‘Talks & Takes’ Hosts Take on Top Fitness Industry Topics

    In the show’s lively debut, four industry insiders share their thoughts on current news, speculation on the future of gyms, and the challenges and opportunities facing fitness businesses. 'Talks & Takes' is sponsored by ABC Fitness Solutions.

    A new twist on the typical industry webinar, Talks & Takes approaches key topics around the fitness industry and provides information to help better your business.

    In the show’s debut, hosts Brent Darden, IHRSA interim president and CEO, and REX Roundtables chairman; Sara Kooperman, J.D., CEO, SCW Fitness Education and WATERinMOTION; Bill McBride, co-founder, president, and CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3 owner; and Blair McHaney, CEO of MXM and WORX Health Clubs owner, discussed pertinent topics from the industry’s future to Peloton’s purchase of Precor, and more.

    Here’s a recap of the first-ever Talks & Takes, sponsored by ABC Fitness Solutions.

    But first, don't forget to sign up for the next show that will take place Wednesday, February 17, 2021.

    Hosts Dive Into Industry’s Future Outlook

    The group covered negative media speculating whether gyms are dead. They discussed that while fitness center businesses might look different, people still need fitness solutions. With virtual programming booming, consumers are forming new habits but will still look for community and connection.

    “There is an energy human beings share when they are with each other. I think gyms are far from dead,” McBride said.

    People struggle to stay connected with at-home programs even while spending anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars on fitness equipment, the hosts noted.

    “Home exercise equipment isn’t new. Having it is one thing. Using it is another,” Darden said.

    Obesity, depression, and isolation are all on the rise, according to reports, making health and human connection more important than ever.

    “People need people and that is what gyms provide,” Kooperman said.

    IHRSA Appears On ‘Good Morning America’

    "Good Morning America” released a segment featuring IHRSA data from the fall of 2020, stating that the fitness industry has seen a $14 billion loss and an estimated 25% of gyms could close by the end of 2020.

    Darden noted the data GMA used is now outdated: According to an IHRSA survey at the end of 2020, 17% of clubs have closed as of December 31, 2020, 14% of big box health clubs closed, and 19% of studios have closed.

    While some club closures are imminent, there are indicators that the pendulum could swing toward an increased demand for health clubs in the future.

    “I find it hard to believe that the demand isn’t there when we get to the back half of this year. There is going to be a lot of opportunity as vaccines get more prominent out there,” McHaney said.

    Federal Support for U.S. Fitness Businesses

    The group touched on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Employee Retention Credit (ERC) loans, which were largely implemented to help businesses support employees to keep their jobs.

    “A challenge for studios is that they have independent contractors so they don’t qualify for the loans or as much, and we predict this is why a lot of studios are closing,” said Kooperman.

    It is recommended that eligible businesses apply for the second round even if they received the first, the hosts noted, and said it’s not too late to apply, but to do so soon.

    Updates on Possible Industry Relief

    The panel shared a proposed industry relief package in the U.S., referred to as the GYMS Act or the Gyms Mitigation and Survival Act, which could be a critical opportunity to deliver broader relief for the fitness industry at large.

    “If this passes, it will mean a huge bounce back for all,” said McHaney.

    The bill was introduced February 5 by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). IHRSA will release more information on the progress of the GYMS Act as it moves through Congress. Learn how you can support this bipartisan bill at ihrsa.org/savefitness.

    What’s Behind Peloton’s Purchase of Precor?

    Peloton’s purchase of Precor was big news and the panel discussed its potential impact on the industry. The transaction cost $420 million.

    McBride gave some insights on the reasoning behind the purchase. Peloton was having trouble keeping up with manufacturing demand for equipment, McBride noted, and Precor has the capacity to help with that demand and possibly the hardware of the bike, as well. So overall, this was a good deal for both companies, McBride said.

    A Shortage of Instructors in Australia

    Kooperman discussed the shortage of instructors and trainers coming back to work in Australia after gyms had been closed for 10 months and what it could mean for the industry as a whole.

    The best trainers are delivering virtually, connecting with communities and even starting businesses, she said, so it’s imperative for club owners and managers to stay in touch and connect with instructors.

    “They will help bring members back,” she said.

    Some Thoughts on Apple Watch/Fitness+

    Apple Watch is the No. 1 wearable in the U.S. and statistics show it has the highest retention rate, according to McBride—signaling the strength behind wearable technology’s popularity.

    “Apple is now embedded with manufacturers equipment. It might not be connected with the equipment in your club today but when you buy the next round it surely will be,” said McBride.

    Apple is helping change behaviors, McBride said, and underlined that the industry has an opportunity to work with Apple in the future.

    Top ACSM Trends & What They Could Mean

    ACSM has delivered the ACSM Fitness Trends report, which gave the No. 1 spot to online training and No. 2 to wearable technology.

    SCW Fitness Education also surveyed the group exercise community and noticed some interesting trends.

    Active aging made both lists as well as mindfulness, mental health, and immunity support. There are other trends articles out there that should be reviewed as club operators. Below are a few recommendations:

    Henry Ford Health System Study

    Darden shared a study worth noting, including over 1,100 people who had taken a COVID-19 test and had a recent exercise stress test. The study found those in better aerobic shape were far less likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19.

    The study is the first to link exercise capacity (versus self-reported physical activity) to COVID-19 severity, showing the odds of hospitalization for COVID-19 were lower among people who were fitter.

    “This is research tying directly to COVID-19 and supports the efficacy of being active and in shape,” said Darden.

    Kooperman mentioned that many who have suffered from COVID-19 would be returning to our fitness centers and will need support.

    “Develop a post COVID-19 recovery and rehabilitation program. This could be a real opportunity to help people and from a revenue perspective. We have to keep people healthy,” said Kooperman.

    Join the next Talks & Takes at 2 p.m. - 3 p.m. EST, Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Be sure to tune in!

    Author avatar

    Elizabeth Studebaker

    Elizabeth Studebaker focuses on new business marketing and employee engagement and advocacy for the Active Wellness organization. She has over 10 years of fitness marketing expertise and has been a speaker for IHRSA and served on the Medical Fitness Association Marketing Committee. She works out of her home office in the Bay Area and stays active by taking Active GO virtual classes or chasing around her 1.5-year-old son.