The Official Website of Mo Hagan - Influencing Positive Change for Women Worldwide

Awareness — The Power of Fit Relationships for Healthy Aging

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My focus on the power of group continues this month as I keep finding research to support it.   My latest discovery came out of the November-December issue of The Journal of Active Aging.  According to a 79 year old Harvard Study of Adult Development, the world’s longest running study of the factors affecting health in later life, the single most powerful predictor of good health is positive relationships.   This ongoing study evaluates a myriad of factors that affect how healthfully participants age.  While factors including genetics, diet, exercise, drug and alcohol use, socioeconomic status and intelligence were measured, positive relationships stood out as the most significant; those who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 turned out to be the healthiest at age 80.  Positive relationships with family, friends and community appear to better predict long, healthy, happy lives than all other personal and social factors.  The opposite was also found in that those with absence of close relationships fostered poor health and decreased longevity.   So what does this mean for our industry and for your business?  By understanding the impact that quality relationships has on overall health and longevity, the fitness industry can promote this as one of the leading benefits of exercising in a group whether that be group fitness classes, small group training or a social ‘club’ within your facility.   Dr Jeff Rossman, author of this ICCA journal article titled “Strong Relationships: A Prescription for Healthy Aging” shared his healthy tips for building strong relationships as we age and among them he recommended exactly that—to join groups.  He also compared the benefits of positive relationships to the benefits of exercise and said “just as we strive to stay physically active in later life, we need to strive to stay connected with people, as the quality and quantity of our life depends on it”.  Another big variable is positivity.  Being around people who are happy, who choose to take good care of themselves, and choose to surround themselves with other positive, health-driven goals, is just one more way to develop and sustain relationships.   So think about the opportunities you have to bring members together in your club or facility.  Look for opportunities to foster healthy relationships with your members.  While group fitness and small group training are two proven and powerful ways to accomplish this, think of ways to foster relationships with your new members as early in their membership life as possible.  Leading in the front lines at GoodLife Fitness, as a group fitness instructor for the past 33 years, I am witness to the power that group has on people’s lives physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. With this new information I am more assured than ever that what I am doing for the participants in my classes is far more than providing them with an exercise response.  It is providing them with a life line.

A New Lens on Group Fitness—Group Therapy Prescription for Health

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Would it surprise you to learn that exercising in a group setting can lower participant stress levels by an average of 26 percent compared to those who exercise on their own.  Those in the business of managing fitness programs already know the value that group fitness brings to their club business however what they may not realize is that group fitness may provide even more positive effects for exercisers who experience high stress and anxiety levels.   New research conducted on medical students at the University Of New England College Of Osteopathic Medicine supports the finding that group settings for exercise are better when it comes to the psychological and emotional aspects of working out (an unassuming benefit of exercise).  A small group of medical students known for experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety and a self-reported low quality of life, were asked to join either a 12 week exercise program, either in a group setting or on their own.  The results of this non-randomized study were published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, reporting positive implications for anyone with extra stress and anxiety in their lives.   Students rated their levels of stress and quality of life across three categories: physical, mental and emotional.  While those who exercised on their own, spent more time working out on average, they reported no significant change in stress levels and only a minimal improvement (11 percent) in mental quality of life, as compared to their group exercise counterparts.  Those students who chose to work out in a group reported a 12.6 percent increase in mental health, a 24.8 percent increase in physical health and a 26 percent increase in emotional health.  These findings not only support other research on the benefits of exercising in a group, it certainly will boost our confidence as leaders and business operators, that group exercise is beneficial for those solo exercisers who have difficulty staying motivated to exercise.  Consider it group therapy if you like.  I would even go as far as suggesting that group exercise be a prescription for health for many more of our members, not only those who naturally seek out the social camaraderie associated with group fitness but also those members who are looking for ways to better manage their stress and emotional quality of life.   As a side note, the author of this study did state that “these findings should not be a condemnation of individual exercise” but rather “as an addition to one’s exercise regime as a solution to improving the well-being of medical students and physicians”.    It is my passion to create MO’tion, and keep our industry moving forward in a direction that supports and serves more people.   Moving our minds, with new insight like this, is just as important as moving our bodies with new innovation in programming.

Never Forget Who You Are

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Are you a generalist or a specialist?  Are you a ‘main-stream’ club that offers a variety of programs and services, or are you a boutique studio that focuses on one area of specialization?  If you know who you are and know what you are best known for, and you are delivering excellent service on that front, you will thrive through these very disruptive times.  If you are trying to become something that you are not, converting your business from a high cost, full service offering to a low cost with less service business model,  you will potentially lose your identity and soon after your members.  Instead focus on your strengths, promote your personal trainers and group fitness instructors like local celebrities, and find ways to build value in what you offer.  The Millennials and Generation Z’s are value focused not price focused.  When you know who you are and know who you wish to serve, then you can focus on what and how best to connect, relate and build relationships with your members and your community.   The fitness industry could benefit further by finding ways to create fast addiction, instant pleasure and low intimidation, as well as find immediate ways to connect and build relationships with members.  The common theme here is speed at which we create impression and leave lasting impressions.   Consider offering your personal trainers opportunities to sell and serve their clients and on-line or even virtually.  Show your group fitness instructors how they can build a social media following of raving fans so that they can promote their classes at your facility.  Offer an on-line joining option for prospects and find ways to get consumers connected with you even if they do not buy a membership or service from you, yet.   Recently I attended the IHRSA European Congress and heard first hand that the average member is doing less at the club with active member participation down to about one visit per week, which is not enough to positively change member retention.  With this in mind I would encourage owners, operators and program directors to review and re-think their value proposition.  Having a 24/7, clean and safe environment is not enough.  As Europe’s leading authority Christophe Andanson shared in his presentation, “The Future of the Fitness Industry”, we must follow “ERIC” (Eliminate, Re-evaluate, Recruit and Create), to be different and to compete.   ERIC represents four things to focus your business on today:  Eliminate the services in your club that are no longer profitable or being used.  Re-evaluate so to simplify your membership and add-on services price options.  Recruit top talent and market them like celebrities; it’s a win-win!  Create social media and technologies to engage the new generations, move your business forward and remain competitive.   Be different to make the difference.  Cultivate a mind-set and business plan (and vision) for success!

Remember Why

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To truly understand the impact you will have on your staff and members you must begin with “why”.  Why you are here doing what you do is far more important than what you do.   Putting in time in your job, getting a promotion or adding more credentials behind your name will not define you or your success.  How you choose to show up everyday is a choice and it is your choices that lead to the outcomes that ultimately influence your success.

If you want to achieve more or become better in any area of your life then it is your will to choose.  As the saying goes “if you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”.  Success is a habit you shape from daily acts of discipline duplicated over time.  Discipline is a practice of training.  Just as lifting weights is a practice of strength training, daily acts of measurable constant improvement is a success practise. In Brendon Burchard’s latest book “High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way” he shares the top performance habits that are common to extraordinary people.  He states that the ability to be a high performer has nothing to do with one’s background.  “Race, ethnicity, gender, income level, compensation and personality were not strongly correlated with long-term performance which gives hope to everybody that wherever you are at today, you can choose habits for success”.  It doesn’t matter if you failed a year ago or ten years ago, today you can start new habits and it is your habits that shape your character and, it is your character that ‘takes the stage’ each day you show up.  High performers decide to show up every day just a bit better than the day before and they choose to show up tomorrow better than today.  High performers choose the will to become high performers. They believe in their abilities, they have confidence in their will to direct their performance in any direction they choose.  They choose to ‘be’ the person they desire to become until they ‘become’ the person they desire.  Will this journey always be easy? No, but it will no doubt inspire you to grow and learn.  I encourage you to take a moment to reflect and ask yourself “Why am I here?”. “How am I showing up today?” “How can I positively impact the world with my presence?”

NEW Programming Trends to Follow

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In last month’s column I recommended that you take a look at the various fitness industry trends reports to gain insight as to what is influencing consumer behavior and your business.  These trends reports will open your eyes to the opportunities ahead.  Not only will these insights help you make sound business decisions moving forward it will provide you with new knowledge of what is disrupting the industry as we know it today.  Recently I was interviewed by a leading fitness magazine for their feature “Wellness Trends for 2018” and I feel obliged to share these ideas with you.  I feel the fitness industry is making a significant step forward and 2018 is going to be a year of great change, and disruption.  While some trends will remain as strong as they have been for years, others will fall down on the trends list and be replaced by new ‘up and coming’ concepts that will revolutionize the industry by 2020.  The following are three major trends I see for 2018:

Wearable technology and Apps to guide, support and connect exercisers with their workouts and their workout community will stay on the top of the trends list.  It is estimated that by 2018, seventy percent of healthcare organizations globally will invest in consumer-facing technology, including Apps, wearables, remote monitoring and virtual care. The wearables market will continue to expand massively and even those who work out in a formal fitness setting will use more than one App to support their fitness and wellness needs as well as their need to connect with other like-minded exercisers.

Group Fitness will continue to grow and diversify.  Within this group fitness space there will be more variety in programming and fusion-style or “mash-up” workouts will grow because it serves the interests of Millennials.  Almost any style of fitness can be integrated together to create a great fusion workout—Piloxing (Pilates and Boxing), Core De Force (MMA and HIIT), Yoga Barre (Ballet, Yoga and Pilates), NEWBODY (cardio and life-style strength training), BodyFlow (Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates) and STRONG by Zumba are just a few examples.  Yoga will continue to diversify and expand and be accompanied by Meditation, Zen and Relaxation classes. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts will remain strong especially among the Millennials.  Almost all exercisers say they are more likely to work out when they work out in a group or with a friend. Over eighty percent of people who exercise say that working out in a group or with a friend makes it more fun.

Exercise prescription and ‘exercise as medicine’ will begin to take its rightful place within the exercise community.  Fitness professionals and health care professionals are coming together in order to meet the expanding needs of the deconditioned market.  As a physiotherapist and certified fitness professional for over three decades I’ve always believed this was possible and now it is no longer possible for health, fitness and wellness professionals to work independent of each other.  The time has come that we work as a team to help build and rebuild the health of all people.   People have the desire to live better.  We need to be prepared to connect, coach and care for them in new and engaging ways.  If nothing changes, then nothing changes.

Return to Routine or Perhaps Not

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This month most people begin to return to their ‘normal’ routines following summer break, or at the very least, they begin to wind down their summer activities in anticipation of returning to their regular work-life schedule.  This transition back from summer break seems to be slower and more of a struggle for even your most committed members than in past years.  Typically just before or after the Labor Day long weekend (both in Canada and the USA), everyone begins their return to the gym but this is no longer what we are seeing.  More and more members are delaying their return to the gym and for some members it takes weeks or even months before they walk through our front doors.  So why is it so hard for so many members to get back into their exercise routine and what can we do as program directors to influence their transition back into our facilities and our programs?  Social and behavioral scientists who have been studying non-consistent exercisers’ behavior patterns say that we must make exercise relevant to our clients and members daily lives and connect the benefits to the immediate short term needs of person rather than the long term health benefits.  What if we were to associate immediate benefits to our programs like “boost in energy, mood, improved sleep or productivity”, would that help get members back to the gym and back into our programs faster?  According to the research this works to motivate exercisers as does the following:  choosing easier, more enjoyable workouts that are sustainable over time, making exercise social (working out with a close friend), getting competitive within the group (where people can keep track of each other’s progress) and working out in a group setting.  Once again the research shows that group dynamics have a lot of power over exercise behavior but the key to success is gathering people with similar interests then creating an way for members to track one another’s exercise efforts.  Keeping score in the game is not just for kids.  Think about ways you can incorporate this social and behavioral science into sound strategies for bringing your members back to your facility as soon as summer wraps up.  The sooner we can get our members back into a routine that is enjoyable, social and competitive, the sooner we have impacted their lives for the long term.  I invite you to think of new ways to promote your fall programs and events that will help bring more people back into routine, sooner than later.

Consumerism is Changing The Face of the Fitness Industry

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The Millennial generation is for the most part responsible for the massive changes in how fitness is now being offered and being experienced.  If you are running a fitness business of any kind you should be aware of how these changes will impact your business both positively and negatively.  Budget clubs are among the fastest growing part of the fitness industry at the moment.  These low cost clubs help make it easy for people to get started and access fitness and while there is no service offered they do fill the demand for almost half of the exercising population at this moment.  Boutiques on the opposite extreme—being small in design and high in price—are also rapidly growing.  This group of exercisers belong to boutiques because it represents to them  a ‘lifestyle’ and they do not mind paying to get exactly what they want.  Virtual fitness classes has shown significant growth around the world and provide owners and operators with opportunities for members to ‘customize’ their own workouts and create their own communities.  Virtual classes (both in-club and via Apps) have been shown to engage members in ways that live group fitness classes do not.  They are available anytime and are less intimidating for members.  In addition to what is erupting as far as change within the club and boutique itself, even more is happening out-side of the bricks and mortar of your business. Today, more than fifty percent of club members have, and use, at least one exercise App and close to fifty percent of consumers, who are not fitness members, also have and use a fitness App.  Virtual coaching (on-line or through a App) is also demonstrating significant growth.  Finally, wearable technology is all around us and while nothing can replace the live, face to face connections that a personal trainer or a group fitness instructor can create, technology is.  Therefore it is time to pay attention and get connected.  Learn how to leverage technology to help support the member community that you have created already.  Get with your team of trainers and instructors and brainstorm ways that you get better connected with your members.  Help your training staff learn how to engage and leverage technology (including social media) so that they can connect with their clients and class participants and trust me they will win as will your business.