Sometimes, when I’m brainstorming posts for this blog, I look around on Google to get a sense of what people are thinking and talking about. Today, I was struck by what came up when I Googled “Fitness Industry Issues.” I was looking for topics of discussion, ideas, or observations, but almost the entire first page of results linked to long rants and complaints: “The Fitness Industry is Corrupt”, “The #1 Problem in the Fitness Industry”, “Things That Bug Me About the Fitness Industry.” Or, my personal favorite, “The Fitness Industry Is Dead.”
On the heels of a report by the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) that outlines the ways in which the fitness industry has grown recently, these headlines feel jarring. According to IHRSA, industry revenue reached $21.4 billion in 2011, with memberships totaling 51.4 million. Those numbers represent increases: 5 percent over 2010 in revenue and 2.4 percent over 2010 in memberships.
While the total number of health clubs saw only a marginal increase — 29,890 in 2010 compared with 29,960 in 2011 — dynamic changes at existing clubs have been underway over the past couple years, with more and more facilities devoting more and more time and space to functional fitness and to niche classes designed to fit specific needs of specific groups. Does that sound to you like an industry that’s dead? I didn’t think so. Of course, like any industry, it has its rough spots. So what are the rants and complaints? Here’s a brief synopsis:
1) Lack of Strict Regulation
Anyone can become a trainer, and even when a trainer is certified, “even highly regarded certification agencies are severely lacking in content and requirements.” In general, there’s very little integrity, research, continuing education, or professionalism.
2) Motivation Gets Lost Quick
#1 problem in the fitness industry is that people are not sufficiently motivated to workout, so overall enrollment in fitness programs remains low, and obesity levels remain high. Gyms and health clubs have not figured out yet how to make working out fun.
3) And Then The Generally Annoying Things…
Here are some of the generally annoying things in the fitness industry: (a) We’re too obsessed with achieving six-pack abs, (b) manufacturers spend to much time and energy trying to reinvent old equipment, and (c) too many personal trainers let clients dictate the course of their program. 4) The fitness industry is dead because fitness today is about achieving a certain look or weight instead of about performance. Honestly, I don’t get it. Certainly, some of the criticisms are worth considering, and it would be useful to start a productive dialog within the industry about those criticisms — perhaps a new industry conference devoted to dissecting the real problems and finding solutions.
But, in my opinion, most of these complaints are simply opinions based on anecdote rather than fact. The recent increases in revenue and membership speak for themselves, and the constant production of new classes that quickly become nationwide fads suggests a level of innovation in the field that is matched by the technology industry. Moreover, even if it can stand some improvement, why knock a field that is doing so much good for so many people, especially when we live in a nation where more than one-third of the population suffers from what is now officially considered the disease of obesity? I’m not saying don’t examine the problems; do, and then fix them.
But let’s avoid pointless rants and focus on the very good work that so many facilities accomplish. What are your thoughts? What are the real issues facing the fitness industry?