26 Feb 2024 HCM Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - The next pandemic

Industry insights

The next pandemic


The world’s collective mental health has taken a hit and we move further away from COVID we’re left dealing with the aftermath. ACE says it’s time for the industry to address mental, as well as physical health

The last few years have taken their toll on mental health around the world Photo: Max kegfire /shutterstock
Our industry should be at the forefront of the battle against mental illness Photo: Jacob Lund / shutterstock
Outdoor exercise boosts the endorphins Photo: Sabrina Bracher / shutterstock
Exercise doesn’t have to be about pushing to the limits, sometimes slowing down brings more benefits Photo: Basilico Studio Stock / shutterstock

The second report from the Mental Health Million Project, which encompassed 34 countries and more than 220,000 adults, found a continued decline in mental health across all age groups and genders, with the decline most profound in 18- to 24-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated almost 42 per cent of US adults reported experiencing anxiety or depression in late 2020 and early 2021. A survey of 2,000 adults across the United States, conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation, revealed some troubling insights. Ninety per cent of respondents believe the US is experiencing a mental health crisis; 20 per cent describe their mental health as being fair or poor; 33 per cent report feeling anxious ‘often or always’ and 20 per cent report feeling depressed ‘often or always’.

Our facilities provide safe places for people to perform physical activity, which yields countless mental health benefits: improved mood, enhanced cognition, better sleep and stress resilience, reductions in the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and overall better quality of life. So there’s an opportunity for the industry to play an important role in helping to combat mental health issues and be at the forefront of addressing the world’s collective battle with declining mental health.

Next steps
In order to do this there needs to be a shift, both in terms of the way the industry markets itself and the product offering. Many clients may believe they need to perform high-intensity workouts to see results, but low-intensity and outdoor exercise provides meaningful mental health benefits.

Adding those types of workouts to your clients’ programmes can bring about impactful change, as can adding mindfulness meditation and breathing techniques to individual workouts. The point is, exercise doesn’t always have to be about pushing yourself to your limits. Sometimes, it can be about slowing things down, taking a deep breath and being appreciative of what your body can do for you.

Also, for people working in a service industry, it can be very easy to get caught up in the needs of our clients and lose sight of ourselves and our own wellness. So, be aware of your own – and your colleagues’ – stress levels and mental health and be sure to take care of yourself.

Modify your workouts and slow down a bit if that’s what your mind and body need. The last thing you want is to drive yourself so hard in your quest to serve others that you miss out on serving yourself.

How to support your clients’ mental health...

• Emphasize the connection between mental health and exercise in conversations with clients and potential clients.

• Check in with clients frequently to find out what motivates them to exercise. Simply asking, “What inspired you to come to the gym today?” can trigger an important conversation.

• Look for trends in a client’s motivation over time so you can shift your programming as their priorities change.

• Ask clients what strategies they are using to help themselves manage their stress, then ask how effectively those strategies seem to be working.

• Explain to clients that the mental health benefits of physical activity often manifest much more quickly than the physical ones.

• Take advantage of downtime to mention the mental health benefits of exercise. A client doesn’t have to open up to you about their battle with depression in order for you address mental health during sessions. Planting those seeds can make clients realise that physical activity can be about a lot more than looking better or losing weight.


Originally published in HCM Handbook 2023 edition

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