Fitness Studio, Gyms, Health Club, Personal Trainer

Ageism and politics in the fitness industry

May 25, 2021 - 32 min read
Public health and fitness are a political issue

This episode of the FitNation Lunch & Learn webinar stars David Minton, the founder of The Leisure Database Company and a true legend within the industry. David talks to us about how he sees the road back to normal, as well as the role of politics within fitness, and if the industry really is ageist.

We go deeper into David’s view on how fitness was a data-poor industry and how that led to total unpreparedness for last year’s crisis. Moreover, we discuss the importance of shifting the view of exercise to a form of self-care for life - notably because over 75% of people who died from COVID were over 70 - but only 1% of those people have a health club membership. Time for a change!

Finally, David talks to us about how he sees the road back to normal, as well as the role of politics within fitness, and if the industry really is ageist.

Watch the webinar recording by clicking on the play button and read the transcript below:

Alex von Hagen: All right. Welcome everybody and thank you for taking the time to join us for another Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. Today we have another incredible guest out of the UK joining us. I think for many people in the industry, he doesn’t really need an introduction. His name is David Minton. He is the director at The Leisure Database Company. In this session, we’re going to dig into a few topics ranging from how to use data to give your facility a competitive advantage, ageism in the fitness industry, and why that’s a missed opportunity for many operators. The role of politics plays in the fitness industry and how we can influence it. And finally, David’s outlook and predictions for the industry, something that he is definitely qualified to speak about. It’s our pleasure to have you on the show. Without further ado, David, thank you for taking the time to join us.

David Minton: Alex. Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be with you.


Alex: Nice, excellent. Always a great starting point maybe for our listeners who aren’t familiar with you. Can you give us a little bit about your background and tell us about what you do?

David: Sure. So I’m the founder of The Leisure Database Company and we’ve been editing and auditing the industry for the past 20 years. So that means that we have a great insight into the facilities that we have across the industry. So for those of you listening outside the UK, you might be interested to know that pre-COVID, we had 7,239 fitness sites. Collectively, they had 10.4 million members and our market value was 5.1 billion. And the penetration rate, we think it was good at 15.6, but when you look at the overall potential, it’s very low. So the industry needs to do something about that. So we know so much about these facilities. We know for example, that 84% of the population live within just two miles of it. But the problem is that we only have, as I say this 15.6% actually going. So there’s a big mismatch between the potential and the actual take-up.

Alex: Okay, excellent. And for yourself, I mean, how did you really land in the world of fitness as a career?

David: That was completely by accident. So I was working in radio and television doing community programming and realized that there was no information about this growing fitness industry. So we decided to compile a database and start auditing it.

Alex: Okay. So necessity being the mother of all invention there. You saw that something you needed and then you decided to take some action and get it going.

David: Exactly, exactly.

David’s Driving Force for Gathering Data Points and Insights

Alex: And from my perspective, I think it’s always interesting, you’re a big data guy, what things really make you tick in terms of gathering a lot of these data points and insights? Like what’s the driving force here for you?

David: Well, I suppose that there’s the fascination as having done sociology, the fascination of how people come together and where we do things collectively. But there’s also a huge frustration as well. So as I say, we know so much about the actual supply to the industry, but we don’t really understand much about the demand. So when you think that in the UK, we have over 50 CRM providers and they have over a hundred platforms and some are still on [inaudible 06:23]. So of those and there’s about a third of those 7,000 sites that don’t even have CRM. So, how they manage the business and how they understand and get value from that business, and how they get a return on their investment to that CRM, there’s always a bit of a mystery to me.

The other thing that I’m wondering is in our normal lives with phones and smart TVs, we get automatic updates. So the Tesla just updates the software overnight. The iPhone just updates it overnight. Why don’t CRM providers offer free updates overnight? I mean it just seems so strange. There are so many operators who I know that are still operating the same system that they did 10 years ago because they don’t want to pay for the upgrades and they’re afraid now to move from that. And it seems such a shame that’s holding the industry back.

Alex: Change can be scary, can it? Yeah.

David: Yeah. Very.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s the problem. I think that’s probably where a lot of operators found themselves in a really tricky spot once the pandemic started because they’d been so reluctant to change in the years leading into that. And then yeah, it really hit the fan there and they weren’t really able to adapt. Yeah.

David: Yeah. And here’s another statistic that I find fascinating. So we know that 62% of the sites have got studios, but only 49% of those do class bookings. So again, there’s a complete mismatch.

Alex: Yeah.

David: So, I can’t name names, otherwise I’ll get into trouble. But if I turn up at my nearest fitness site and I go for a class, then I get the rubber band around my wrist, and then I get that rubber band in as I go in. And I think to myself, are we in the 21st century or what? Rubber bands?

Alex: Yeah.

David: And then, of course, there’s no way that they know that I’ve really done that class. I could have got diverted and gone and done something else. So in our daily online retail lives and our online travel lives, we’re so used to personalization and there’s no personalization in the industry. And again seems such a shame. There’s certainly no hyper-personalization about the fact that I do the same class on a Friday at five o’clock. And what if it’s selling out by Wednesday, you know there’s no system where they can say, “Oh, David, there are only two places left. You always come on a Friday. Do you want one?”

Alex: Yeah. We’re definitely not there. I would agree with that. On that note personalization, because I agree like in the retail environment and a lot of other sectors, they are really hitting their stride here and there’s a lot of technology that can support that as well. I mean, would you say are there any ways you think operators can at least take the first steps in personalization , whether that’s using this technology or maybe even not even using technology, but leveraging some data points they have to boost that personalization factor for their members?

Ways Operators Can Take the First Steps in Personalization

David: Well I love visiting sites in Scotland, for example. So if I go to any site in Scotland then it’s a bit like Cheers, everyone knows your name. They are embedded in the community, those small communities, and people just know their names. Well, that’s a great start, isn’t it? To know the customer’s name. They generally speaking know what the customer does but they don’t have any communication with that customer outside and they don’t necessarily know what the customer does outside. Some are very good if the customer is doing an advance or training for something particular, then they can help. But generally speaking, it’s more a case of what happens within those four walls. Now, I know there are some operators that are developing systems and the systems are already in place that is encouraging more on the whole, shall we call it, in around access to more data . But the number of people that are taking that up is very small so far.

Alex: Okay. And I know you said a lot of the work that you guys do as a business is confidential for obvious reasons. Could you, however, though shed some light on some of the top-line data metrics that you would look to provide some of your clients and then why that’s important in positioning them for growth. So maybe some people listening to this can either utilize that yourself or let you guys do it for them.

Top-Line Data Metrics and Its Importance for Growth

David: Sure. So one of the things that I really love is going around to different countries and talking about the granular detail that we go into when we’re doing site analysis work. And I love it because it’s very rare that I come across an example where someone’s doing something similar. So we have a supply-demand model and we’ve developed it obviously over many years. So we know in great detail about the supply because we hold around 200 fields of data on each site but the more important thing is the demand. So lots of our clients provide us with the postcodes of their live members, and then we’re able to geocode those, and then give them a type of one of 66 types. And we’re able to allocate that across the 1.9 million postcodes in the UK. That gives us a propensity factor for each of those 66 types and how it changes across the 1.9 million postcodes. And that is all built into our algorithm that then produces what we call the latent demand.

So the latent demand is taking into account all the 7,239 sites. It’s taken into account the knowledge that we have of the 10.4 million members, and we have around 4 million of those in our model. And it takes into account the concentrations of the different types of people that are living within the core catchment area. And the propensity factor will change for those types depending on the numbers of those types. So that’s the sort of detail that we go into for both the public and private sector in the UK.

Key Data Points That Gives a Competitive Edge

Alex: Wow. Okay. And let’s say a gym that’s maybe not based in the UK or just someone who’s trying to understand how they can use data to better give themselves a competitive edge. It’s one of the themes of what we want to talk about today, would you highlight maybe one or two key data points that they can be looking to in order to separate themselves from their local competition?

David: Well, I think I know both in America and in Japan where I visit a lot of people literally walk the streets to look because it’s very difficult to get this breakdown at a sensible price in other countries. Geodemographic has worked brilliantly for us for the last 12 years, but I don’t think that they’ve really kept up to date with the changes in society and they certainly haven’t kept up to date with the huge changes with social media. So we’re now looking to layer something called spatial AI on top of geodemographic so that we have more of an understanding of the social media activity in an area as well.

Alex: Okay. Social media being one that people can be using to try and get themselves that different competitive edge.

David: Yeah.

Overrated or Maybe Overemphasized Data In The Fitness Industry

Alex: On the flip side, would you say there’s any overrated or maybe overemphasized data in the fitness industry that people are relying on too much that you would say personally I would probably look away from that?

David: Yeah. So people via state of the industry report each year and they see what the penetration rate is. So if the penetration rate is 10%, then they say, “Ah! So we’ll take the total population area of whatever, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and we’ll take 10% of that.” Sadly, they have no idea what they’re doing.

Alex: Okay. Yeah. Because especially these days as more digital models start to shift that just seems like there’s a huge missed opportunity. They’re probably should be looking at why that 90% of those people in their area aren’t becoming members of a gym, right.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. That brings us to the very next question.

Member Age, Demographic Shifts, And Ageism In The Industry

Alex: Yes, it does. The other big topic we wanted to talk about was member age, demographic shifts in the industry. And then also the ageism in the industry today. So a lot to unpack there, but yeah, let’s go for it.

David: Yeah. So without a doubt, the conversation needs to move to how we can age better and how do we liberate the fitness industry from its ageism? So in the physical activity space, fitness is, without doubt, the most ageist. So when I qualified, thanks to the Central Y in London, as a group cycling instructor, I went along to my first class and the receptionist asked me if I’d cycle before. And when I got into the studio, someone very helpfully suggested I should sit at the back and stay out the way. It came as a complete surprise to everybody that I’m obviously an instructor. And what we have just gone through with COVID, we know that the vast majority of people that have died with COVID were over 70 and yet the industry itself has less than 1% of the population that is over 70.

Now we also know that the world’s oldest society is Japan, where I work on a regular basis, and they already know that better health care can help keep independence longer. And the country is experiencing this super-aging society, but around a third of the population over 60, isn’t that incredible. And I know that even 90-year-olds can improve their balance through simple exercises. So it’s never too late to start. So I’m really surprised that the industry totally ignores this aging population, which is the largest section of our population. So the fitness industry in the UK is really serving the 18 to 30-year-olds and as I say, less than 1% are over 70. So what we have just gone through with COVID, the government said that they followed the science. So one of the things that the government asked the industry was of the 7,239 gyms and the 10000.4 million members, can you tell us how their health is better than the average member of the rest of society?

So in other words, do they get an outcome of going and how often do they go and what do they do when they go. Well, there’s just so little data about that. So there are very few occasions when generations have the opportunity to completely reset public opinion and the effects on behavior change. But I really believe that post COVID that we have that opportunity. And if we can get to exercise for the masses, that could be a legacy for the global pandemic, then that would be an amazing legacy. Wouldn’t it?

How Can Operators Cater to 60 Plus Age Group

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. And I think there is a, we’ve talked about this and I think a lot of other people in the industry are talking about it right now is the shift towards health as a reason for going to a fitness club rather than an aesthetic. So, it’s not just about biceps and flexing in the mirror anymore. It’s really about health and wellbeing and long-term, just the overall feeling good and being physically active. In your opinion, how can the operators not only in the UK but just how can operators globally cater to and let’s say capture this new opportunity that would be the expected influx of the 60 plus age group into their facilities? What can they do to make sure they capture that?

David: Well, I mean one of the things is that we have to accept that we have an obesity crisis as well as a global warming crisis. And if we just think about the obesity crisis for a second, then fat lives matter and where’s the campaign about fat lives matter. Old lives matter. Where’s the campaign for that? So since 2018, a schoolgirl called Greta, single-handedly went and sat in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign. Four years later, she has been nominated for a Peace Prize three times. She has in over 100 countries, every Friday, hundreds of thousands of children demonstrating, and this Greta effect has put global warming on every government’s agenda. We in the UK are hosting COP26 in November and we are going to see, I think, lots of initiatives for reducing greenhouse gases.

Well, hang on a second, over the same period of time, we have had an obesity crisis that’s got worse. What on earth have governments been doing about that? So interestingly, Japan and China have both said, “We have to improve the health of the nation.” And so they have initiatives. We’ve also seen something similar in Singapore. But as far as I’m aware, there aren’t any European countries. They’re just saying the same thing and we haven’t got any what we would call leveling up taking place in the UK. So our prime minister has been working out on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, which most people would know. He’s been playing tennis in the American Ambassador’s residence, and he’s been jogging around Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. And what he discovered was that doing that with his security guards didn’t actually help. So he took a personal trainer.

So he’s now working out with a personal trainer on a regular basis. Well, what if he said, “Okay, I’m privileged, but what if I give a personal trainer to everyone in the country that would like one.” Well, first of all, the industry couldn’t cope, but that’s another thing. You know it’s the direction of travel that we’ve got to go in. So in the January edition of Men’s Health, there are 21 of the biggest health and fitness trends of 2021 and I’m one of the Men’s Health advisory boards and so one of the things in there, in fact, it’s number nine, just in case anyone’s going to look it up is we’ve got to become more political as an industry. Basically, the government just doesn’t pay any attention to us. They pay lip service to us in fact, because we can’t prove anything and we can’t prove enough. And the problem is that they have so many priorities. So we have to look at how climate activism changed the government’s agenda, and we have to do something similar.

Alex: Yeah, that’s a really good shout. Especially too, if you think about the impact that could have not only on the health of the people but then also, I mean, everyone stands to win. The fitness industry will recover stronger. They’re going to be targeting members, potential members who have more disposable income than they probably have had. They have more time than the average working professional, and they also have probably more attention to retaining their health as well.

David: Exactly.

Alex: So yeah, I totally agree that it is something that needs a grassroots movement. It needs something like that big event or that kind of catalyst like a Greta to potentially get it going. And so as we shift more towards politics, we’ve already touched on it a little bit. But starting in our own bubble, how do you think the fitness industry, well, I think I know what your answer’s going to be, but how do you think the fitness industry responded to the crisis?

How The Industry Respond to The Obesity Crisis

David: In short, not well enough.

Alex: Yeah.

David: So the politicians have scientists, either side of them, almost seven days a week telling us and showing us all these charts. And for the first time, since the 1940s our government actually said, you should be exercising. You should be exercising for one hour a day. Okay. We had a few celebrities on TV. The fitness industry went digital and yet we had thousands of people going to digital channels and saying, “ Follow me. Here’s an exercise. Follow me. But we never had an expert standing up next to the politicians saying, “Now about the one hour’s exercise, could we suggest the following?” There was nothing that was at that level and the industry for the first time actually took civil servants around to show them fitness sites because so many civil servants and politicians had never been in a fitness facility. Well, you know, if we’ve only got 15.6% on the penetration rate and then there are obviously loads of people that are just put off.

So if we come back to the ageism thing which is a pet project of mine, just simply because I’ve been through it with my mother. So I had to go sit through a care package that my mother had to sign up for when she came out of the hospital so that she could remain independent. The care package was all based around health and safety and the people that are coming into the home. It was based on food. It was based on washing and it was based on the dressing. Now, as I said to them, “Well, where’s the exercise? What part of the package includes exercise? My mother’s balance is getting worse. What part of the package helps her with that? That’s what’s important to her.” And they said, “Oh, we don’t do that.” And again, that’s such a great example of ageism where as far as society is concerned, basically the care package is just looking after the person in their home.

So I came to the conclusion that there is a compression of the morbidity model, which shows how an unhealthy lifestyle affects morbidity twice as much as mortality. And my mother proved that because in her eighties she got a yoga teacher and in her nineties, she got a personal trainer. Only because she knew that her balance wasn’t as good as it was and she was worried about falling over. She didn’t want to hurt herself. So we had these people coming in and it wasn’t the yoga that most people know. It wasn’t the personal training that most people know but simple exercises. Getting her in and out of the chair. That gave her confidence and it maintained that she had an independent life for much longer.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s exactly it when you talk about how we approach these sorts of things. So, yeah when you think personal trainer and a 90-year-old woman, it almost clashes in your mind because you think that they’re going to be at the gym doing push-ups and stuff like that. But it’s actually just about movements, right? It’s about just making sure that they’re not sitting for their entire day and not doing anything and so reframing how we can do that I think that sounds like a good way that we can, as an industry, start to grow and adapt to this these oncoming challenges.

David: The oldest British woman to compete in an Ironman Triathlon was 74. I mean she’s iron grand. She’s amazing. And then after the 2012 Olympics, she set up this organization called Silverfit and now they just do around a dozen activities all over London, but they do senior gym. They do walking football. They do senior circuits. They understand the difficulties that people have. At that age, we also have an organization in the UK called Ramblers and they do what it says. They go walking and now they have the Ramblers Walking for Health, and it aims that everyone will have access to a short, free, and friendly walk. And the number of people that are going on those walks just grows and grows and grows. So all these other organizations are doing things. And I just feel that the fitness industry still, although I pointed it out over many years, still completely misses the point.

Alex: Yeah. Okay. And so how would you say someone who’s listening to this and they agree it’s also an issue, how can an individual on the ground floor of the fitness industry, someone who doesn’t have their hands in public policy or anything like that, how can they do their part to start influencing this? And hopefully together start to just get this snowball effect going.

How Can an Individual On the Ground Floor of the Fitness Industry Do Their Part?

David: Well, in Holland I went to a fabulous site that Teo Hendrix is managing, and there that you have a fitness site downstairs and you have mixed aging group population living upstairs. And he included the people upstairs. So he’s got them cooking lunch. He’s got them doing social activities. And then eventually they said, “Oh, can we go walking in the swimming pool?” And so then he had groups of people doing easy activities. Then they went and told their mates and the whole thing just snowballed and we see that in the UK as well. There are lots of examples where the public sector especially is encouraging an older population. We also have some of the private sectors that are offering very low monthly subscriptions to people that are in their sixties and seventies. Again, let’s look at people Mick Jagger. I mean these aging rockstars refuse to grow old. So the industry, a few years ago Sport England had a campaign, 50 plus. Well, I mean if you try to do a 50 plus campaign now, they will just laugh at you. I mean it would be ridiculous. But so 60 is new the 50 or is it even 70 is the new 50. So we have to think completely differently about aging.

Alex: Okay. Yeah. And just using that, I mean there is inclusion in that as well, right. So just including that group in that bracket. Okay.

David: Yeah.

How Can a Politician Help in Encouraging Fitness in The Older Population?

Alex: And we’ve talked about it a little bit. I mean, I think the personal trainer for everyone who wants it would be a great initiative, but it would be very difficult if not impossible to get off the ground. But how do you think politicians can actually help rather than they could see the prime minister who plays tennis every now and then. What can a politician actually do here if you had your magic wand to get them moving?

David: Well for the last 50 years, holistically politicians in this country have totally ignored the concept of improving the health of the nation. So improving the health of the nation basically only happens after a war. So it’s happened after the First World War here, and it’s happened after the Second World War. And of course, we still have the legacy of the National Health Service, which started after the Second World War. So we’ve only had two prime ministers since the Second World War, Major and Blair that actually encouraged people in a very positive way to actually do more sport and become fitter. But the problem is that there’s no follow-through. So let me give you an example. So in 2012 our GB team and won 67 medals. It was a record and then four years later in Rio they got even more. So the cost of each medal is worked out in the greatest of detail and the price is just over 4 million per medal. Now it’s great, but it doesn’t actually encourage the mass vast population to take up any of those sports.

In Sydney, they actually found that the Olympics had a detrimental health effect on the population because people lay on their sofas going, “Wow, that’s fantastic.” Drinking another beer. And basically saying, “There’s no way I could ever do that.” And so it didn’t take up any new sport after their Olympics. So we spent just over 4 million per medal in London and then again in Rio, and there was no practical budget placing where we could encourage the rest of the nation to do something. Some sports clubs weren’t even ready to take up the number of people that actually wanted. So [inaudible 39:16], years ago, won his wonderful medals, he came back to his Harringay Athletic Club and there was a cue all the way around the block. And he was going, “Wow. How do we cater for this?” And what if we had a similar situation in the fitness sites?

Alex: Yeah.

David: So we do have to rethink the way the industry is thought of in society, but we also have to rethink the way that the industry, our industry caters to people both in and outside the gym.

Alex: And I think from the public health side, from what I’m hearing from you, it sounds like there’s like a momentum problem. Everything, there’s like these siloed efforts, but they never really build upon each other. So another one there could be that. Yeah, just making sure that one supports the growth of the other, which then, in turn, supports the growth of the other and so on and so on and so on. Right?

David: Yeah, yeah, yeah. One of the frustrations, of course, is the very fact that we have situations, local authorities, and well-meaning governing bodies and they set up test sites, test examples. Would this work? So they set it up and then they expect it to work without any further funding. It’s a bit like we’ve only briefly mentioned climate change, but climate change needs huge investment in new technology. And since Paris, there has been over 4 billion of new money coming in and you can read about that in Bill Gates’ book. And again, there’s no new money coming in to cope with the obesity issues that we have in this country. We spend a lot of money, but it doesn’t achieve anything. So we need to completely rethink.

Alex: Okay. It is also, it’s a pandemic, the obesity crisis. It’s been labeled a pandemic in places like America a decade ago.

David: Yeah.

Alex: And however, it didn’t really have the same effect that our most recent one did because it’s just slower happening. It’s not really as immediate, just something like that. So I think calling more attention to that, the fact that it is really a health crisis that is just as dangerous and led to the bad effects of our current one. Yeah, that can also be one to really just start [unclear 42:19] some change.

David: Yeah. So, I mean, there are two figures really that we should think about. So there are 50 billion tons of CO2 gases going into the atmosphere each year and we should be aiming for zero. The scientists reckon over the last 12 months without anyone flying anywhere or traveling anywhere that we have saved around 5 billion. So that’s 45 million that we’re still producing somewhere, somehow that we have to do something about. Now in terms of exercise, our National Health Service suggests that we should be doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. But we also know, that well they tell us, that they estimate there’s around 40% of the population that’s doing zero. So again, we have these numbers. Now both numbers are estimates because we just don’t know enough but both climate change and obesity are in the news almost daily and rightly so. And so I come back to my earlier point, climate change gets a [inaudible44:19] more publicity and it’s attracted, politicians. Apple has now said, for example, the largest company in the world has said by 2030, it will be net-zero. And it’s made a promise to do that. You can watch the video on YouTube. But it’s also said, “Oh, if you’re one of our suppliers, you have to make the same promise.” Exactly. Now, what if Apple then also said, okay, through Fitness Plus, we’re going to encourage all our employees and we’re going to encourage all the employees of our suppliers and the millions of people around the world that have this to do more activity in and out of the home and gym. So they’re going to encourage us to close our rings. What if all the major ecosystems started doing that? What if new organizations started to do that? And people like the World Health Organization and the United Nations, as I’ve already mentioned, the UN are already doing something on climate change, what if they were forced to do something on obesity?

Alex: Yeah, yeah. We shall see if we can ever get something like that off the ground. Yeah.

David: Yeah.

Will The Fitness Industry Go Back to Its Golden Age Territory?

Alex: Okay. And starting to turn towards one of the last topics that I think it would be really valuable to get your insight on, it’s about customer trends and industry outlook. I know this quote follows you around quite a bit. It’s a good quote for good reason. You know where I’m going with this. Yeah, you’ve described our industry pre-COVID as being in a golden age and so the golden age meant that we had the highest penetration rates yet. The highest member counts yet. There was rapid tech improvement. And then of course, yeah, it’s hard to think of a darker period than the last 13 months. In your opinion, or based on the data that you guys are collecting, how soon do you think that the fitness industry would be back in this golden age territory? Or subsequently, do you think we left it?

David: Two years.

Alex: Okay.

David: So without a shadow of a doubt, it will come back and I actually think it will come back stronger because I think there will be a greater emphasis on self-care. So I think this new era of lifestyle where values are placed on personal care, family, wider community spirit, I think that that will start to penetrate all the way through society. And again, I hate to keep mentioning my mother but she willingly had a tracker so that she could monitor the activity. Now, obviously, she was doing so little compared to others, but you can reset those things so that you could just monitor it so that you just do a little bit more than you did yesterday. That’s the starting point for so many people, almost 40% of the population. So I think a greater emphasis on self-care. The industry needs to work out how it starts with those people and whether it starts actually outside the four walls. So I think that there’s also going to be a growing focus on non-exercise activity. These thermogenic where small daily changes make a difference. Again, once people understand that, I think that will be really good.

And then there are the playful new initiatives that are motivating self-care with unconventional activities like planting trees. Well, that does two things, doesn’t it? So you’re doing the carbon offsetting and local gamification apps like Street Tag are encouraging multi-generational neighborhood camaraderie. So volunteering to care for the environment could be seen as an altruistic way to burn calories. How wonderful is that? And I’m now encouraging any fitness site that has actually got outdoor space and there are lots of public sector sites that have to set aside space for a garden and grow your own. So I think that we’re going to have more of the concern about this greater emphasis on self-care. And I think that smart devices will play a role in monitoring this movement and extra activity.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s an interesting one, if I think back to some of the yard work projects I was doing with my father growing up and yeah, the sweat that you would break there, I think that’s a great way to just do both things. You can make the world a better place. You can get more green into the neighborhood and you can be fit doing it. I think that would be a really good community initiative for a lot of operators to consider and start taking up.

David: Yeah.

Verticals in The Industry the Need to Be More Proactive in Response To The Pandemic.

Alex: Yeah. Interesting. Interesting one. And do you think there are any specific verticals that within the industry whether that be boutique or budget that you think need to be more proactive in changing their response to this pandemic?

David: Without a doubt, the budgets should be changing. So budgets have to expand in the industry without a doubt and now it needs to expand the people that it appeals to.

Alex: Okay. And I think too, a big conversation coming into the industry is for future trends and outlook. We were talking about Apple already, so how they can maybe do more social good with Apple Fitness Plus. But how would you say a gym operator can leverage their own data or leverage some of their own initiatives to compete with them, compete with those options coming in that are also fighting for their members at the same time?

David: You know I don’t really know is the real answer. So data is all around us . We know that, and we also know that there’s a mounting body of anecdotal evidence from around the country that shows that the pandemic has changed the way we move and exercise. And we also know that there’s the convergence of physical and mental wellbeing has come to the fore and also more local the better. So again, my example of those sites in Scotland, where everyone knows their name. So I would say that we know that there are also been recent studies showing lowering anxiety levels, boosting immunity, exercise should now be viewed as preventative medicine and psychological strength.

Alex: Yeah. I think that could be a good point for us to start ending and those are the kinds of long-term changes that we can look at. And then be more personalized. I like the Cheers comment there. So local pubs in Scotland, it’s like walking into the Cheers Bar. Everyone knows everyone. It’s a happy environment. Huh?

David: Yeah. Yeah.


Alex: Awesome. Okay. Well, David the great question to always ask, as we finish up here, people who are interested in learning more about you, where can they go to find you and learn more about what you guys do as a business?

David: It’s

Alex: Easy enough.

David: Yeah.

Alex: Awesome. David, it has been an absolute pleasure on here. You’re absolutely an industry legend. You have a lot of great insights and a lot of people are always interested to hear those insights, a lot of big publications in that. So very genuinely appreciate you taking the time to join us today. And I hope you had a good conversation as well.

David: Alex, it’s been great fun. Thanks for having me.

Alex: Awesome. All right. Thanks, David. Take care. This has been another episode of Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. We’ll hope you all enjoyed this session and look forward to tune in for the next one.

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Nan de Bruin

Visual storyteller and winter sports enthusiast with over 15 years of writing experience in English, Dutch, and Czech. Currently doing reps as the Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at Virtuagym.