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American Obesity Is Still On The Rise - How Health Clubs Can Help

Corey Loehr
January 18, 2020
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Times are interesting in our country -- technological advances, political divide, and mixed viewpoints on climate change. There’s one thing that we can all agree on, however. The American obesity crisis is still on the rise. As fitness business owners, you are one of the main sources of resolution for this crisis. Here’s how you can help:

Overcoming the inactivity crisis

Physical inactivity is one of the greatest causes of concern for American obesity. The following are some shocking discoveries found in PHIT America’s Inactivity Pandemic report:

  1. Only seven percent of American children are physically active to CDC standards; 
  2. The number of active U.S. children dropped to 23.9 percent, a decrease of 15 percent in the last five years; 
  3. Children from low-income families are rapidly becoming less physically active; 
  4. U.S. children rank 47th out of 50 countries in global fitness; 
  5. Roughly 75 percent of all U.S. teens are not fit enough to join the military because they are not physically active, exercising, not playing sports and not getting P.E. at school; 
  6. In 2017, life expectancy in the United States declined for the second straight year

What these statistics show is that children are getting increasingly less active. Similar trends reflect in people of all ages. These downward trends can impact the fitness industry over the long term scope. It also impacts sales for sports apparel, athletic footwear, and sporting goods equipment.

Creating youth-focused programs

So what can be done to make a positive impact on these trends? PHIT is taking the approach of investing in P.E. in elementary schools. As a society, another key to solving the inactivity crisis is companionship. People are more likely to get involved in something when they have a friend to join them. This is a great observation when considering referral programs in health clubs, and why they are critical for member success. Another takeaway for health clubs could be to offer more youth-focused programs.

Educating about the importance of strength training

If you have ever worked inside a health club, you have likely spoken with people who have a resistance (no pun intended) to strength training. Perhaps these individuals find the strength equipment confusing or overwhelming or they simply do not understand the role strength training plays in fat loss. In this modern era, consumers have access to limitless tools to help them reach their fitness goals. The ability to follow fitness influencers on social media and access to a wealth of knowledge in the palm of their hands has certainly helped reduce the stigma associated with strength training.However, as health club owners, you can help by briefing your staff on the importance of strength training and how to overcome these common roadblocks. When it clicks with a consumer that increases in lean muscle is the key to losing more body fat, people will begin to see greater results and want to share this knowledge. Another approach would be to offer educational material that explains this, whether it be on your website or social media, signage inside your clubs, or pamphlets that can be handed out to your members. You could also offer to host lunch-n-learns to educate larger groups of people at local businesses and, of course, provide an incentive for enrolling at your gym.

Promoting proper nutrition

According to Club Industry, nutrition is the number one element that most health clubs miss in the fight against obesity. Proper nutrition is equally as important as physical activity, yet many health club owners shy away from educating their members about it. Boutique studios have been known to take a more hands-on approach with nutritional education, but big-box gyms tend to focus on full classes and membership sales.Anyone in the business of helping people get healthier should offer as much nutritional guidance as possible, even if that means converting more members to one-on-one personal training clients so they get that direct support. Providing some basic nutritional education to all members like a food guide or list of healthy pantry items will only help to benefit member retention and fitness results. This could also serve as a conversation piece to gauge interest in personal training.

Building a bridge from health care and health clubs

In the 80s, no state had an obesity rate of over 15%. As of 2013, almost two-thirds of Americans were either overweight or obese, and the majority of states had obesity rates of 25%. If this rate continues at the same pace, that means 50% of Americans will be obese by 2030. Obesity impacts people’s quality of living and increases their risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. The tangible result of obesity is $147 billion per year in U.S. healthcare costs.While consumers have access to more options than ever, there is still a downward trend in obesity rates. According to Dr. Geib of ReshapeMD, distrust exists between the healthcare world and the health club industry. Many medical professionals often view fitness businesses as superficial individuals focused more on appearance than health. Fitness professionals often view doctors as only treating symptoms with medications and not addressing the underlying causes. If we could find a way to get these two groups to work together, it could solve the obesity crisis.What could that bridge look like? Stronger relationships between doctors and fitness providers would be ideal. Perhaps more food and exercise logs could be encouraged by both parties and reviewed by doctors when treating symptoms. Other tech-based solutions may not exist yet but could bridge the gap between healthcare and health clubs.In the meantime, getting more involved with the promotion of youth activity, educating people on the importance of strength training, and providing nutritional guidance can be a focus for all health club operators in order to slowly chip away at the obesity epidemic.

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