Join fitness industry experts, in collaboration with IHRSA and REX Roundtables, for a monthly talk show featuring current events, industry news, and hot topics.

Talks & Takes: Optimism in the Fitness Industry

In the fifth installment of Talks & Takes, sponsored by ABC Fitness Solutions, the industry veteran panel, Brent Darden, Bill McBride, and Blair McHaney, with special guest, Allison Flatley, discussed the progress the GYMS Act is making, diversifying your content, and how clubs can help their members with nutrition and weight management.

This episode's topics include:

  • 1:25 GYMS ACT Progress

  • 5:36 Industry Optimism

  • 11:58 Diversifying Your Content

  • 18:01 Celebrities as the Face of Fitness

  • 23:35 Media Influence: Positive or Negative

  • 29:20 Hiring Bottlenecks and Wage Pressure

  • 35:30 CDC Guidelines and Mask Policies

  • 42:50 Wellness vs. Well-being

  • 49:19 Nutrition and Weight Management

  • 55:00 Recap and Key Takeaways

  • 58:00 15-Minute After Chat

Before we share our top takeaways from the May 19 show, don’t forget to register for the next Talks & Takes taking place on June 16!

GYMS Act Progress

McHaney started by discussing the progress we’re making on the GYMS Act. When this episode aired, there were 120 co-sponsors in the House and two in the Senate. This is a $30 billion grant for the fitness industry and important for all of us. McHaney suggests to keep calling and writing to your legislators and get them in your clubs. “Leverage relationships to see if we can influence the senators,” McHaney said. To learn more about the GYMS Act, you can visit theGYMSAct.com, and to get the most updated information on how the GYMS Act is doing, please visit ihrsa.org/dashboard.

Talks Takes weights exercise pexels column

Industry Optimism

Darden pointed out that we are seeing optimism in the fitness industry. He discussed the Wellness Section Initiation report by Credit Suisse and identified the four trends around wellness that have us feeling optimistic. These trends include:

  • Aging population. The World Health Organization predicts the population over 60 years old will nearly double by 2050.

  • Reversing unhealthy lifestyle effects. Credit Suisse believes consumers are becoming aware of increasing unhealthy lifestyles and will incorporate aspects of health and wellness to reverse this.

  • Proactive lifestyle choices. There is an increasing pursuit of lifestyle choices that include more exercise, healthier food choices, adoption of health and fitness tech, and more time spent outdoors.

  • Younger generations are spending more money. The younger generation is spending more per trip to the store on health and wellness.

“We should be excited about the older population living longer with a higher quality of life,” said McBride. Flatley also added that the younger generations are spending more money primarily on e-commerce. She suggested clubs review the services on their website and app for ease of use and convenience. “The younger generation doesn’t want to go anywhere, but they will buy it online,” Flatley said.

Talks Takes woman shopping pexels column

Hiring Bottlenecks and Wage Pressure

Flatley covered the topic of hiring bottlenecks and wage pressure. She explained companies are raising hourly rates and the fitness industry sometimes struggles to attract good workers. Clubs should think about this and ask themselves if they need to raise their wages or change their staffing strategy.

Flatley also reminded the audience that job responsibilities are different post-pandemic. “If you're a top club in your market, you better be taking care of your people. When your members think you’re not treating your people well, it will come back to you,” McHaney added, “You’re competing against everyone for talent, not just local gyms.”

Wellness vs. Well-being

Darden says he has noticed a bit of a shift and push-back on the concept of wellness and how the word is used. He added that people think the word is overused. “Wellness is really more of physiological changes, nutrition, being active, getting sleep, hydration, those types of things. Well-being, on the other hand, is so much broader of a concept. It’s where you are spiritually, relationally, mental wellness, and financial security,” Darden said.

“It is nice that exercise is part of achieving wellness or well-being. The human body was meant to move,” McHaney added. Darden shared a shocking statistic from a recent Gallup survey where only 4% of U.S. adults consider themselves to be thriving when it comes to physical well-being.

McBride went on to add that we also have a mental health crisis in the U.S. because of the high demand for psychiatrists and therapists. “We are in a crisis and we are a big part of the solution. Happy people live longer,” said McBride.

Talks & Takes Quick Bites

Besides the top takeaways, hosts touched on a wide range of other topics. Here are the key points:

  • Celebrities as the Face of Fitness. We’re seeing a lot of celebrities partnering with the fitness industry from Beyonce and Will Smith to Mark Wahlberg. McHaney started the discussion by saying, “Celebrities’ endorsement with body acceptance is tremendously powerful.” He talked about Will Smith and how he is getting older but still holds high regard for fitness and wellness. “It’s a huge shift that makes celebrity endorsement valuable,” said McHaney. Flatley added, “The more people that get behind our industry the better.”

  • Media Influence: Positive or Negative. The powerhouse panel discussed media influence. “The notation that any press is good press isn’t necessarily true,” McBride said. He then explained that sometimes reporters get into an angle to get people to find controversy but sometimes the press is not coming with both sides of the story and every story has two sides. McBride’s advice is to get the correct story out there, don’t give up, and to know your local media so they know you and give you the benefit of the doubt before they run stories that may be negative.

  • Diversifying Your Content. McBride shared a video with key messages around the topics of representation matters, fitness is for everyone, and the importance of diversity. “When we talk about diversity, we’re not talking about gender, we’re talking about ageism, people with disabilities, we’re talking the whole spectrum of what it takes to be diverse in your operation,” said McBride. He added the point that you can’t be diverse in your content if you are not diverse in how you’re hiring. When hiring, he suggested asking yourself, “Who am I hiring, and are those individuals representative of my community?” He also suggested considering how you write job descriptions, where you recruit, and reviewing how you attract diversity for your team members so everyone feels welcome. “Diversity starts with awareness—be authentic and true,” McBride added.

  • CDC Guidelines and Mask Policies. McHaney started the discussion with a story on how he was in Las Vegas, Nevada when the CDC announced the new mask guidelines. He recalls seeing plexiglass everywhere as he was leaving his hotel that morning, but by night time, the plexiglass was gone and hardly anyone was wearing a mask, including employees. ”What was stunning to me was the difference in attitude in people. When masks come off, people engage more,” McHaney said.

  • Nutrition and Weight Management. Flatley shared her thoughts on nutrition and weight management and pointed out that our industry has not done well to educate people on this topic. “Nutrition is so much more than the plate. As an industry, there's a huge opportunity with nutrition and weight management,” Flatley added. People are looking for nutrition and weight management and she encourages clubs to capitalize on it.

Don’t miss the June edition of Talks & Takes.

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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.