The Ultimate Influencer: The Fitness Industry

The Ultimate Influencer: The Fitness Industry
By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Fitness Industry Council of Canada

As we celebrate National Health and Fitness Day this Saturday, June 1st, we look at the vital role the fitness industry plays in cultivating Canada’s National Health and Vitality


We have the power to influence other people. As we celebrate National Health and Fitness Day, we are inspiring our members to Be a Positive Influencer and recognize the influence their actions have on the lives of loved ones. Research shows that health behaviors rub off – when one person chooses to join a gym and adopt a healthy lifestyle, it influences the lives of their loved ones. In fact, our exercise habits are profoundly influenced by those around us.


A study published in the journal Nature Communications in 2017 analyzed the spread of exercise habits through social networks. The researchers found that individuals were more likely to adopt similar exercise behaviors as their friends, even when controlling for factors such as geographic distance and socioeconomic status. This suggests that social contagion plays a significant role in shaping physical activity levels within communities.


With this ripple effect stemming from inside our gyms, what power does the fitness industry have collectively in influencing Canada’ health and well-being? We know we are stronger together. And, we are more powerful together.

We are the ultimate influencers.


As we celebrate National Health and Fitness Day, we look at the research that proves the fitness industry is not only essential, but the ultimate change-makers in creating an active Canada.


1. We fight sedentary lifestyles

Sedentary lifestyles have detrimental impacts on overall health. Research shows that one in two adult Canadians do not achieve 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly, and only 4 out of every ten children are active for the recommended 60 minutes daily. The fitness industry serves as a beacon of hope in combating this trend by promoting physical activity through various avenues such as gyms, fitness classes, outdoor activities, and virtual workout platforms.


And while messages about the positive impact exercise will have on your life are essential, research also indicates that messages about illness and death can be equally motivating! We know regular exercise reduces the risk of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases and a small 2021 study from the University of Waterloo looked at fitness app messaging, and found that illness and death-related messages had a positive impact on behaviour change.


2. We create movement opportunities

Walk into any gym, anywhere in the world, and what do you see: Movement.


One of the defining aspects of Canada’s fitness industry is its commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. From urban centers to rural communities, fitness facilities, community centers, and recreational spaces are everywhere, offering diverse options for individuals of all ages and abilities. Little known fact: Many fitness facilities and community centers across the country offer subsidized gym memberships for low-income individuals and programs tailored to marginalized communities, which underscore the industry’s commitment to ensuring that health and fitness resources are within reach for everyone.


This is also why the Fitness Industry Council of Canada continues to lobby the government to revise line 33099 and allow gym memberships to be eligible as a medical expense on our taxes, and why we applaud the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for introducing a Physical Activity Tax Credit in 2021. Movement should be available and accessible for all.

3. We foster a supportive environment

The intimidation factor for a newcomer entering a gym can turn any door into a revolving door – but once inside, the social support, encouragement, motivation and accountability found from the gym community cannot be denied. This also plays a significant role in shaping physical activity levels – when you receive positive reinforcement from your social network, you are more likely to keep going.


A meta-analysis published in the journal Health Psychology Review in 2018 examined the effects of social support on physical activity behavior. The analysis found that social support was consistently associated with higher levels of physical activity across various populations, including adults, adolescents, and older adults. This underscores the importance of fostering supportive social networks to promote physical activity and improve public health.


4. We advocate for change

The influence of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada extends beyond what we do inside our bricks and mortar facilities, and with our members – it extends to advocacy for broader policy that promotes physical activity. From budget submissions at the federal and provincial levels, to lobbying, to supporting initiatives that prioritize health advocacy – like the Canadian Health and Fitness Institute’s National Forum ON Health and Fitness  or Participaction’s Community Challenge, we are actively engaged with Canadian groups, and policymakers who are committed to creating experiences and environments conducive to healthy living. These efforts align with the goals of national health promotion strategies and contribute to the creation of communities where making healthy choices is our default setting.


5. We impact the economy

This fitness industry contributes to the economy through revenue generated from gym memberships, to fitness equipment sales and employment opportunities – particularly for youth 18-29 – as well as countless supporting industries such as sports apparel, supplements, cleaning products and much more. At the recent US Fly-In, where they continue to advocate for policy change, our global partners Health and Fitness Association (formerly IHRSA) shared that the fitness industry had a $22.4 billion USD impact on the economy in 2021. Deloitte and Touche estimated that the Canadian fitness industry directly and indirectly impacted the economy to the tune of more than 3 billion dollars annually.


6. We save lives

And the impact is even greater when we look at the cost of saving lives.


When someone is inspired to get active, they immediately change the trajectory of their lives – preventing chronic illness, improving mental health, improving productivity, mood, and even our relationships with others. When someone joins a gym, they become part of a community and increase their social health; they have access to skilled and trained professionals who can help them get stronger, can guide them through illness and injury, and keep them accountable and motivated in their new lifestyle.

As we celebrate National Health and Fitness Day, it’s paramount to recognize the indispensable role of the fitness industry in shaping the health landscape of Canada. From promoting physical activity and combating sedentary lifestyles to driving economic growth and fostering community connections, the industry’s impact reverberates far beyond the walls of gyms and fitness studios.

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.

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