The fitness industry is currently worth over 96 billion dollars, and it is constantly growing. Even though this industry is absolutely booming in the United States, so are obesity rates, so is the prevalence of chronic diseases, and so is the cost of healthcare. So, if the fitness industry is flourishing, how is it possible that our country is so unhealthy? If the fitness industry is so successful, then why is it systematically failing?
As a young personal trainer, and someone who has worked in gyms for about 3 years, I have noticed a few things that could be changed within the fitness industry to promote more healthy living.
Problem 1: Lack of Sustainability
One of the biggest reasons for failure within the fitness industry is because most people just simply don't stick with it. Sure, we can point the fingers at individuals who will simply quit and stop exercising, but how as a fitness industry are we preventing that from happening? According to IHRSA, about 50% of all new gym members quit within the first 6 months.
Why do people quit? Most individuals will point at cost, some will say that they simply just aren't using the facility anymore, and some just simply aren't seeing results. The question for gyms, health clubs, etc. should not be 'why is everyone quitting?', it should be 'how can we get our members to maintain healthy exercise patterns?'. If that question can be answered, then it's a win-win situation for the fitness organization (who will make more money from more retained memberships) as well as for the individual (who will notice the health and lifestyle benefits from consistent exercise).
Let's also not forget the virtual fitness world. This is also an area that I am new to, but this area is potentially even less sustainable compared to physical health clubs and gyms. The big players in the virtual fitness world offer short-lived programs that promise insane results. RED FLAG WARNING: Typically not sustainable. A google search will produce results of programs advertising 6-pack abs in 20 days, 30 day programs ridden with buzz words like 'shredded' or 'skinny' or 'jacked', and many others designed to take your money. Sure, you can complete the program and feel great, but then what? How do you progress from there in a healthy and sustainable way?
There are a couple of solutions to the lack of sustainability in the fitness industry. First of all, the big-box gym chains aren't going to do anything for individuals who don't know how to exercise, or who don't know how to get started on their fitness goals. A large gym with plenty of equipment is amazing for someone who knows what they're doing, doesn't need additional motivation or accountability, and has a plan in place to help them accomplish their goals. Unfortunately, that's not the demographic of most people. Little boutique style gyms that can offer individualized or small group training are the way to go. Will it be a little more expensive to the consumer? Probably, yes. Will the consumers have a greater chance of sustaining their healthy habits, and be provided an environment that educates and helps them achieve their goals? Absolutely.
Another solution to this problem could be creating an onboarding process that familiarizes individuals with gym equipment and basic exercise principles. This orientation to the gym atmosphere can help provide the gym-goer with some basic knowledge that they need in order to successfully maintain healthy exercise habits. In addition to that, this onboarding experience can introduce the individuals to all of the programs and features that a gym-membership or health-club membership offers, leading to an increased sense of community and engagement.
Another solution would be online exercise training and programs that actually produce sustainable results. These programs could either be personalized by a trainer, or they could be pre-designed with educational components, a progressive design, and workouts that help individuals reach their goals.
Simply put, the solutions to the fitness industry not providing sustainable results would be to make the fitness experience more personal. Personal training is a great solution, but it doesn't necessarily have to be through that. Creating an environment of inclusiveness and community where an individual can learn as they go could be exactly what the fitness industry needs.
Problem 2: Who's Leading the Charge?
Another current problem I have with the fitness industry is that the biggest voices in the industry right now are social media influencers. Before I continue further, I do not hate social media influencers or have any grudges against them. Do I sometimes get jealous of how they look and the lifestyles they live? Absolutely! The problem I have with a lot of social media influencers is that some of them are not at all qualified to give the information that they give. When giving health, fitness, and/or diet related advice it is important that the information is evidence-based and accurate for the safety and the health of the people receiving the advice.
I tuned into a livestream of a fitness influencer and he was talking about supplements. First of all, when talking about supplements, it's important to note that a lot of supplements aren't regulated, and some aren't very thoroughly researched. Anyways, there was a teenager asking him about whether or not he should take a certain supplement. The influencer then didn't give any information about the supplement, but he just told the fan that he should take it, and to also use his affiliate code when he purchases it. Um, hello... RED FLAG.
Most influencers have some type of brand deal, partnership, affiliate deals, etc. where they make money by advertising certain things. Often times these are supplements, fat burning gimmicks, and "quick fixes" to unhealthy habits that either don't work or they aren't sustainable. Some unqualified influencers will sell their own workout or "online coaching" programs. Often times these are just a one-size-fits-all approach that does not include basic exercise principles that will help individuals develop healthy fitness routines. But hey, whatever brings in a paycheck, right? WRONG. The people who should be leading the charge in the fitness industry are qualified fitness and health professionals who know what they're talking about, and who practice what they preach. But how do we do that?
As individuals and consumers in the fitness industry we need to have a skeptics eye. When something seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is. If a social media influencer is promoting a product that promises insane results in a very short timeframe, chances are it's a load of crap, or it's not sustainable! If a product or service within the fitness industry seems appealing to you, do a little bit of research! Look to see if it works, if it is backed by research, and if health and fitness professionals (not just influencers) would suggest it. We will talk a little bit more about this process next week when we talk about misinformation within the fitness industry.
As health and fitness professionals, we need to call out the bull crap. The people who actually know things need to have their voices heard, and not just someone who is trying to sell a product. The way we do that is getting more people who know what they're talking about into the limelight. Yup, that's right, us fitness and health professionals need to develop an influencer style in order to get proper information to the people. The younger generations aren't watching the news as much or reading research, they're getting all of their information through social media. So if you can't beat the influencers at grasping the attention of consumers within the fitness industry, we've got to join them.
If you've made it this far, I would just like to thank you for listening to me rant about the current fitness industry. If you are interested in part 2 of this article, please check back next week when I cover a couple more problems that need to be addressed. Also make sure to subscribe to the blog so you never miss a new article!