhere in their studios) as well as a splash-like logo.

Is Orange Theory a Cult?

Is orange theory a cult?

Now that we have a vague understanding of the main characteristics of a cult, as well as what Orange Theory is all about, we can easily pinpoint the similarities and differences to figure out whether or not this fitness group is truly a cult.

We’ll compare each of the previous characteristics:

Commitment to leader: As I mentioned earlier, a cult has an excessive devotion to its leader. In the case of Orange Theory, there isn’t really a particular leader, unless you consider Ellen Latham or the fitness coaches to be one. Even if that’s the case, they don’t show leader-like behavior but rather just guidance and mentorship.

Punishment for disbelief: In the case of a cult, if a member starts to show signs of disbelief and doubts about what their organization stands for, they’re usually discouraged and punished. When it comes to Orange Theory, that’s not what usually happens (hopefully). If you find out that their method of training is unsuitable for you after you signed up, you can cancel at any time without a problem, and you definitely won’t be punished for it.

Dictatorship: When it comes to any cult, the leader often dictates how his followers should feel, act, and think. Although Orange Theory sort of tells you what to do when it comes to working out, it’s what you signed up for. You know from the very beginning what their training routine looks like so it’s considered a personal decision that was fully made by you.

Elevated status: The majority of cults claim a special status for themselves. While you may argue that some Orange Theory members think that they’re better than everybody else since they pay extra money for their memberships and often prefer interacting with their fellow members only, it’s unfair to say that they claim a special status for themselves, at least not to a degree of a cult.

Recruiting and making money: A cult’s main mission is to get stronger. The best way to do that is by having more members and more money. This means that they should always be on the lookout for people that are willing to join. Well, as it turns out, Orange Theory’s main goal is to make money, so that makes them a cult right? Well, not necessarily. After all, they’re considered a business. And just like any other business in a capitalist economy, they need to make money in order to pay the bills. In addition to that, they have a heavy emphasis on recruiting new members. In fact, they have special rewards for their members that successfully recruit new people like receiving money to use on their apparel and gear, bonus coupons, and so on. While this may seem like cult behavior, it’s just a marketing strategy to make more money.

Based on everything we’ve said so far, we can come to the conclusion that Orange Theory isn’t a cult. They’re more of a community where anyone gets together and bonds over an activity they enjoy. A lot of people consider them to be a cult simply because their members are enthusiastic about sharing how great it is. 


At the end of the day, whether or not Orange Theory is a cult doesn’t really matter. It is what you make it to be. There are definitely some members that are very invested and enthusiastic about it, maybe too much so, but I’d say it’s a minority. It’s considered a solid workout that can honestly give you some awesome results if you stay consistent. If you’re interested in it, go give it a shot and base your judgment on that. 

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