(Editors' Note: This story was part of Club Industry's report, "Wellness Integration in 2019," which is free and downloadable here.)
Wellness has been broadly defined as the active pursuit of activities that promote physical and mental well-being. The fitness industry is one component of the larger wellness industry, which others have described as “betterment” or “well-being.” The wellness market is valued at $4.2 trillion, having grown 12.8 percent in the last two years, according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).
“In the face of longer lifespans, and rising chronic disease, stress and unhappiness, we only see growth for wellness ahead,” Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior research fellow, said in a media release.
As the trend of wellness becomes more significant, fitness facilities will have the opportunity to serve members with traditional amenities as well as other betterment services. These include practices related to medicine, youthfulness, active aging and mind-body techniques.
Fitness industry professionals must embrace this collision with wellness and approach it in a meaningful and personal way. This can be accomplished by recognizing four main trends:
- The rise of Millennials and active agers
- Growing medical industry disruption
- “Exercise is medicine” as a concept
- Ubiquitous technology
How did “let’s grab a drink” evolve into “let’s catch a yoga class”? In part, Millennials and active agers have converged and embraced a tribal need to connect and be a part of a community. According to Eventbrite data, 78 percent of Millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience over buying physical goods. On the other hand, active agers appear most drawn to qualities of youthfulness.
Both groups, while on different ends of the age spectrum, share the desire for better fitness and an improved mind-body state. However, both are also most worried about their health and are skeptical about currently available health services. Primarily, they desire to feel engaged with their health and workout experiences.
“Roughly 70 percent of diseases in the U.S. are chronic and lifestyle-driven, and nearly half of the population has one or more chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, or obesity,” writer Rina Raphael said in a December 2018 article published by Fast Company.
Delivery models are changing, and for the first time we are the “drivers” of our own health and well-being.
“This is the age of the patient as a consumer, where fast and convenient is never fast and convenient enough,” Dr. Richard Park, CEO and co-founder of CityMD, said in the August 2018 edition of Medical Economics.
With many patients paying out-of-pocket for healthcare services, more Americans are turning to urgent care due to lower costs, Park said. Physicians are responding by enabling patient portals and other digital tools that allow patients to communicate with their doctors via their mobile device. Some physicians have even begun offering video visits.
We have all heard the term “exercise is medicine.” However, doctors are taking notice and ditching traditional methods and medications and, instead, prescribing health club memberships. Exercise is Medicine (EIM), a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), encourages primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans, in addition to referring patients to evidence-based exercise programs and qualified exercise professionals. For the first time, empirical data shows this methodology is outperforming drugs.
The impact of the Silver Sneakers program on the active aging population is evident, but there are so many more benefits that can be found in the modern-day health club. The Claremont Club, Claremont, California, is known for delivering tailored programs to diverse populations, including those struggling with chronic illness and chronic injuries. Such programming is aimed at improving clients’ overall health—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
For decades, the fitness industry has fallen short in adopting technological trends. Now, more than ever, there is a need to raise the bar and meet the needs of the modern fitness consumer.
To ensure success, all fitness industry players must develop and embrace a technology-oriented strategy. This must include a focus on efficiency, customer engagement and the delivery of a hyper-personalized experience.
Data is essential to understanding your members and your market. However, the smart utilization of data is going to become a big differentiator for operators of fitness businesses in the years ahead. In order to deliver hyper-personal wellness experiences, fitness facility operators must be thoughtful in their choice of technology solution partners.
With so much disruption in the wellness industry, everyone in the fitness space must realize betterment is here to stay. Incorporating hyper-personal wellness and betterment experiences into fitness facility offerings serves as not only a business opportunity, but will more importantly help members live better, longer and happier lives. Facility operators must adopt platforms that allow for personalized engagement with current and potential members. Lastly, they must leverage technologies and data so as to create valuable wellness experiences that appeal to various age groups.
Kelly Card is the senior vice president of partner relations at ABC Financial Services. She is responsible for technology and service partnerships that enrich the club and user experience through integration advancement and the evolution of fitness industry best practices. Card has more than 20 years of experience on the frontier of fitness industry technology. She previously founded Club Apps, the first mobile app company for health clubs, and served as the vice president of sales and marketing for ABC Financial. Card co-founded Industry FIT and is a board member of the Fitness Industry Technology Council. She can be reached at Kelly.Card@abcfinancial.com. Her employer, ABC Financial, is the nation's leading software and payment processing provider for the health and fitness industry. ABC Financial, established in 1981, works with more than 7,000 health clubs.