nutritional facts

Working Together to Fight Obesity

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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.

Time to Get a Passport

Time to Get a Passport

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Think any of your members have ever tried traveling without a passport? If they do, they risk getting out of shape, inducing an injury when they start working out again, and losing their momentum for regular exercise. I’m not talking about their actual passports, of course; I’m talking about IHRSA’s Passport Program. If your facility doesn’t take part in it, you might be doing your members a disservice.
IHRSA’s Passport Program is a worldwide network of 1,700 health clubs that offer guest access to their facilities for members of participating clubs. Participation in the Passport Program is free for clubs; you merely have to register. Once you do, your members need to follow only a few steps in order to be able to use health clubs around the world. First, they have to obtain a valid Passport I.D. from your facility. Then, they have to check IHRSA’s list of participating clubs to locate one in the area where they will be traveling. Finally, they have to call ahead to confirm the availability of the facilities and find out about any guest fees that might apply. It’s that easy.
When you register, you agree to two stipulations. One, that you will reciprocate and offer traveling members of other clubs access to yours. Two, that you will discount your regular guest fee by at least 50 percent for Passport guests.
Those aren’t small stipulations, but the potential benefit to your club should be clear. Imagine the added value you’ll be offering prospective members when they’re considering signing up for a membership. You tell them that by signing up they’ll be giving themselves access to 1,700 clubs around the country — who can say no to that? What’s more, you’ll demonstrate your commitment to their good health. Traveling can be hard on the body, especially if it means breaking off from a regular workout routine. And traveling around the holidays can be particularly damaging, given all the indulgent treats available. If your members know they can head to Great Aunt Glenda’s place and eat her fruit cake and butter cookies with a clear conscience, because there’s an accessible gym in town—you’ll be providing them with a valuable service.
Keep in mind, IHRSA’s network isn’t the only one out there (though it’s probably the biggest). Look into the available options and consider which ones would be a good fit for you and your members. They’ll thank you if you do.

Time To Partner Up

Time To Partner Up

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Recently in this space, I talked about rewards programs—how much I love them, how popular they’re with consumers in general, and how well they can work for the sports and fitness industries. Now I want to take on something related and equally powerful: partnership programs. Do you partner up with local businesses? If not, it’s time to consider how doing so might benefit you, your clientele, and your whole community.

As with rewards programs, cultivating partnerships with local businesses is a great way to boost member loyalty by increasing the value of what you have to offer. It works like this: Your gym, sports venue, training center, fitness facility, or health club. Partners up with local businesses that agree to offer discounts when your members present their membership cards. In return, you offer those businesses something: maybe the chance to advertise to your clientele, maybe free memberships for their employees, maybe discounts at your facility for their customers.

Club Business International offers a couple of examples to show how such a program benefits all parties involved. Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers (GHFC), with three clubs in Gainesville, Florida, has been operating its Members Savings Program for about forty years. All 27,000 GHFC members have the option of presenting their membership cards to more than 100 local firms that provide discounts to the members. Debra Lee, the company’s director of marketing, explains that when Joe Cirulli,owner and president, was brainstorming ways to help customers cut the cost of their gym memberships back in the 1970s, he landed on creating business partnerships. “His idea,” Lee told Club Business International, “was to identify local businesses that [club members] used on a regular basis, and to offer discounts that would help offset the cost of membership.” In return, GHFC subtly advertises partner businesses to club members.

Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is another club with a list of partner vendors. Partners provide discounts to Miramont’s members, along with special discounts that occur quarterly, to coincide with the club’s member appreciation days. In return, Miramont provides club passes for partners’ employees and advertises their businesses via newsletters, TV , andQR codes.

When do you let members know about the partnership opportunities? The answer, when they’re trying to decide whether or not to sign up. That’s when the added value that these programs bring to your facility will kick in—prospective members will realize they’re getting so much more than just a gym membership. As for existing members, they’ll never want to leave.

Create such a program by first seeking out local businesses likely to serve a clientele similar to yours: health food shops, hair salons, spas, sporting goods stores. Make sure your top sales person is the one approaching potential partners. You want someone who conveys a real sense of being invested in the program and in your facility, someone who can really make the value of the program clear. Finally, hammer out the details. This includes, what exactly will the partnership consist of, how will you benefit each other, give the program a name and start advertising it widely on social media, via email blasts, and in-house. Just make sure you’re ready to launch it right away, because your members will jump at the chance to sign up.

Supporting Your Female Clients

Supporting Your Female Clients

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You’ve probably heard the saying before: “Women hold up half the sky.” But, in fact, they may hold up most of your fitness facility. Research suggests that women drive 70 to 80 percent of consumer spending worldwide. Moreover, women, much more than men, engage in word-of-mouth publicity—they talk about their experiences with businesses, products, and service-providers, and, in their social circles. They hold a great deal of influence over the way others choose to spend money. Given that women also purchase fitness-related products and services more often than men do, what does all this mean for your health club?
It means it’s time to design ad campaigns better geared toward them. Here are a few tips for doing so.
First, put away the pink paint, lacy towels, and flower arrangements. The way to show women that other women are comfortable using your gym is not to advertise their presence through pretty embellishments but to highlight the fact of their presence. Using posters, brochures, and social media postings that show women looking serious about their workouts and happy to be in your facility will suggest that you cater to their needs. Supporting breast cancer awareness and making sure members and potential members know you do shows that women’s issues are important to you. Offering—and heavily advertising—childcare programs demonstrates that your club understands the logistics many women must juggle.
Loading your marketing materials with images of women is not enough, however. You must also create real programming for women. Do you offer women-only high-intensity interval training classes, extra women-only swim times, or self-defense classes for women? Do you offer co-ed basketball leagues or squash tournaments? Make your programming for women solid, and then talk it up as much as possible. Highlight your offerings on social media. Send emails. Offer prospective clients chances to take part for free, and invite current members to bring a friend at no charge.
On that note, make sure you’re advertising in establishments and publications that cater to women. Is there a clothing boutique or nail salon near the gym? Ask if you can hang flyers announcing a new women-only cycling class. Partner with local businesswomen’s associations and request that they include mention of your facility in their next newsletter. If you have branches nationally, consider buying ad space in magazines like Self, Women’s World, and Women’s Health.
Finally, engage the advice of the experts. Ask the women in your club what kinds of services do they want, then do your best to provide those services, and let everyone know that you’re doing so. Don’t forget to go to the official experts, too. Some marketing consultants focus exclusively on strategies for marketing to women; they can point out weaknesses in your existing campaign and show you how to polish it up for the demographic. Plenty of books and articles on the subject exist too. I’m not suggesting, by the way, that you forget all about the men—but chances are that if the women are happy, the men will be too.

Become an Active Participant in Preventative Health Care

Become an Active Participant in Preventative Health Care

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Pomerene Hospital in Millersburg, Ohio, recently kicked off a deal to take over a local fitness center. The owner of the center approached the hospital, expressing an interest in a community collaborator. Seeing this idea as an opportunity to extend health care beyond its own walls, the hospital embraced it. Doing so, said Pomerene’s chief financial officer in a statement, is a first step towards aligning the hospital’s services with reform in the health industry—with the expanded focus to include a greater emphasis on wellness and preventative care.
I love this. It seems to me that all hospitals should run fitness centers, or at least partner with fitness centers to provide a more holistic set of health-related services. I feel this way about doctors’ offices too. I hate going to them partly because I resent the fact that I’m there in the first place. If I hadn’t gotten sick, or overstretched a muscle, or ignored the numbers creeping higher on the scale, then I wouldn’t have to be there. Sometimes, I am all too well aware of how prevention would have served me better than care.
Not all hospitals have the means or the resources to manage a fitness facility, and certainly not most doctors working independently. But they could at least actively take different approaches to encourage patients to focus on their own preventative care. They could give discounts on co-pays for patients who bring in a letter from a personal trainer, exercise instructor, or gym manager showing that they’ve worked out x number of times in the past month. Or, along with prescriptions, they could hand out certificates good for one free class at a local spin studio or for one free session at a gym. Hospitals, when they discharge patients who have the capacity to exercise, could give out vouchers for a free month’s membership at a health club. There are so many possibilities.
None of these can be realized, of course, if gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, exercise studios, and sports centers are not willing partners. The good news is that forming such partnerships could only be beneficial for businesses in our industry. Each certificate a doctor hands out or voucher a hospital gives away represents a potential new client. And new clients who find your facility through a health care professional or institution are ones that are likely to stay—a voice of authority is telling them loudly and clearly that there’s a link between how much they exercise and how healthy they stay. If nothing else, they’ll come to you to avoid having to go to their doctor or the hospital again.
If you haven’t already done so, maybe it’s time to start cultivating relationships with doctors and hospitals. Approach local ones with suggestions and offers; make it clear that you’re as interested in the health of the community as they are. That’s what the fitness center giving its management over to Pomerene Hospital has done. Honestly, I wouldn’t even need any incentives to join that fitness center; just knowing it’s managed by the same experts who understand my medical needs would be incentive enough.

Where Fitness and League Sports Meet

Where Fitness and League Sports Meet

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There’s a new professional sports league in town. For this league becoming fit isn’t just the preparation for the game—it is the game. The National Pro Fitness League (NPFL) is a new organization that pits co-ed teams of athletes against each other in a range of functional fitness events. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, the NPFL has franchises in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Its season will kick off at the end of August and last for six weeks, with the franchises competing in a total of 12 matches and a culminating championship match taking place in early October.

Wow. This is exciting news for fitness facilities and sports facilities alike. What a great development to get behind and support. Even if your facility doesn’t focus on functional fitness or offer related classes, the creation of the NPFL can be a boon to you. Since it will bring both fitness and league sports events to the forefront of the nation’s attention— at least for a little while (especially because, as NPFL Director of Team Development Cassie Haynes pointed out in a recent article, this league, unlike the NFL, MLB, and other older leagues, can be built around technology. The opportunity for fan engagement will be huge).

How can you benefit from the upcoming NPFL events? First, let your members know about them—chances are, they haven’t yet heard about the NPFL. Be the first to fill them in. Get enthusiastic about the league and convey your enthusiasm with posters, announcements, and by having your trainers talk it up. If there are competitors from your region, build up a show of support for them; make the events a bonding experience and a way to motivate your facility’s patrons in their own fitness and league practice sessions.

If you have the space and technology, you might consider setting up a few in-facility viewing events for members (and potential members!). Chances are, you’ve been looking for ways to build community anyway—and if you’re not, you should be! This is another excellent way to do so.

One great thing about the league is that it has the potentially to appeal to a wide variety of audience. It’s co-ed, so both men and women can get behind it. And it’s not filled with just hot young things; for each match, at least two competitors (one male, one female) from each team must be a “Master Athlete”—meaning age 40 or older. What other sport can boast of such inclusion? In spreading the word about the league—in your facility or on social media—you’ll want to stress this aspect of it. There’s something here for everyone.

Finally, can you think of any tie-in events you can stage at your own facility? If you have the capacity for functional fitness training, maybe you can plan for training activities that match a particular competition occurring on a certain day. Or after an event is over, you may have a trainer analyze an athlete’s performance together with clients, and help incorporate lessons to be learned into clients’ own practices. As always, the benefits you reap from such an exciting development (the creation of the NPFL) are up to you: You’re limited only by your imagination. It’s worth spending the time thinking about where you can go with this.

fitness incentives

Targeting the Golden Ager

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fitness incentivesMy son recently learned how to ride a bicycle, and the last time I took him to visit my parents, he insisted on bringing his new, bright green set of wheels along. My nearly seventy-year-old father, mostly sedentary and not in the best of health, surprised me by pulling his old bike out of the shed, dusting it off, and declaring that he was going to join in on a ride. He was slow and creaky at first, and he fell off once — with nothing more than hurt pride, thankfully — but he went a full four miles with my son (who streaked along with abandon, delighting in his ability to outpace Grandpa)
We don’t see my parents as often as I’d like, and I don’t want my father waiting around for our quarterly visits to get his exercise. When I told him he should join a gym, he laughed, saying he’d be embarrassed to show his old self among all those young, fit bodies (…)
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fitness incentives

Time to Visit the Doctor

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fitness incentives I sat in a doctor’s waiting room for a long time today. I had accidentally left my book at home, and none of the magazines lying around appealed to me. As I’m currently attempting to renegotiate my relationship with my smartphone (I feel like I need some space but it’s having trouble letting go), I kept the thing tucked firmly in my jacket pocket, and there was nothing to occupy my attention except for a large monitor in the corner that kept cycling through a handful of health-related messages: avoid stress, substitute walnuts for croutons, exercise regularly.
“Ha,” thought the crankier part of me. “How am I supposed to find time to exercise regularly when I’m stuck here in the doctor’s office for three hundred hours?” (Well, it felt like three hundred hours.) But that got the less cranky part of me thinking. (…)
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fitness incentives

Fitness for a Cause

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fitness incentivesGyms, fitness centers, health clubs, and other similar facilities do a lot for their members and clients. They help transform bodies into leaner, healthier shapes. They push individuals to meet personal goals and overcome limitations (the self-imposed sort and other kinds). They boost confidence, provide fun social settings, and introduce new modes of movement. But one of the best things about such organizations, to my mind, is that they can produce large-scale change that benefits whole groups of people.
Take, for example, the recent Cycle for Survival initiative at Equinox. Designed to raise money for cancer research, Cycle for Survival events in February and early March at Equinox clubs in 10 cities around the country drew 13,000 people who raised $13.8 million (…)
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EZFacility Partners With Playergrid to Enhance League Management Features!

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We’re thrilled to introduce PlayerGrid, a powerful new team communication and sharing service that we’ve fully integrated with EZLeagues.
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