One of my biggest fears in life is probably a pretty common one. After watching one of my grandmothers suffer from a form of dementia and watching now as my boyfriend's mother slowly loses herself in Alzheimer's disease, I fear losing recognition of those I love and my ability to care for myself perhaps even more than I fear losing control of my physical capabilities someday.
I'm still relatively young, and I have faith that a cure for Alzheimer's will be found before I reach my senior years. However, despite my trust in the abilities of the medical community, I am still doing what I can to keep the robber of memories at bay. That includes eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and exercising on a regular basis. As the “Brain Builders” story in this issue (page 110) details, a growing body of research is showing that exercising on a regular basis can help decrease a person's chance of getting Alzheimer's disease.
That's great news, but are you as a club owner getting this message out to your members and potential members? If not, perhaps you should start adding to your marketing materials and Web site that exercise not only benefits the body, but it also benefits the mind. After all, I'm not alone in my fears about this disease. Many of your members are facing the prospect of this disease much sooner than I am. People who are 50 years old and older are the fastest growing segment of the health club population. Studies show they are becoming members not to look better but to feel better and to maintain their physical abilities as long as possible. I'm sure that along with their physical abilities, they'd like to maintain their mental ones, too.
Even if your club doesn't target the 50-plus market, you can include the mental benefits of exercise in your marketing materials. Maybe your 20- and 30-something members are still living under the illusion that they'll remain young forever with all their mental capacities intact, but I bet your 40-something members are beginning to consider their mortality and aging issues as they care for elderly parents, wake up with a few more aches and pains each morning, and forget where they put their car keys more often.
Does this mean, though, that our industry should jump into the brain exercise market that is springing up? A growing number of Baby Boomers are keeping their minds sharp by playing computer games such as Brain Age and doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku as often as possible. I hesitate to encourage club owners to begin offering mental exercise programs because best business practices say you should focus on what you know, and how many of you are well versed in this area? However, if fitness facilities want to evolve into businesses that take care of the whole person, then offering brain exercise games may make sense for some fitness operators. Nifty After Fifty, a small franchise of fitness centers for seniors, already offers programs, such as a computer-based memory game, to help keep their members' minds sharp.
But perhaps most club owners who cater to families or seniors should consider partnering with one of the reputable companies that offer these programs instead. After all, you are the expert with certifications in physical fitness, not mental fitness. It just seems like the smart move.