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21 Jan 2018 Health Club Management Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - Hi-tech future

Industry insights

Hi-tech future


How can health clubs and gyms take advantage of the opportunities presented by new wearable technology? We ask the experts



Stephen Davies Digital health consultant bionicly.com

 

Stephen Davies
 

Digital health will be a boon for health clubs, provided they’re willing to adapt. Indeed, in 30 years’ time, historians will say this was the decade when health went through a period of enlightenment. They’ll say the 2010s was the decade that kickstarted a new era in health thanks to a perfect storm of technological and biological innovations that came of age during this time.  

They’ll speak of ‘The Mobile Wars’, which resulted in an exponential increase in the processing power of smartphones; the introduction of the Internet of Things, where sensor technology connected everything and everyone to the internet; tracking devices that could be placed both on top of and inside of the body; reams of data that could be interrogated to answer important questions about the human body; and genetic and biological breakthroughs that radically changed how we ate, slept and trained. 

They’ll make reference to the Digital Revolution and how it perpetually changed and altered business models – how the health clubs that failed to move with the times were the ones that ultimately failed, while those that embraced digital disruption were the ones that succeeded in providing new, holistic ways to help people live active lives up to the age of 100 (the predicted average lifespan in 2055). 

How will the successful clubs have done it? Through bravery and experimentation in the quest for digital transformation, fostered from the leadership team throughout the organisation. By creating new roles to spearhead the change, including chief digital health officer, head of personal analytics, and chief science officer. Finally, through an ecosystem of partnerships with third-party digital health companies, insurance providers and health organisations that enabled them to provide a 24-hour service that went well beyond the walls of the gym. 


 


photo: www.shutterstock.com/ Alliance

The way we eat, sleep and train will be radically changed this decade


Arron Williams Special projects Life Fitness

There’s no doubt technology is going to change things in our industry, but my experience thus far has been that most operators are rather fearful – they don’t like the questions it asks of them and their business models. Rather than see the opportunities to work out in completely new ways with desirable outcomes for the customer, they’re overwhelmed by the technicalities. I therefore don’t think it will be the big box brands that will lead the revolution, but rather the trainers and end users.

Once people have a better understanding of the sophistication of biosensor technology and its latent capabilities for healthcare, fitness and lifestyle management – its ability to provide highly specific insights into our metabolic health and fitness, in ways we’ve never been able to identify before – then specialist boutique clubs will probably begin to package programmes and services incorporating this technology. I also suspect that the healthcare and insurance markets will grow off the back of this technology, and the corporate fitness market will see significant growth.

But I’d argue that the club of the future is far more likely to be low-tech and high touch, personal and communal, using existing social media technology with consumers bringing in their own fitness wearables. That said, if clubs don’t embrace the opportunities, the club of the future will be the home gym and the great outdoors, supported by freemium web platforms like Befit, Daily Hit, Fitness Blender and excellent free apps like the Johnson & Johnson 7-minute workout. 


"I don’t think it will be the big box brands that will lead the revolution, but rather the trainers and end users"

 


photo: www.shutterstock.com/ Dirima

The great outdoors


Chris Moisan CEO AiT (Active in Time)

 

Chris Moisan
 

The impact of personal technology continues to gather momentum as devices become increasingly smart and ubiquitous: having introduced their health initiatives in 2014, the titans of the digital economy will start to exercise their marketing muscles and really begin changing consumer behaviour. But if health club operators embrace personal tracking, adopt  ‘open’ attitudes to health data and think beyond the gym, then the future is healthy.

Mobile devices are so sophisticated, and personal tracking apps so popular, that it’s impossible for ‘corporate tech’ to compete – so don’t! BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is changing corporate IT provision. If club operators provide simple ways to connect consumers’ devices to specialist gym equipment in a seamless user experience, you strengthen the consumer relationship.

The race is on for the health data platform, with initiatives like HealthKit and Google Fit. Including mighty platforms like Strava and MapMyFitness, we effectively have a fitness data arms race. Operators have the opportunity to play a specialist role: to be a platform-neutral and trusted advisor, helping their customers choose between and connect to these platforms rather than competing with them.   

Virtual reality isn’t yet close to replacing the experience and benefits of a PT session or attending a class, but consumers’ health extends far beyond the gym, so let’s help consumers lead healthier lives outside the one-hour gym workout. New technology is the key here: embracing it will not only help operators retain more clients, but also open up new commercial opportunities.


 


photo: www.shutterstock.com/ Maridav

Embracing new technology will help clubs retain clients and open new opportunities


Bryan O’Rourke CEO Integrus

 

Bryan O’Rourke
 

Wearable technologies – along with related cloud-based software platforms, mobile applications and the Internet of Things – are tools that certain health club business models, in combination with trained professionals, will use to deliver new services and create new business opportunities.

Research shows that health coaching is a very effective strategy for behavioural change. It increases medication adherence, reduces healthcare costs, enhances perceived happiness and maximises health-related goal achievement. However, the cost and logistics of in-person coaching, performed mainly through personal trainers to date, have not been an option for many people.

A new era of digital health coaching, using data from wearables and health applications, will enable the industry to deliver better health outcomes for individuals and groups of people. The type of round-the-clock monitoring and data tracking available at a very low cost, in combination with personal service, is going to open up a huge marketplace, with professional coaches able to provide immediate feedback on client behaviour.

The translation of data on both a social and emotional level is a powerful tool that can trigger real change. Health club business models that figure out how to combine digital and in-person service delivery using these tools will have a great opportunity in the coming years.


 


photo: www.shutterstock.com/ bokan

Health clubs that figure out how to combine digital and in-person service delivery will have a great opportunity in the coming years


Mark Hutcheon Communications director Fitness First

 

Mark Hutcheon
 

Our view is that social media and technology – wearable trackers, sensors and smartphones – will transform the health and fitness industry by taking our expertise outside of the gym to a vastly larger market. 

One in 10 adults in the UK are gym members, while four in 10 use fitness apps. It’s a compelling fact that technology now means consumers can have exercise and fitness on their own terms, in a way that fits their lifestyle.  

 What an incredible opportunity to convert the tens of millions of health app and tracker users, ever more conscious of their fitness, into users of club brands. But we need a change of attitude at the leadership level to seize this moment. We can personalise workouts, take fitness outside the gym and always stay connected to the member to support them, provided we’re bold about embracing technology and invest behind it.

The first phase of innovation has seen tech giants provide activity trackers and heart rate monitors in phones and wearables, to the point that there are now over 97,000 healthcare apps available to our members – many offering exercise videos for free.

Yet many users get bored. Counting steps and calories isn’t connected to your gym workout, doesn’t advise you how to progress, and the data is passive – it misses the vital ingredient of social connection and coaching from an expert. This is where we fit in.

In 2015, Fitness First will take its member experience to a new level by launching a supportive digital platform that creates customised workouts, provides instructional videos, tracks and rewards workouts, and gives feedback on progress so you stay motivated and go further. We’re also talking to the big brands in the fitness app space and are preparing for the next wave of wearable technology that actually connects people to the gym experience.

2015 will be the year many operators go beyond the traditional bricks and mortar model, accelerating our industry’s shift from providing gym equipment to providing fitness experiences.


 


photo: www.shutterstock.com/ Syda Productions

Four in 10 use fitness apps

Originally published in Health Club Handbook 2015 issue 1

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