In the health club industry, we have been experiencing a shift in people's attitudes from fitness to health. Losing weight remains the number one reason people begin an exercise program, but while the desire to manage weight is still predominantly for reasons of appearance, there is an increasing awareness of the health implications of being overweight.

People are becoming more interested in reducing stress, increasing energy, feeling better, improving overall health, performing daily tasks easily, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. They are stepping up and taking responsibility for their health and the consequences of poor lifestyle choices.  

As the attitudes shift, programming must also shift to meet the needs and goals of the people exercising in our facilities. Fitness programming is an integral part of our centers and always will be, but it is time to begin developing more health-oriented programs, which are often called wellness programs, to help members achieve their health-oriented goals.

Fitness programs can be defined as exercise-oriented and motivational in nature. They are fun, scored, recreational, sports-oriented or one-on-one. Wellness programs can be defined as being health-oriented and educational in nature. They often offer traditional ways of preventing and treating special health concerns as well as non-traditional alternative measures and cover the gamut from exercise and weight management to cholesterol screenings, acupuncture and healing herbs.

Getting members to view the facility as a wellness center instead of a fitness center will take time. When deciding what your wellness programs will look like, consider your members and plan accordingly.

The first step is to assess the goals of your members. Once you have information, you can make some assumptions about what you think would interest your members.

The next step is to put your ideas into a calendar format. Plan your calendar six months to a year in advance. The goal is to seamlessly execute each and every program.

Not only do you need to determine what topics you will offer, you also need to find qualified experts to deliver the information. Look within your community for experts who are interested in presenting to your members or staff. If you have qualified, credentialed people on your team, take advantage of their expertise and put them on your schedule.

Keep a narrow focus initially, and interview only those practitioners who you feel are appropriate based on your program assumptions. It's best to start with what is more traditional. Interview several providers of the same services to ensure they not only have the appropriate credentials, but that what they say and how they say it will be well received by your members. Each facility has a general personality. It is important to match the personality of the presenter with the personality of the facility. You may learn this the hard way, through trial and error, but persistence is the key.

For more tips on transitioning from fitness programming to wellness programming, attend my session, "Successful Wellness Programming," from 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Club Industry Conference and Exposition.

Laurie Cingle, M.Ed., fitness business success coach, health club consultant and member of the Leadership Team at Akron General LifeStyles, specializes in creating successful club program champions, developing non-dues revenue profit centers, establishing market differentiation and designing programs that increase profit and retention. For information on speaking engagements, staff success coaching, or consulting, please contact laurie@lauriecingle.com.