Really? We’re getting fatter? Sigh. It’s so disheartening, especially when the news seems full of reports about this health trend or that one, about the rise of wearable fitness technology and how data-tracking has revolutionized individual exercise plans, about the extraordinary progress a person can make by exercising intensely for small periods of time, about ever-increasing awareness of nutritional realities. Nevertheless, this is what the most recent report from the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the Partnership from Prevention tells us: We’re getting fatter.
Issued annually for the past 25 years, the report, called America’s Health Rankings, tracks state-by-state health and fitness data. The most recently released report shows that in 2014 the nation’s obesity rate rose nearly 2 percent, from 27.6 percent last year to 29.4 percent this year. That 2 percent figure may sound small, but it represents an extremely large number of individuals. Moreover, at the time surveys for the report were completed, nearly a quarter of respondents said that they had had no physical activity or exercise for 30 days. That number increased from 22.9 percent in 2013 to 23.5 percent this year. And the even more grim news? In the 25 years that America’s Health Rankings have been published, obesity in the United States has more than doubled.
The question for us becomes: How can we, all of us who are leaders in the fitness industry, do more? How can we attract the people who are not inclined to exercise, and how can we help reverse the trend?
The key, I believe, is partnerships. One gym or health club or sports facility or fitness center can do only so much, and whatever we each can do, we have to do while keeping the bottom line always in mind (or else we won’t be around to do anything at all!). But a whole network of gyms and health clubs and sports facilities and fitness centers can do a lot. Make it part of your facility’s mission to work with other facilities to help improve America’s overall health. Join programs that allow members to work out at partner facilities at a discount. Combine resources to offer free or heavily discounted training and exercise programs to individuals who can’t afford normal gym rates. Get other facilities in your area to help host a day of city- or town-wide exercise fun.
But don’t stop at other facilities. The fact is, exercise is only one part of the overall health picture. Obesity numbers won’t drop until the food industry finds a better way of providing affordable, healthy food to the population at large; until health insurance companies start seeing health club memberships as reimbursable sickness-prevention tools; until schools bring back physical education and more effectively educate children about health and exercise science. If you’re going to be a part of the force chipping away at our rising obesity rates, you’ve got to consider ways of working with a whole network of organizations and industries that have an impact on individuals’ health and fitness. We can reverse the crisis. But we can only do it together.
Over the last decade our industry has seen a boom in the latest gadgets and innovations revolving around fitness equipment within the club. However, the same old problem remains – your members are leaving. The fact is, approximately 80% of members who join a gym are coming to lose weight, but rarely do they ever succeed. Although members may lose 400 calories by running on a treadmill for 60 minutes, they do not always meet their goals. Why? One reason is that, when members leave the gym they often times consume twice as many calories as they have burned, mainly by eating the wrong foods. Achieving weight related goals is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition. “We are what we eat” and your members need a helping hand to achieve their goals. Otherwise they are going to become disillusioned and leave, again and again.
Nutrition Complete is the only proactive nutrition tool designed specifically for the health and fitness industry. While members enjoy the benefits of improved health, saved money, achieved goals and a more organised lifestyle, the clubs are benefiting from a value added upsell to existing membership fees, extra revenue and better retention:
Personal Dietary Profiles will help your members to discover their nutritional needs by displaying recipes and meal plans that will suit their age, weight, height, gender, activity level and diet types for each day.
Personal goal setting will allow members to enter their goals and keep track of their progress.
Powerful recipe search–powered by Yummly.com–will allow users to filter and search through millions of healthy recipes by meal type and preparation time.
Add beverages to your meal plan and know how many calories are consumed with each drink.
Shopping list generation and delivery. Nutrition Complete integrates with mySupermarket.co.uk allowing members to purchase ingredients online from their favourite supermarket and delivered directly to their door. On top of saving time on shopping, it also helps members to compare prices across all major supermarkets, resulting in massive savings on their grocery bill.
Meal plan/ Recipe Printing. Members can save their meal plans, create shopping lists, and print both.
Controls portion sizes allowing members to lose weight effectively.
For twenty years, Americans have known that if they want information about a food product’s nutritional content, they can check the label. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a change to the labels we’ve grown used to. The government organization wants to replace out-of-date serving sizes; highlight certain parts of the label, such as calories and serving sizes; and include information about nutrients some consumers aren’t getting enough of, like Vitamin D and potassium. “To remain relevant,” explained FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., “the FDA’s newly proposed nutrition facts label incorporates the latest in nutrition science as more has been learned about the connection between what we eat and the development of serious chronic diseases impacting millions of Americans.” First, bravo FDA. It isn’t always the case that policies and laws are revised to accommodate findings from new research. Given what we know about nutrition and chronic disease that we didn’t know twenty years ago, the proposed new label has the potential to help improve the health of a great number of people. Second, now’s your chance, health clubs and sports centers. You are better positioned than most other institutions to educate the public about the proposed new labels, and to use the FDA’s new nutrition labels as a way to boost your visibility and desirability. By being among the first to spread the news about the labels, and by linking the news to your own programs and offerings, you’ll remain relevant to your clientele in a way that can work only to your benefit. As a fitness center, gym, health club, or sports facility, you probably already spend some time and other resources on keeping your members and clients informed about nutrition. (If you don’t, what are you waiting for? If people don’t get such information from you, they’ll get it from elsewhere. If you provide it, you have an immediate way of establishing how essential your facility is to health maintenance — along with how generously you provide value-added services.) There are many ways you can teach your clientele about the proposed new labels. Search FDA’s website for an example, and blow it up to poster size for prominent display somewhere in the gym. Invite people to speak with resident nutritional experts or trainers about the changes. Host a lecture by a nutrition advisor who can explain the changes and their significance. Invite the general public to the lecture as well as members — what better opportunity for attracting new members? Have instructors take a few minutes at the beginning or end of class sessions to explain and describe the new labels. The goals here are to make yourself the source of the information, get a dialogue going within your four walls, emphasize your facility’s commitment to clients’ health, and prove yourself a dedicated member of a larger community. In the past, fitness centers and sports facilities were not expected to do much more than provide a place for a good workout or league game. The FDA is keeping up with changing times; make sure that you are too.
This summer, I was fortunate to get to spend some time at California’s Joshua Tree National Park. One morning, I got up early to view the sunrise from atop a boulder in the park. At 4:45 a.m., I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt; by 7:30 a.m., my sweatshirt had been abandoned, I’d donned a wide-brimmed hat, and I felt like my jeans were on fire. What’s more, I needed a long swig of water every fifteen minutes or so.
Luckily, every Joshua Tree brochure or website you read — especially during the height of summer — tells you to carry water with you wherever you go, even if it’s just a few steps from your car. I’d followed the guidelines and was glad I did. Keeping well-hydrated, I was able to hike some of the trails in the park and see incredible rock formations, weird vegetation, and an adorable jackrabbit.
This mini adventure got me thinking about hydration in other contexts, especially at the gym. As a gym owner or manager, how do you know your clients are drinking enough water?
As with most things, the best way is to educate. Many exercisers, even veteran ones, do not realize that it’s dangerous to wait until thirst kicks in to take a drink. Studies have shown that most exercisers underestimate their water needs. One researcher found that 98 percent of the members of one college football team started out daily workouts underhydrated. And many have never heard of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s rule of thumb: Drink 7 to 10 ounces — about one cup or a little more — of water or a sports drink every 10 to 20 minutes during a workout. The Association’s guidelines for post-workout imbibing are even more intense: Weigh yourself nude before and after workouts to discover how much weight you lose from sweat, and then drink fluid equal to 150 percent of the weight loss within two hours of exercising.
The trick is to get the message across to club members. Send e-mails, hang up informational posters, offer lectures. Even just a chalkboard in the cardio room with the word “water” written across it in big letters could make a difference — a friendly reminder about what our bodies need. Or you might want to try hanging up a photo of the desert: Trust me, it will make everyone want to drink up.
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