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Prioritizing Health and Well-Being: How Health Clubs Can Survive in 2021 and Beyond

health and well-being

How to help your members prioritize their health and well-being.

Consumers are spending more money on wellness than they have before. This will continue as individuals are now prioritizing their health and well-being, which is one of the few blessings we can attribute to the coronavirus pandemic. The wellness industry is now a $1.5 trillion market globally and is on target to grow at a rapid rate of five to 10% each year.

In this new health-conscious arena, it is no longer just about treatment; wellness now emphasizes prevention, and who better than our health clubs and fitness centers to deliver the impactful tools to help our communities preserve their longevity, while also creating a base of life-long members.

These days, there is a vivid shift in what gym-goers are looking for.

Our prospects and members are no longer just interested in toned biceps or washboard abs, they’re prioritizing their entire health. We’ve become aware comprehensive health spans way beyond strength and cardio and the focus must be expanded to include an emphasis on one’s mental well-being, diet and nutrition, sleep, stress management and social connectedness. The pandemic has lit a fire under all of us to take charge of our health, especially after watching the devastating effects of those with poor health that have succumbed to the virus. According to the BMJ medical journal, obesity is one of the top three causes of COVID-19 complications, an area where lifestyle interventions can make a huge difference.   

Just as our whole worlds were flipped upside down to deal with the uncertainty of the past 18 months, gyms and health clubs must do the same to survive. We can no longer just look at our member’s cardiovascular and strength training regimen and prescribe a routine of sets and reps to meet their goals.

To thrive in this new market, we must address the whole person, including all aspects of health and well-being.

We need to rethink what a traditional “gym” is and has been and adapt to this dynamic environment. We must modify and evolve our practices to provide as many ways as possible to reach and connect with our consumers of today. An omnichannel approach is no longer a dream, today it is a reality.   

Consumers are looking at more cost-effective health care options, which include self-care and alternative treatment routes. Self-care is no longer just the buzzword of the moment, it is a necessity and unfortunately, most clubs miss the mark in providing members with options to truly take care of themselves through optimizing their diet, managing their stress and improving their sleep routine.

The member’s fitness journey is no longer just about how often one exercises, how much weight they lift or the amount of group fitness classes taken – today it is a holistic approach. We must include all offerings within our memberships or we run the risk of losing these individuals to other avenues. 

Retention has historically been a struggle for health clubs.

About a third of all new members stop attending within their first three months, and sadly, 50% of new members won’t make it to the half-year mark. Progress toward goals is a critical determiner of retention, and we must shift to provide services that allow our members to meet all their health and wellness goals. With many desiring to lose the extra weight and manage the stress the pandemic caused, we must shift our mindset and offerings to service the true needs of our community and our members.

Just as we all know you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, you can’t outsell members who quit and are not using the clubs. Many health clubs have experienced a period where the number of former members far exceeds the current membership base. This problem is directly related to the fact many of our facilities lack the resources and services to touch on how to improve the other aspects of health and well-being. We also neglect to address the importance of maintaining consistency with adhering to a healthier lifestyle. Success in one’s health leads to retention and a lifestyle of wellness.

If we want our members to stay with us for the long haul, we must provide the education and tools for our members to improve all health avenues.

One large factor impacting retention is daily interactions within our clubs. Having a team of health and wellness professionals provide these daily connections with members allows them to build relationships that lead to the achievement of goals and will ultimately result in a healthy community and a profitable company.  

To accomplish this, gym owners and fitness professionals must shift their mindsets and adapt the way they conduct business. Fitness centers cannot be in the business of health and not address the factors that supersede the amount of weight deadlifted or treadmill miles clocked.

Bringing in wellness professionals, such as health and wellness coaches, can allow facilities to provide a service that addresses all health-related needs, in a safe and supportive environment. These coaches focus on a balanced approach including all dimensions of wellness, such as physical activity, nutrition, mindfulness, stress management, relationships, mental health, work-life balance and recovery.

Providing a holistic approach through offerings such as wellness programs, mindfulness classes, nutrition education, cooking demos, meal prep information, HR monitoring, stretching and recovery programs, grocery store tours, and other services are all simple ways to provide the avenues or omnichannels to health and well-being.

When our members see the connection between what they want and what their clubs offer, they not only want to join and be a part of it, but they will also stay and share their success with all those around them. Seeing progress and feeling the benefits of a healthy lifestyle is the start of a great business model for us all and our industry, so why not change our thinking from weights and machines to wellness and experiences? What a shift like this can do for us all in the years to come is yet to be seen, but the possibilities and potential impacts of our facilities are endless.

Lindsay Silbert

Lindsay Silbert is the director of nutrition and wellness at Merritt Clubs and has been running group and individual wellness programs with her wellness team throughout Merritt Clubs’ nine locations in the Baltimore area. She can be reached at lsilbert@merrittclubs.com.

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