Revelations & Reflections on the Industry’s Road to Revival

There are “some emerging global themes that have risen to prominence and should be given significant attention by our industry,” writes interim President and CEO Brent Darden.

The CEO’s Column appears every month in the Club Business International magazine.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic around the globe, there are encouraging signs of optimism and hope. In the U.S., Americans are encouraged by President Biden’s vision that citizens will be able to gather for the July 4 celebrations free from restrictions and mask-wearing. In other parts of the world, moving toward “normalization” progresses in wide disparity depending on infection rates, vaccine inoculations, and government perspectives.

Some emerging global themes have also risen to prominence and should be given significant attention by our industry. Following are three of the top “big picture” opportunities.

Mental health concerns have moved to the forefront and become top of mind for the general population, healthcare providers, and overall public health.

A recent study from Kaiser found that 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder in 2021. Further, that 56% of young adults report symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder and that group is also more likely to report substance abuse (25% vs. 13%) and suicidal thoughts (26% vs. 11%).

These are staggering numbers. This also represents an obvious need that health clubs can play a role in reversing. Being physically active regularly is a proven, effective, and inexpensive anecdote. One that our industry should be poised to assist with.

Leadership Woman Yoga Unsplash Column

Obesity is an epidemic in itself for many countries.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, obesity has doubled in 73 countries since 1980. In the U.S. there are many states with obesity rates of over 40%. This “pre-existing” or “underlying condition” has undeniably exacerbated the toll of COVID-19 and mortality rates. John Hopkins released a report which described a “dramatic” correlation between countries COVID-19 death and obesity rates, finding that 90% or 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from the pandemic disease were in countries with high levels of obesity.

This fact, in addition to the understanding that obesity is a precursor tied to all manner of chronic lifestyle diseases, is bringing heightened awareness to this public health crisis. Taking a holistic approach that includes sustainable behavior change, diet and exercise will allow us to have a meaningful impact on this growing challenge.

Health Equity is a relatively new term that has tremendous ramifications for our industry.

When we opine about reaching the vast majority of the population that does not belong to health clubs/gyms, part of the conversation should include attracting underserved demographics. With high gym membership penetration rates in the mid-20s and low penetration rates in the single digits, all countries around the world have a vast opportunity to expand their member base. Doing so will require adopting a mindset of commitment to truly make it happen, crafting targeted marketing messages, and developing specific wellness programs.

Distinct offerings to serve; children, the elderly, under-represented ethnic groups, the physically and mentally challenged, individuals suffering from chronic diseases, and other unique segments of society, will need to be implemented. In addition, we need to reframe our definition, or at least our perspective about being physically active, to embrace and appreciate all forms of safe activity at any intensity. To move the needle purposefully and productively, we just need to get people to move.

Resources from IHRSA are available on each of these topics to support your efforts. This is part of what we as an industry are meant to do and it’s the “right thing to do”!

Related Articles & Publications

  • CBI May 2021

  • 5 Facts About Mental Health & Exercise During COVID-19

  • Doctor Says Gyms Can Help Prevent COVID-19 & Lessen Its Impact