(Editors' Note: This article was part of Club Industry's April 2019 "Wellness Integration in 2019" report. You can download the full free report here.)
The demand for “on-demand” is at an all-time high, especially in the fitness industry. An estimated 18 percent of health clubs now offer their clients a virtual option, according to a 2018 study by ClubIntel. This gives clients the flexibility to meet with personal trainers or take group fitness classes when and where they want.
Although the thought of working out from home may bring back memories of Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons VHS tapes, the latest offerings are smarter, sleeker and more sophisticated. Many offer a mix of live and on-demand content and include personalized features like one-on-one video chats with trainers or access to wellness experts like health coaches or clinical psychologists.
The resurgence of on-demand workouts began almost a decade ago, and it has taken off since then with the rate of health and fitness app usage growing 87 percent faster than that of other industries. Consumers aren’t the only ones benefiting from this trend. Virtual offerings help clubs grow their business by reaching customers beyond their normal radius. Businesses are also easily able to offer new lines of service, such as wellness programming, with minimal overhead.
Many, including myself, would argue that this trend has already transformed the fitness industry. If you’re not offering a virtual option today, now is the time to start. However, with on-demand platforms becoming the norm, the big question is: How do you make yours stand out?
Design a Wellness Program That Goes Beyond Fitness
Fitness is only part of the wellness equation; nutrition and lifestyle modification are also key components. Clients who maintain a healthy diet can see even greater gains than those who only focus on exercise. Similarly, clients who can identify barriers preventing them from living a healthy lifestyle—and take action—are much more successful than those who do not. You can help your clients improve results and differentiate your business by incorporating nutrition counseling, diet tracking, lifestyle-modification coaching and other wellness offerings into your virtual program.
Aside from the on-demand trend, there has also been a growing buzz in recent months about artificial intelligence (AI) and the power it could have in the fitness and wellness worlds. AI can be used to give end users a more personalized experience, which enhances overall engagement. AI can also be used to expedite the creative development process, such as by using machine learning to generate workout plans based on a user’s history, preferences and goals. AI is hot right now. If you can incorporate this into your platform, you are going to pique the interest of potential new clients and see greater satisfaction among existing ones.
Create Connections Between the Real and the Virtual
One reason that gym goers (especially boutique studio clients) actually get up and go to their facility is for the community that they find there. Workouts are opportunities to meet new people, and having a sense of community has been shown to improve one’s overall well-being. If you can find a way to translate any of this camaraderie into your virtual programming, you’ll be one step ahead of the rest.
Jillian Bridgette Cohen is the co-founder and CEO of Virtual Health Partners, a health tech startup that offers live and on-demand nutrition, fitness and lifestyle modification within a contained ecosphere of virtual support. VHP’s proprietary digital health and wellness platform, VHPGO, is available to clients through an exclusive network of participating partners. Cohen has more than 15 years of experience in the medical industry and was responsible for the multi-million-dollar growth of three other startups before founding VHP.