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The Health Club Industry Can Learn from and Profit from the Quantified Self Movement

The self-tracking movement using health and fitness tracking devices is helping consumers take control of their health.

(Editors' Note: For more about this topic, attend Laila Zemrani''s session at the 2018 Club Industry Show Oct. 24-26 at the Hilton Chicago. Find out more about her session by going here. And register for the show by going here.)

The rise of fitness- and health-tracking technologies over the last few years has shown that consumers are increasingly eager to learn more about their own health. Perhaps one of the early signs of this transition was the rising popularity of online self-diagnosis where patients started to turn to Google and web sites such as WebMD, before they showed up at the doctor’s office, often with printouts and extensive notes about what they had learned.

Today, the doctor’s office is no longer the only place where individuals can learn about their own health. Consumers have increased access to personal health and wellness data, whether it’s through connected scales, blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, blood glucose monitors, food logs, or almost any tool that can collect data.

This shift has been accelerated by the connectivity of tracking devices, which makes it possible for anyone to easily collect, aggregate and transfer their data. Fitness testing, once reserved for professional athletes and elite sports labs or weight loss clinics, is a booming practice, including among everyday gym goers. An increasing number of individuals are using professional, lab-quality tests for body composition and metabolic testing, aerobic capacity testing, blood testing and even genetic testing.

The Transformative Force of Self-Tracking

One way to predict what ideas will be adopted by the broader culture and economy is keeping an eye on what technology enthusiasts are pursuing. Such examples include the invention of the personal computer, cryptocurrency, self-driving cars, and of course, biohacking and Quantified Self.

The Quantified Self, which has a mission to support individuals in making personal discoveries using everyday science, was perhaps one of the first groups to embrace and champion the concept of taking control over one’s health. A few years ago, Gary Wolf, known as the founder of the Quantified Self, gathered with Kevin Kelly and a few other self-tracking pioneers to create what was to become the first Quantified Self meet-up. The meet-up was meant to explore how people used self-tracking to better understand their biology, fine-tune their training, optimize their nutrition and/or better manage a disease. Hundreds of other events have since been organized around the world, propelling the Quantified Self into a movement that has the potential to change the way we view and track our health.

This group of pioneers has shown that individuals can make significant discoveries about their own health using self-collected data from widely available tools. Although collecting continuous glucose data to optimize nutrition can sound extreme to some today, many of us may be collecting this type of information over the next few years. Google’s smart contact lens for measuring glucose levels is perhaps one of the most anticipated health and wellness technologies.

Impact of Quantified Self on Health Clubs’ Revenue and Growth Potential

Self-tracking technologies hold great promise for transforming the gym experience and the health club revenue model.

As consumers get more control over their health and fitness data, they feel empowered and tend to look more closely at outcomes. For instance, a member who works with a personal trainer and gets access to an at-home health dashboard with data on weight, muscle mass, fat mass, quality of sleep, metabolic rate or blood pressure, will be able to take the data to the trainer. The member will also become more proactive about his or her training plan, as opposed to passively listening to what the trainer offers. This is similar to the example of patients using Google, WebMD and health and fitness tracking data, and taking that information to the doctor’s office.

As this trend continues to grow, health clubs who not only embrace these technologies but also make them an integral part of their strategy will emerge as the winners.

Laila Zemrani is the co-founder and CEO of Fitnescity, a company that aims to empower people to learn more about their wellness. Fitnescity offers fitness and wellness tests that enable anyone to uncover data about their own wellness. Zemrani was named a Legatum fellow in Entrepreneurial Leadership and a MasterCard Foundation fellow at MIT. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of personalized wellness and self-collected data. Her work in the field of the Quantified Self and self-experimentation has appeared in numerous media outlets and venues such as Stanford Medicine X, MIT, NYU, Harvard, Future Healthcare Week and HyperWellbeing. Prior to Fitnescity, she was a founding employee at Dataxis, a global data analysis firm. Zemrani has an MBA from MIT Sloan. As an undergraduate, she studied engineering and management at Télécom ParisTech.

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