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Tuesday
Sep022014

#WhyGetActive reaches more than 1 million Twitter users

Rep. Ron Kind shows why he gets active.How often have you walked in your club, glanced around and considered how unique and different all of your members are?

The thought occurs to many club operators virtually every day.

That’s because clubs excel at attracting people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and fitness levels, and because each one of those members - regardless of the demographic details—has their own specific objective when it comes to exercise.

Why do they work out? One can only guess. Is that older man lifting weights so he can continue playing with his grandkids?

Is that younger woman pounding away on the treadmill to shed her post-pregnancy weight?

Do the members in that yoga class want to reduce stress, strengthen their core, manage their back pain ... or all three?

One can only guess ... or, better yet, ask.

The motivations, the reasons, that bring people to your club are endless. Some of them are clear and understood, and others, subliminal and barely sensed. But, in either case, none of the reasons have much impact on others unless they can be articulated and well aired.

That’s precisely why IHRSA has launched a new social media campaign, #WhyGetActive. Its mission: to share one’s personal motivations for exercising with the world.

“The goal of #WhyGetActive is two-fold,” explains Joe Moore, IHRSA’s president and CEO. “We want to create a community in which people inspire each other to get active, and foster a movement to make physical activity a priority for every government and community. #WhyGetActive is our code word for this cause.”

The program is simple - yet sophisticated and powerful.

Participants share their own personal reason(s) for being active - e.g., “To compete in a marathon” - on their social media networks, and include the hashtag #WhyGetActive to categorize their post. They can write their reason on a whiteboard, take a photo of themselves holding the sign, or a photo of themselves working out, and post it. They’re also encouraged to share inspiring online content.

Creating a dialogue

IHRSA soft-launched the campaign in March at its 33rd Annual International Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, and, since then, it’s struck a chord within the industry.

Consider the response triggered by Twitter alone: Between May 21 and July 1, there were 772 related tweets by 191 contributors, which reached more than one million users.

You read that right - more than one million!

Author and professor Walter Bortz remains active in his 80s.Not only that, but there also were 4,094,619 “timeline deliveries,” which represents the total possible number of times someone could have viewed a particular message - a measure of how broadly it’s circulating. (The number is calculated by adding the follower count of the person who authored the original tweet and the follower-count of those who re-tweeted it.)

#WhyGetActive is harnessing the power of social media to spread the word about the value of exercise in an efficient and effective way, suggests Moore. “For a long time, IHRSA and other physical activity advocates promoted the health benefits of exercise - e.g., reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease - but we’ve come to realize that, while the message of primary health prevention remains critically important, it hasn’t been persuasive enough.”

What is compelling, though, are an individual’s personal reasons for getting and remaining active – those do resonate with others. “People have gotten the message that exercise is good for their health,” says Moore. “Now, we want to shift the focus to why a person wants to be healthy and active.”

The campaign has produced responses encompassing everything from “To keep up with my kids” to “Because I love JIF peanut butter.” That’s the beauty of the concept, indicates David Van Daff, the vice president of business development and public relations for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and an early adopter of #WhyGetActive. “The reasons people have for becoming active are very subjective and personal - for instance, because they want to enjoy a particular food, just went through a divorce, or want to fit into an old pair of jeans.”

Everyone at NASM has jumped on board, especially on Instagram, reports Van Daff. “Our staff and trainers are running with it and having fun,” he says. “It also helps fitness professionals seem more accessible to club members and potential clients. The #WhyGetActive campaign really brings out people’s creativity.” (The person who posted about his love of peanut butter was an NASM trainer.)

Engaging with members

Another early adopter of the campaign is L&T Health and Fitness, a Corporate Fitness Works company, in Falls Church, Virginia. Allison Flatley, L&T’s chief operating officer (COO), and a member of IHRSA’s board of directors, says L&T got involved because the new program expands the scope of what it means to be active. “#WhyGetActive goes beyond fitness,” she observes. “It focuses more on movement and activity - not just being fit and looking good in a bathing suit.”

She says the effort also is compelling because “it employs motivations people think about frequently - not just once, or a few times a year in the doctor’s office.”

Like NASM, L&T staff and members were eager to participate, and results have already accrued. Anthony Scaglione, L&T’s vice president of marketing and sales, notes that, thanks to the campaign, the company’s Twitter account tripled its highest-ever monthly total. “When we reviewed our key performance indicators for May, our most viewed post on Facebook was the staff #WhyGetActive video, which, as of right now, has reached 475 viewers.”

While it’s too early to tell if #WhyGetActive has had an impact on L&T’s bottom line, Flatley points out that “Anything that generates engagement with our members is good for our business.”

Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of Global Products, emphasizes that, while #WhyGetActive provides value for the public, it also produces business benefits. “Health clubs can use the hashtag and campaign to increase retention and attract new members,” he proposes. “In the case of current members, it reminds them why they’re at the gym and inspires them to keep using it. And, at the same time, it showcases the fun, energetic, and passionate community that exists in the club, helping to attract new members.”

Christine Thalwitz, the vice president of Marketing at ACAC, in Charlottesville, Virginia, is another active promoter of #WhyGetActive. “People always respond to stories about other people on social media,” she advises. “The stories create a tangible community. This new IHRSA initiative is fun and really easy to do.”

Storming Capitol Hill

#WhyGetActive also has proven a valuable tool in IHRSA’s efforts to network with, educate, and influence health promotion advocates and government bodies, in particular the U.S. Congress.

In June, the association was the chief sponsor of “Coming Together to Fight Inactivity,” a fitness fair held on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., to promote the campaign. The one-day event was hosted by the Congressional Fitness CaucusIHRSA help an event at the “Coming Together to Fight Inactivity" fitness fair in Washington, D.C., a legislative committee formed to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity; members of the caucus extended an open invitation to other members of Congress, legislative aides, and the media.

The fair included remarks by co-chairmen Ron Kind (D-WI) and Aaron Schock (R-IL); interactive exhibits by a number of IHRSA associate members and others; and a light workout led by VIDA Fitness, an IHRSA-member club company based in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Kind, an IHRSA ally and champion of pro-physical-activity public policies, endorses #WhyGetActive. “I’m always looking for new ways to promote good health and fitness, especially among the younger generations,” he explains. “This campaign is a fun way to get people thinking about their health at an age when healthy habits and routines can really take hold. Promoting good health is some- thing we all can do to help young people succeed in school and in their communities.”

The 60 members of Congress and/or their staff members who participated filled out whiteboards and posted their #WhyGetActive photos to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The outreach effort assembled a broad range of stakeholders in the physical activity arena and, con- cludes Moore, was definitely a success: “People were excited, and engaged, and we had an opportunity to raise a very important issue on Capitol Hill.”

The briefing portion of the event included presentations by Kind and Schock, which highlighted key public policy proposals to promote physical activity, among them the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) and the Fitness with Integrated Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids). The first would allow Americans to pay for club memberships via pretax accounts, such as health savings accounts (HSAs), and also would cover fitness equipment purchases and youth sports league fees. FIT Kids would make grants available to states to implement programs that promote nutrition, fitness, and physical activity efforts in schools.

“I think the legislators and Congressional staff left with a better understanding of the efforts the Congressional Fitness Caucus is making to promote physical activity, and learned about what various groups are doing to support these efforts,” reflects Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global public policy. “The event also fostered a dialogue between the groups themselves, helping to improve advocacy coordination, and strengthening efforts to advance the physical activity promotion agenda in Congress and on Capitol Hill.”

Ultimately, improving cooperation, interaction, coordination, and action among all of the advocates of increased physical activity is the key to making the world healthier, fitter, and, hopefully, happier. And that, of course, is #WhyGetActive’s defining goal. “Together, our voices are louder, stronger, and more influential,” posits Moore. “Together, we can really push the dial toward a more active world.”

Lilly Prince can be reached at lilly.prince12@gmail.com.

 

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