Futurecasting Fitness, Wellness and the Club Industry Portfolio

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Here are a few words about the future of the fitness industry and Club Industry from Patrick Rea, our group director:

In 1992, I became the newest member of the Gold's Gym team in Knoxville, TN. My long days were spent stocking shelves with the latest nutrition products, cleaning equipment and introducing new members to the facility and its machines. At the time, members' fitness options were primarily weight training and cardio equipment. Times have certainly changed.

Fast forward to 2010 when I assumed the leadership of the Club Industry group (magazine, website and events), and the fitness industry was amidst a period of intense market turbulence. The industry was experiencing nearly flat facility growth from 2007 to 2010, with club closures and club and equipment company bankruptcies. Leading exhibitors at industry trade shows were downsizing or eliminating their booths, and member acquisition and retention had become an even greater challenge. Thank you ‘Great Recession.'

But sometimes, the greatest evolutions are birthed from the most troubled of times. This is what I am seeing today. But that evolution comes with a price. Heavy fitness equipment is being replaced with bands and kettlebells. The workout ‘circuit' is being replaced with functional training, yoga, Pilates, mixed martial arts-style training and CrossFit gyms. Fitness is becoming more about the individual user and less about the equipment.

Somehow, we as an industry haven't been listening to the voice of the people because gym memberships have held steady at only 16 percent of the U.S. population for many years. This number is meaningful, even though it only represents the commercial club market and not the community centers, YMCAs, JCCs, university rec centers and other unmeasured facility types. A lack of clear and unified purpose, population intelligence and all-encompassing data creates a brick wall that obstructs the industry from bringing more fitness to more people. We can either choose to blast through this brick wall or simply change course. I believe this choice won't actually be ours. Instead, I believe our best interests will be served by following consumers.

The future of fitness and wellness presents a great need for a broader, more diverse advocate and partner to support facilities of all types with news, education and events that will unify and connect professionals and provide a marketplace to exchange ideas and products. Club Industry is and will be that unifying resource to connect, equip and encourage fitness and wellness professionals to bring more health to more people.

The world is changing, and so is the Club Industry group. Stay tuned for more insights from our Club Industry leadership in the coming weeks.

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