I came across a study today in the January/February 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior about how overweight and normal weight people feel about exercise. We all know that few people like to exercise, and we think that overweight people would feel even more uncomfortable about exercising than normal weight people. Well, the study found that this is true.
The overweight people in the study of more than 1,500 people were generally more embarrassed and intimidated about exercise than normal weight people. They also felt more embarrassed and intimated by exercising around young people and fit people.
Most importantly for club operators, the study found that overweight people were more intimidated and embarrassed about being around health club salespeople than normal weight people are. The study didn't go into details about why, but considering the salespeople at many clubs are young, fit and trying to sell something, I think we can guess why they'd be intimidated.
Of course, that doesn't mean you have to get rid of all your young, fit salespeople, but you should make sure you are training this staff to be particularly sensitive to overweight prospects and how they behave towards them. They should behave in a warm and welcoming way, showing real interest and concern for the person.
The study offered some other interesting findings that you can read about here.