May 23, 2012

7 ways health clubs are thinking outside the box

With recovery comes the step toward a healthier and happier life. There are also ways to keep your mind, body and spirit in shape — the start for your body can be an exercise routine. While some may not want to enter into too large of a commitment (or have the financial means) check out Renew’s Cheapskate’s Guide to Fitness. For others, they may need the encouragement and support of like-minded people at a health club or gym to get or stay in shape — a world that is evolving.


By David Roddenberry

Health club memberships in the U.S. have leveled out over the last 20 years while the obesity epidemic has ballooned. In light of this disparity, many health clubs are increasingly adopting unconventional programs to bolster their membership base and better motivate the marketplace to get fit and healthy.

“Amid the growing rate of obesity in the U.S., health clubs are continually challenged to drive new memberships and inspire current members to visit their facilities for workouts with some regularity to get, and keep, them on a healthy track,” says Kelli Calabrese, international fitness, nutrition and lifestyle specialist.

Here are a few new ways health clubs around the U.S. are beginning to think outside of the box of the simple sign-up and work-out:

1. Whole-Life Training. Health club facilities are now looking beyond just the exercise component of fostering a healthy lifestyle. In addition to personal trainingstaff, today’s progressive health clubs are boasting on-site nutritionists and other allied healthcare professionals like physical therapists and even psychologists. These added services holistically address all areas of a member’s life that impact their overall well-being, health and happiness.

2. Kicking Members Out. For outdoor fitness, that is. Some health clubs are utilizing their external real estate to promote fitness activities al fresco. Club owners are realizing that many get bored with the indoor offerings — even depressed or deterred — so they are offering running and cycling clubs, parking lot boot camps, spin classes and more. 

3. Weight Loss Wagering. Diet and weight-loss betting programs, like that offered by, are growing in popularity as both individuals and employee groups from coast to coast “diet for dollars.” More than 4,500 health clubs nationwide now serve as “weigh in locations” for contest participants as they shed pounds with their eye on the $10,000 team prize. Many companies nationwide have integrated such programs into their corporate wellness initiatives to benefit both employee groups and their own bottom line. 

4. Clubs Go Retro.Nostalgia evokes emotion and emotion drives action. With this in mind, throwback ‘80s fitness classes, where participants dress in period-inspired spandex and leg warmers and do aerobics to music by Michael Jackson, George Michael and the like, are bringing the neon headband-sporting, leotard-wearing enthusiasts to health clubs in droves. Originating in hipster 'hoods like LA and NYC, this ‘80s fitness craze is meant to be a fun, creative and, like, totally awesome way to attract new members – and keep current members coming back for more. 

5. Social Media Stimulation. From small boutique gyms to large national chains, health clubs are tapping the social mediasphere in innovative ways to stay connected with current andprospective members.Informative Facebook fan pages rife with workout strategies, success stories and special product offers; up-to-the-minute Twitter announcements, training tips and topical tweet feeds; online virtual fitness coaching; un-lockable specials on Foursquare; VLOGs (video blogs) and a myriad of other social networking strategies are helping health club purveyors better connect with the marketplace.

6.  Club Crawl. In an effort to get members integrated to all areas of the health club and its services, at the time of registration some clubs are giving new members a card with goals to complete for a prize. The goals can include trying fitness classes, completing a personal training session, meeting certain staff members and using specific areas of the fitness center. This gives members the opportunity to experience all the club has to offer before getting pigeon-holed into only one or two areas like nautilus machines or heading right for the spin bike studio. 

7. Gamers Press Play! Video gamers take note: one private gym in Mountain View, Calif., Overtime Fitness Inc., has tailored its offerings to teenagers in a novel approach to address childhood obesity. This facility boasts an arcade filled with physical video games that require dancing, boxing and jumping. Riders race against each other on stationary bikes networked to a server. Teen fitness has never been so effective at making health clubbing “cool.” 


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