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The Health-Fitness Institute

By Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.

Imagine the next IHRSA annual convention in San Diego.

Sure, my city, San Diego, is tagged as “America’s Finest,” but I’m not talking about where the convention will be. I’m talking about what the convention will be—more specifically, what you’ll come away with that will turbo-charge your bottom line.

But why wait until next year to revolutionalize your business?

Are your members yawning or are they “awe-ing”? Are you filling your club with machines—new machines, more machines—or with crisper, newer models of health and fitness delivery systems? Are your members becoming healthier in ways that can be identified and tracked, or are they simply enjoying the latest “playout”? Are you filling your staff with “celebrity trainers,” or making your members feel as though they’re the celebrities? Do you regard towel distributors and protein-shake companies as your partners, or do you realize that physicians and health coaches are the people that you should be partnering with now?

Sure, you need a strong sales force, certified personal trainers, and the latest group-ex classes. But what are you doing—really doing—to spark an industry revolution: one that will drive preventative healthcare, help curtail the national obesity epidemic, promote cardiac rehabilitation, offer diabetes education, increase workplace wellness efforts, enhance emotional wellness, and cultivate genuine lifestyle change?

No, more machines and louder, hipper music won’t do it—that’s yesterday’s answer. I’m yawning. And your members aren’t “awe-ing.” Old responses to new problems aren’t the answer.

Our industry is undergoing a total, disruptive transfiguration. It’s been developing for a while—lots of discussions, interesting meetings, provocative publications—but now it’s time for some peak VO2 max.

Today, there really is no complete expert on the new “health and fitness institute” model. We’re still learning, revising, morphing, and transforming. We’re beginning by communicating with physicians and health coaches, who often share our goal of wanting to incentivize illness prevention; with human resources professionals, who want to foster a healthier and more productive workforce; with mental health professionals, who want to identify new ways to promote positive, effective functioning; and with a myriad of allied health professionals, who want to optimize healthcare—not illness-treatment—in their practices.

Sure, there are medical professionals who will remain grounded in the traditional, white-coat role of selling examinations, tests, medicines, procedures, and hospitalizations. But these, increasingly, will be regarded as relics as the new “health and fitness institute” model, which involves collaborative efforts, unfolds.

Do you realize that you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to helping reduce 65%-75% of the costs and deaths attributed to chronic diseases that are lifestyle-related? It’s all about behavior change and improvement. That’s why astute gym operators are trading today for tomorrow. Your gym—doesn’t that term already sound out of date—can become the health and fitness hub in your community, making it possible for members to avoid or better deal with these deadly diseases. So join forces with your local medical, health, and corporate professionals to make a difference—a real difference—both for the  public and your business.

Sure, meeting with your equipment, towel, and protein-shake vendors is still important, but don’t let them convince you that those trappings are what your members are looking for. What prospects and member are looking for is a more rewarding life—one that’s fit, healthy, and satisfying. That’s what the fitness industry of 2014 is all about.

- Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D., is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and can be contacted at

* The IHRSA Trend Report: Volume 3, Issue 1, is available in PDF format at for free to IHRSA members, and to nonmembers for $99.95 at

Reader Comments (1)

Hi Michael

Thanks for this great post. We are entering a golden age for the industry - one where business models will either change to meet the new opportunities or die. Disruption is here and it will be a great ride with leaders like you who see what the future holds. Technology is a major part of this new paradigm. Our industry needs to mature and see the potential that exists in creating standards and integrating delivery around the customer in new ways.

I always enjoy your thoughts and thanks so much for your voice !!

Bryan O'Rourke
June 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBryan O'Rourke

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