The number of fitness centers located in facilities with some sort of religious affiliation—from YMCAs to Jewish Community Centers to Kroc Centers—have for many years been joined by fitness programs located in actual places of worship. But have fitness facility operators truly looked at this market for growth opportunity like they should?
Recently, Today.com ran a story about how some church leaders are motivating their congregations to become healthier, many of them with great success. This trend is important, especially after a report last spring showed that young adults who attend religious services on a regular basis are 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age than those who do not attend worship services. The study did not delve into why regular service goers were more likely to become obese.
On the other hand, other studies have shown that regular church goers live longer, are less likely to smoke and are more mentally healthy, perhaps due to the social support they get from regular attendance.
So, regular worshippers enjoy the social interaction that their institutions offer them. And, a large number of them need more education or motivation for becoming healthier. To me, this means that in addition to reaching out to the corporate market, club operators should be reaching out to religious groups in their area. A group of people in need are sitting in their pews each week ready to hear your words on fitness. Not every church, mosque or synagogue has the means or space to open a fitness room in their facility.
The question would be how much you tie fitness into religion and the beliefs of that place of worship. The churches featured in the Today.com report made a significant tie between the two. It would be a decision you would have to make along with the leaders of that organization.
What do you think about reaching out to this market?