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First Annual "European Week of Sport" Launches Next Week

Physical activity is declning in Europe, with over half of European adults reporting they seldom or never engage in exercise or sport. Exercise is on the decline among children as well - children in Europe are less active at age 15 than at age 11 and child obesity is climbing. Yet the benefits of an active lifestyle are well documented - improved health and happiness, better academic performance, lower health costs, and more productivity at work, to name a few. 

European Week of Sport

In hopes of reversing this trend, the European Union is promotiong the first annual "European Week of Sport" using the hashtag #BeActive.

"The European Week of Sport aims to promote sport and physical activity across Europe. The Week is for everyone, regardless of age, background or fitness level. With a focus on grassroots initiatives, it will inspire Europeans to #BeActive on a regular basis and create opportunities in peoples’ everyday lives to exercise more."

European Week of Sport runs September 7th - 13th and focuses on four areas in which physical activity can be encouraged and enjoyed:

  • Education
  • Workplace
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Sport and Fitness Centers
  • As part of this focus, European Week of Sport recognzes the importance of health and fitness clubs in the fight to increase physical activity. 

    "Sport clubs and fitness centres play an important role in providing opportunities for people to be active by offering equipment, games and classes in safe, fun and engaging settings." 

    Learn more about European Week of Sport. 

    Get Involved

    This initiative presents a great opportunity for IHRSA clubs to promote their facility and use the buzz to attract business. Clubs hosting an event in conjunction with European Week of Sport can register the event on their website.


    A weeklong promotion can encourage people to try a new type of exercise or recommit to a former routine, long term maintenance can be more difficult. IHRSA launched the #WhyGetActive campaign —which revolves around everyday people sharing their answers on social media to the question, “Why do you Get Active?” – in 2014 to provide a platform for sharing individual motivations and encouraging inactive people to find their own. The goal of the campaign is to elevate the discussion surrounding the many, many reasons to puruse an active healthy lifestyle. 

    To learn more visit ihrsa.org/whygetactive.


    28 Recommendations on How to Encourage Physical Activity in Schools

    On August 26, the Expert Group on Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA) published its 28 recommendations on how to encourage physical education in schools. These recommendations, which include supporting evidence and relevant research, have been proposed and addressed to national governments, sport organizations and the private sector.

    These recommendations will be taken up by the Council of the EU in the second half of 2015, under the Luxembourg Presidency, as part of the priorities for sport aimed at promoting physical and motor activity, especially during early childhood.

    Of the 28 recommendations, two are particularly applicable to the health club industry - recommending that schools form cooperative frameworks and partnerships with sport organizations (including health clubs.)  

    Recommendation 17 – Schools should seek to establish a cooperative framework with sport organisations and other local sport offers in order to promote both curricular and extra-curricular activities.

    Recommendation 18 – Partnerships should be created between schools and sport sector organisations to ensure quality and availability of safe infrastructures and equipment for physical education, extra-curricular or after-school activities, and communities. These partnerships should ensure the efficient management of infrastructures and prevent duplicate or underused facilities.


    IHRSA Member Voted the 2015 Best Health and Fitness Club in Los Angeles

    The Toluca Lake Tennis & Fitness Club has been voted the 2015 Best Health and Fitness Club in Los Angeles in the Readers Choice Awards for the Los Angeles Daily News. 

    Founded in 1974, early members included Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Farrah Fawcett.  Located next to Warner Brothers and Universal Studios, the Club specializes in providing superior tennis and fitness services to Hollywood's entertainment professionals and everyone in the greater Los Angeles area.

    Tennis Director Ben Brunkow, a nationally ranked doubles champion, oversees the tennis program, which includes tournaments, clinics and private lessons. Head Pro Christian Straka is considered one of the best tennis instructors in Southern California. Christian was Roger Federer's doubles partner, played in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and was recently voted the Head-Penn company Pro of the Year.

    With world-class personal trainers, over 50 Group Exercise classes including yoga, boxing, dance, and Spin, and an outdoor heated pool, the Club is more than just tennis. The weight room and Cardio deck had a complete remodeling last year and now includes an area dedicated to Functional Training and Sports Conditioning.

    Combining classic Hollywood charm with elite, modern fitness facilities, the Toluca Lake Tennis & Fitness Club is honored to be recognized as the #1 Health and Hitness Club in Los Angeles.

    Read more about the Toluca Lake Tennis & Fitness Club.


    Effect and Cost Effectiveness of Exercise Referral Programs 

    An exercise referral program is a system by which healthcare providers refer their patients to outside exercise providers. These programs are widely used in the United Kingdom (UK). A review published in the journal Health Technology Assessment examines the clinical effectiveness and cost savings of exercise referral programs in the UK and provides updates to a review conducted in 2009. The review identified two new studies, to total eight studies involving 5,190 participants. 

    The results showed that the proportion of people exercising 90-150 minutes or longer was greater in the exercise referral group than among people who were not referred for exercise. In addition, data from qualitative studies indicated that developing social networks and support was beneficial in increasing uptake and maintenance of activity. Researchers also concluded that these programs did produce cost savings, although the amount was variable. Health clubs provide a safe, social place for people to pursue exercise.

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    Source: Campbell F1, Holmes M1, Everson-Hock E1, Davis S1, Buckley Woods H1, Anokye N2, Tappenden P1, Kaltenthaler E1. A systematic review and economic evaluation of exercise referral schemes in primary care: a short report. Health Technol Assess. 2015 Jul;19(60):1-110. doi: 10.3310/hta19600.


    For your reading pleasure

    lThe “lazy” days of summer are here! And the month of August is a great time to catch up on your reading. So I’m pleased to present two new IHRSA publications for your professional edification. Log on to ihrsa.org/research-reports to download a free excerpt of each.

    The first, published in June, is IHRSA One Million Strong: An In-Depth Study of Health Club Member Retention in North America, sponsored by Life Fitness. It was written by Dr. Paul Bedford, an internationally known expert on exercise behavior and member retention.

    This report presents the findings of a
 36-month study of the North American 
fitness industry that was conducted
 early this year. Measuring retention and its associated factors is a vital part of running any successful health and fitness business, and, so, for more than 30 years, IHRSA has tracked important operating benchmarks, including revenue and member retention, which are published annually in Profiles of Success.

    Based on a survey of leading operators, Profiles shows that high member retention is one of the attributes that distinguishes top-performing club companies. The annual retention rate of leading North American clubs has ranged, historically, between 69% and 71%, with select segments outperforming others.

    Analyzing a sample from more than one million membership records, IHRSA One Million Strong not only presents key related statistics, but also provides an industry-wide retention benchmark, which clubs can utilize to assess their own performance. Doing so makes it possible for operators to be more effective with respect to managing sales, marketing, and customer service, as well as staff recruitment and training.

    My second recommendation for summer reading is Volume 3, Issue 1, of The IHRSA Retention Report, which has been compiled in collaboration with The Retention People (TRP), a leading provider of customer experience management (CEM) software and services.

    The latest installment in this ongoing series examines Net Promoter Score (NPS) results generated by more than 10,000 member interviews. Specifically, this report tales a long hard look at the characteristics of members and the experiences they’ve had with their club, which will tend to determine whether they’ll become club promoters (individuals who’d recommend the club to others) or detractors (ones who wouldn’t).

    The NPS North American benchmark is 43, which indicates that, for every 100 members, there are 43 more promoters than detractors.

    The current Retention Report focuses on three principal factors: demographics, attendance, and membership tenure. Its sequel, Volume 3, Issue 2, will examine three other vital components: member activity, member progress, and club communication.

    The NPS provides club operators with a clear sense of their business and their members’ loyalty. Using NPS, they can learn not only how members feel about their club, but also why they feel the way they do—insights critical to improving retention and fostering bottom-line growth.

    The IHRSA Retention Report is a free benefit of your IHRSA membership; to access it, simply log on to ihrsa.org/retention.

    Read together, these two new resources—the Report and One Million Strong—provide valuable lessons on how a laser-like attention to membership retention can drive the industry’s profitability and growth—not just for today, but for years to come.


    15th Annual IHRSA European Congress

    As the IHRSA European Congress marks its 15th year on October19-22, it remains firmly established as Europe’s premier educational and networking event for health club

     According to the planners, the Congress’ educational sessions will be more thought-provoking, the networking opportunities more numerous, and the venue more magnificent than ever before.

    Attendees will meet at the majestic Palais du Pharo, originally a royal palace built for Emperor Napoleon III (Napoleon I’s nephew), who wanted “a home with its feet in the water.” The three-story, former imperial residence sits on the waterfront, offering breathtaking views of the city’s Old Port area.

    Marseille, itself, is equally enchanting and teems with opportunities and activities to engage any visitor. The largest port city on the Mediterranean Sea, it was designated the European Capital of Culture in 2013. Congress attendees will be able to go for a cruise, take a cooking class in the vibrant local fish market, or savor a croissant at one of the many charming sidewalk cafés.

    Core keynoters

    Between the bouillabaisse and the pastries, Congress attendees can sample industry-specific intellectual fare that’s equally nourishing. A full menu of appealing seminars will explore creative strategies for obtaining new members, developing and managing a productive staff and in As the IHRSA European Congress marks its 15th creasing member retention.

    Sourcing expertise from outside the industry, the Congress will present two keynote speakers who’ll share valuable insights about what makes consumers, and clients, tick.

    Ken Hughes, a “consumer and shopper behaviorist,” and the CEO of Glacier Consulting, based in Dublin, will discuss the dramatic impact that technology is having on purchasing patterns. His firm works with many major multinational corporations, including IKEA, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Heineken. His presentation, “The Digital Native Advance: A New DNA for Shoppers,” is generously sponsored by Technogym.

    Bryan Williams, the second keynote speaker, is an acknowledged expert on customer service excellence. An author, trainer, and consultant, he so inspired attendees at IHRSA’s 34th Annual International Convention and Trade Show in Los Angeles that he was immediately asked to appear in Marseille as well. Williams stresses the critical role that a company’s executive staff plays in cultivating a topnotch customer service culture, focusing on the difference between merely managing and truly leading a service team.

    His presentation, “Creating a Culture of Ownership and Empowerment,” is certain to be a show-stopper.

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    Dream Machines

    Machine-based cardiovascular workouts—e.g., running on a treadmill— have long been a solitary, solo sort of affair. Now, however, club members no longer need to go it alone.

    Today, the equipment on your cardio floor is muscling its way into the group fitness studio. This relatively new phenomena is enticing clients to sweat more and giving clubs a significant upgrade in terms of retention and secondary revenue.

    The way you offer group fitness might never be the same again.

    New roles for machines

    First, there were the bikes.
Group cycling, now nearly three decades old, is still going strong, and seems to be unstoppable. In fact, wheels are spinning feverishly, not only in traditional clubs, but also in facilities dedicated to the practice. For instance, Soul Cycle, based in New York City, has more than 40 studios across the U.S., staging classes that are consistently sold out, and is planning to expand in Europe.

    Given this, the question many in the industry are asking is: If bikes can do it, why not other types of equipment, too?

    As a result, manufacturers, club owners and operators, and fitness professionals are all looking at equipment in an entirely new way, and weighing the promising possibilities.

    Treadmills are, perhaps, the front-runners in this growing trend. Crunch Fitness, the ever-entertainment- minded, New York–based brand, offers sessions such as Tread N’ Shed and Runway, both of which utilize treadmills. And Orangetheory Fitness, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida–based fitness franchise, features a 60-minute workout that employs treadmill-based intervals.

    “People want to train smarter. And harder,” points out Deborah Warner, the founder and program director of the Mile High Run Club (MHRC), a 4000-square-foot boutique treadmill studio in New York City. “They’re eager for better results, and these classes deliver them.” Her facility, open 7 days a week from as early as 6 a.m. until as late as 9 p.m., offers classes such as Dash28.

    The 45-to-60-minute classes cost $34 each.

    Warner is a former instructor for Equinox, the Manhattan-based chain that offers its own take on group treadmill classes as part of its Precision Running program, and which, coincidentally, also operates Soul Cycle.

    For Warner, machine-centric group workouts
 are definitely not a passing trend. “There’s great
potential here to equal the success of group
cycling,” she contends. “The music, the lights, the group dynamic, the accountability, and the coach
who guides and inspires you—they make this a
compelling option with definite staying power.”

    It also appeals to a wide demographic. “We’re attracting beginners, as well as the advanced, elite, competitive runners,” she explains. “There are far more indoor runners than indoor cyclists, and treadmills are actually the No. 1 most popular type of cardio equipment.”

    MHRC makes use of 30 treadmills provided by Woodway USA, and, Warner reports, “They’re in a league all their own—built like a tank.”


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    First Person: Cecil Spearman

    You’ve been a successful club operator since the 1970s, and now own and operate three large multipurpose facilities. The reasons for your success?

    We carefully select each location, and own the property, as well as the club. We try to offer something for everyone, train our professional staff to treat our members well, and constantly work to add value to our memberships.

    Obviously, tennis has played a major role in your life. In your view, what’s right, and wrong, about the game today?

    One good thing is that clubs can use social media to spread the word about tennis in an affordable way, and a growing membership provides economies of scale. One concern, though, is that baby boomers, who made the sport popular in the late ’60s, are giving it up because it’s hard on their bodies. And, for Millennials, playing tennis costs too much.

    Clubs must offer affordable memberships and services that appeal to families, including quality tennis lessons for boys and girls. We welcome players of all ages, and encour- age reentry for people who haven’t played for years.

    You’ve been an IHRSA member since 1984. What one thing has surprised you about the association the most?

    I joined the day I met John McCarthy, IHRSA’s executive director emeritus, at a tennis trade show in California. With him at the helm, I was confident that what was then IRSA had a great future, but its tremendous growth has been a pleasant surprise. The industry, and the association, will grow even more as club attendance becomes established as an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

    In 1985, you launched women-only clubs. Your thoughts on the current trend toward market segmentation?

    I thought they’d require a smaller upfront investment and deliver a good return on investment (ROI). But they couldn’t match the performance of a multisport club. My sense is that today’s small specialty club operators may experience too much turnover for an acceptable ROI.

    Technology is here ... What’s been the effect on your clubs?

    Currently, 70% of our new members come from referrals, and, clearly, the Internet plays a significant role. Many people learn about us from our Website, so we’re upgrading it so they can tour a club and make a decision to join. Tech- nology is critical to success. We can change with the times, or risk becoming a statistic. Because we expect our referral rate to eventually drop to 50%, we work to keep members happy, so they’ll keep referring their friends.

    Over the past 30 years, you’ve sold a number of clubs. Any suggestions for owners about buying or selling?

    It’s important to plan for your exit before buying. For example, I built my first indoor tennis club in an upscale industrial park, reasoning that, if it failed, I could then convert the building into a warehouse. The club did well, but I sold it because it was twice as valuable as a warehouse.

    Yours is a family business, and you’ve been transferring duties to your children. How’s that’s going?

    Jean, my wife of 56 years, as vice president of operations, oversees cleaning and renovations. My three sons run the business day to day. I serve as CEO, and when we do strategic planning, I settle any disagreements. My son, Steve, a CPA, is CFO. Scott, who’s skilled at management and fitness, is a general manager. Mark, a former all- American tennis player, handles all tennis matters.

    Consultants are helping Jean and me decide what to do when we can’t handle our duties any longer. We hope that our sons and grandkids will work together as well in the future as my wife, sons, and I have in the past.


    For the Claremont Club, Community Service is Key

    Fitness is all-inclusive. Cancer does not discriminate either.

    A remarkable woman once said, “Exercising isn’t about how much more somebody can bench-press after 10 weeks. It is about people realizing that they can regain some control of their own bodies…because when you’re a patient you have no control.”

    This is how Julie Main, former IHRSA Board Chairperson and convention speaker, felt in 1993 when she was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer.  During her treatment, Main exercised physical and mental poise to keep up her strength. Put simply, she credited exercise as the solution to staying healthy.

    A year later, Main helped to develop a Cancer Well-fit program with help from the local community medical associations.  Speaking to the crowd at the IHRSA convention, she stressed the importance of having an active presence in the community and emphasized that anyone is capable of being physically active.

    Denise Johnson, Wellness Director at the Claremont Club, sees the passion and purpose in Main’s words realized in the work that she does at her club every day.  It was after hearing Main speak, that the Claremont Club decided that it was time for them to begin offering similar programming.

    “We thought the Cancer Well-fit program was awesome,” says Johnson, “We got more information from Julie, added and changed some things to make the program our own, and were able to partner with a local hospital to get started.”   

    Since then, the club has joined with the Robert and Beverly Lewis Cancer Care Center to create the “Living Well After Cancer” Program. Funded by private donations and the club’s Art of Giving event this initiative works to improve the fitness levels of cancer survivors in the hopes of increasing quality of life and boosting self-esteem levels. The program is offered at no cost to cancer survivors or their families and more than 500 survivors have participated to date.

    Participants meet at the club twice a week for thirteen weeks and participate in exercise classes that include yoga, pilates, Zumba, aqua aerobics, cardio dance, hula hooping, and more. In addition, certified trainers and dieticians oversee the participants and are always available to provide personalized training techniques and guidance on healthy eating habits. Support group meetings are also offered as part of the recovery process and these extra resources add to the standard of care that is readily available.

    Claremont is also excited to announce that they have added a male LWAC program and currently offer massages to participants and are looking to implement additional services for survivors in the future – including visits from estheticians and massage therapists.

    “Every time we host the 13 week program, we discover something else that we should add,” says Johnson.  

    And the Claremont Club is looking to build upon their commendable community outreach initiatives in the future. They have no intention of slowing down.

    In addition to enhancing previously established programs, the club is also looking to create brand new programming within the next year.

    In September, they will be offering their first program for those living with diabetes. For 6 weeks participants will have the chance to meet with a registered dietitian to discuss managing blood sugar, dealing with stress, meal planning, healthy eating, preventing or dealing with complications, and becoming more knowledgeable about the benefits of exercise in relation to living with the disease. The exercise component is especially notable since many programs of this kind do not offer anything of this sort.

    In April, the club began a pediatric cancer program and is helping children and their families struggling with this debilitating disease a safe haven and a place to reconnect.

    “Community outreach gives meaning to what we do,” Johnson says, “If you are not currently offering programming such as this, then you are missing out.”

    Support from the community is essential for the Claremont Club. These efforts are about starting small and gradually expanding to successfully spread the importance behind building a culture and community of wellness.

    That being said, Claremont’s mission starts with making exercise easily accessible and fun for everyone.

    Echoing the thoughts of Main, Johnson says, “Exercise should not be limited to the able-bodied. It should be for everybody.” 


    Is Your Club Making a Difference in Your Community? 

    We would love to hear from you! Applications for IHRSA's 2016 Outstanding Community Service Award are now available. 
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    Bearable Wearables

    The latest fitness craze is not CrossFit or functional training, or group exercise classes involving drums or ballet barres. And it isn’t about crunching abs. In reality, it’s more about crunching numbers.

    The latest, fastest-growing, and, potentially, most disruptive trend is the explosion of so-called wearables: small, sophisticated, and mobile devices that can, among other things, count steps, track movement, and analyze sleep patterns for users with impressive accuracy. Analyzing data has become one of the most popular pastimes for fitness-minded folks.
The implications for health clubs?
Significant, yes.
Understood—not very well, quite yet.
The industry currently resides on the lower steps of the wearables learning curve.

    An estimated 21% of the U.S. population currently owns a wearable

    device, according to a recent report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers—that’s one out of every five citizens, or some 67 million people ... And another study puts the number at one in four.

    Among the most popular devices is the Apple Watch, released in April, which offers a tempting assortment of health-and-fitness activity and tracking features. Also in great demand are dedicated fitness and activity trackers, such as the Fitbit product line, Jawbone’s UP activity trackers, and the Microsoft Band. Worn on the wrist or clipped to one’s clothing, these units can track factors such as the user’s physical movements, sleep rhythms, calories burned, and heart-rate function. Other wearables make use of earbuds, heart-rate belts, and even skin patches.

    The data generated is generally delivered via a Website or mobile app, allowing users to set activity goals, detect patterns over time, monitor food intake, and make appropriate lifestyle modifications. In many cases, wearables also can be used to share results or engage in friendly competitions with friends owning the same brand of device.

    Bottom line, wearables can quantify a user’s movement and dining activity; motivate them to move more and eat more wisely; set exercise and nutrition goals; and create a supportive, healthy-lifestyle social circle.

    It’s easy to see why some club operators view this popular, and rapidly morphing, technology as the new competitive kid on the block. If someone can obtain all of this information, guidance, and service from a $99 device, why would they want to pay $99 a month for a club membership?

    That’s the as-yet-unenlightened response to the advent of wearables.

    However, the experts that CBI queried agree that anyone with that mindset is looking at wearables the wrong way. In fact, this technology, they say, could prove to be a boon for the industry.


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