It's one of the big paradoxes of the club industry—there are more people in the United States than ever who need the healthier way of life that a fitness club offers, but how do you get those people who haven't learned to value fitness in the door?
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently published its wish list for the future of fitness in America, and many of its objectives focus on building connections between the fitness industry and the greater community. Establishing this kind of connection could be a win-win situation for both clubs and the communities they're located in—and personally, I think it's too important an issue to leave to a wish list. Check out some of ACE's objectives and think about how you can go out there and make them happen.
• Proactive involvement from local leaders. ACE says it wants to see local community leaders promote exercise programs like the Let's Move Cities and Towns initiative, which is part of the Let's Move! program established by First Lady Michelle Obama. But don't wait for city leaders to come to you. Read up on the initiative and some of its success stories, put together a plan for how your facility could get involved and then go to your city leaders with your plans.
• Fitness in the workplace. Encouraging companies and organizations to offer fitness and wellness resources to their employees is one of ACE's objectives. If your facility is in a position to offer company memberships, go out and let the corporate world know. Research how health and fitness affects work productivity, learn about the businesses near your facility, find out who in their organization makes decisions about such things and set up a meeting to tell them how your club can help them foster a healthier, more productive workforce.
• More collaboration among fitness and healthcare organizations. ACE wants better connections between the fitness industry leaders and health professionals. Doctors know only too well how important being physically active can be in both preventative and palliative healthcare, but they can't recommend your facility or programs unless they know about them. Why not invite local physicians, chiropractors and other health practitioners to tour your club so they can see what you have to offer?
• Greater inclusiveness. ACE plans to offer new outreach programs to help consumers who aren't currently physically active become more comfortable with fitness activities. Does your club do enough to cater to this market? For example, so many group ex classes say they're appropriate for all levels, but then end up filled with fitness devotees, which can be intimidating for those who are new to exercise. If you don't already, be sure to offer classes and small group sessions that truly are meant for beginners and led by instructors who are sympathetic to and enthusiastic about working with newbies that will require extra guidance and patience.
To read the full list of ACE's objectives, follow this link.