Fitness professionals deserve to feel proud of our impact on the health of our communities. We also need to consider if changes in our programming could make our services so much more accessible.
The data now available is awe-inspiring: physical activity provided Canada $23.4 billion in health savings. We need to take a moment to acknowledge how our industry’s services directly impact preventative health care, in particular, non-communicable diseases in both physical and mental heath.
Feel free to geek out on the data compiled by the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) and share this article! FIC aims to work with industry and government to improve Canadians’ health and physical activity levels. As Vice President of FIC, I can share that we continue to ask the federal and provincial health authorities to develop protocols that include physical activity as a key part of health care.
I then invite you to reflect that less than 20% of Canadians exercise in structured physical activity settings (i.e. gyms, studios, etc.) and that about 50% of those who begin an exercise program will drop out within the first 6 months. Those two statistics were hard to swallow when I first studied exercise psychology and became a certified fitness professional. I’m so disappointed that we’ve barely moved the needle in the last 3 decades.
The impact we COULD have is therefore so much greater, and in my opinion is right at our fingertips. It does however require that we think differently about WHO we’re attracting and how we’re programming. If we want to serve the other 80% of the population and help them persevere in their physically active lifestyle we need to ask ourselves:
1. Are you just making fit people fitter?
If you’re creating programs and routines focused on ramping up intensity and results, the answer is yes. Fit people need and deserve access to phenomenal fitness offers; but let’s have the integrity to admit that that’s what we’re providing. Understand that you’ll tap into that 20% market share and run with it, stop stating that your services are “accessible to everyone and every body”. Own your brand and your market.
2. Are you focused on physique and physical health?
If the images you use in market show sculpted bodies, you use language around “burn off your XXX calories” or “get beach body ready”, the answer is yes. Some people have weight loss or physique related goals and historically that’s exactly how we’ve sold fitness; but that keeps us stuck is losing 50% of those who try to stick with fitness.
3. Are you coaching the mental and cognitive health benefits of physical activity?
If you’re communicating the impact of exercise on stress and anxiety, mood regulation, memory, and sleep, the answer is yes. Highlighting the mental and cognitive health benefits of exercise allows us to tap into the instant gratification of working out. This can have a significant impact on adherence and turns our attention away from intensity and duration and towards consistency. Grab this workbook if you’d like practical ways to do this in your sessions.
I know many of you have reflected on your careers and your impact on your communities over the past years; what questions have you asked yourselves? Is there an opportunity you’d like our industry to turns its attention towards?
Nathalie Lacombe, M, Sc. Is the coach and cupid of the fitness industry! She blends her 25 years of international fitness experience with her degrees in psychology and exercise science to coach fitness professionals and leaders towards incredible success in their careers and businesses.