(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).
Wellness affects all us every day. Wellness is how we feel, and it’s characterized by habit-forming pillars: the physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, environmental and social. Our lifestyle is shaped by how successfully we balance these pillars.
If we want to change our lifestyle or habits, we need to be able to influence these distinct pillars. The process of influencing the pillars becomes our individual journey: “Where am I now? Where am I going? Why am I going there?” This journey is further shaped by our family, friends, colleagues and local community.
Understanding the “why I’m going there” aspect is important. We need to be aware of our own desire to maintain a healthy weight, drink enough water, get enough sleep, reduce alcohol consumption, increase levels of daily activity, create a balance between work and family and reduce our stress levels.
We acknowledge that we are likely to live longer than the generations before us. Although we may work to a later age, we will still have more years in retirement—a retirement where we will strive to maintain high levels of activity as we age.
Understanding the “how I’m going to get there” aspect is important, too. How does one start the wellness journey, maintain the right path, reach specific goals?
The fitness industry is the machine that supports the “how,” which delivers the “why.” Our industry is one of engagement, communication, motivation and support—all great tools to enable our execution. However, the key to our successes will be through our understanding of the importance of education, training and development.
Education that can express the real benefits of long-term behavior change is key. Training must be progressive and inclusive with achievable, milestone goals. This must be paired with diverse, creative programming that is geared toward the lifestyle we are striving to create.
As the area of wellness continues to grow, the lines between medical, rehabilitation and fitness applications (the “exercise is medicine” concept) start to merge. We will find a new audience. This new population will be health-aware and will understand their “why” but won’t want their “how” to be a journey through traditional fitness facilities or trendy boutiques. Ultimately, their journey is one of healthy longevity.
It has been estimated that only 16 percent of the population are currently members of health clubs. The fitness industry recognizes this and acknowledges there is a missing, underserved population. If you look at the American College of Sports Medicine’s top fitness trends for 2019, you see trends such as yoga, wellness coaching, exercise is medicine, exercise programs for older adults and workplace well-being programs. These are all trends that are targeted toward less-traditional forms of fitness, as well as to populations who may not wish to set foot inside a conventional fitness facility.
To reach this missing population, industry professionals need to add new tools and skills, such as empathy. We need to be able to listen, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, then listen again. We need to be creative, consider environments where people are most comfortable, and understand that one size does not fit all. We need to be strategic in our education, training and staff development. We need to be part of the client journey.
Steve Wright has been involved in health and fitness for over 25 years. He is a former British Royal Marine and studied physical education before qualifying as a physical therapist—a role in which he was influential in the development and delivery of rehabilitation programs for injured service personnel. As a college lecturer, Wright taught anatomy and physiology and the practical application of physical exercise in rehabilitation. Wright’s journey into the commercial aspect of the health and fitness industry began in 2006 when he worked for a specialist rehabilitation equipment manufacturer in the United States. Wright has been instrumental in integrating smaller brands with mainstream fitness equipment suppliers, plus developing and delivering global strategies to better understand and support the active aging and medical exercise segments. Wright is an independent consultant and is currently working in support of health and wellness at Performance Health Systems, which specializes in delivering advanced technology solutions through their health and wellness equipment. Products such as Power Plate are grounded in years of scientific research and evidence-based practices in order to deliver on health markers such as balance, mobility, strength, flexibility and circulation.