Bored Prospects

Let's really try to make our facilities fun, and change individuals' preconceived notions about our industry.

IT'S INTERESTING THAT, among individuals 31 and older, the idea of exercising at a health/fitness facility conjures notions of boredom. That's what a study conducted in the fall of 2005 by IHRSA at George Washington University found. The study was conducted in an attempt to answer the question, "Why don't people join?" While the study revealed some interesting information, and even more is yet to be presented, one result that did not receive much attention in the article, "Why People Don't (and Do) Join" (Club Business International, September 2006, pp.49-51), was that many of the respondents falling into the age categories of Established Responsibilities (31-54) and Actively Aging (55+) believed they would be bored if they were to exercise at a fitness center two times a week for a month.

Since the study also revealed who your prospects are (male, 36-plus-years-old, overweight, income of $25,000 to $74,999 and an education including some college plus), the fact that they are older than 31 should concern you. Fitness facilities are finally beating the stigma once placed upon them as being only for the "young and fit." Our big issues now should center on getting overweight individuals over the "intimidation" factor, or convincing people that exercise is worth the time and investment. Not whether these individuals are going to be bored.

How did the notion that fitness facilities are boring places to be come about? Well, it could be simply that the idea of exercising itself sounds boring. That's the problem with the term "exercise." A majority of us who fall into this 31-and-older age range (especially us baby boomers) remember physical activity as a form of punishment while we were in school - rather than fun and games. So, if this is the population you have to convince to join your facilities, you better start thinking hard about how you can convince them that coming to your facility is going to be a good time.

The advertising campaign of the 21st century needs to show people how they're going to have fun while getting fit and losing those pounds. It needs to emphasize the group activities and interactive products and programs that can get them to their goals without the daily dread. In short, it needs to dispel the belief that when a person walks into a fitness center, they're pitched, sold and left on their own.

But the campaign must also be true. Not only must you educate your members about the products and programs you have available for their participation, but also how to partake in them and use them. If this sounds like a no-brainer, it's not. A couple of months ago, while I was at my fitness facility, I watched a woman next to me on a treadmill struggling. I wasn't sure what she was doing until I removed my headphones and she said, "I've never been on a treadmill before. Do you know how to use this? And, do you know how to turn the TV on?" That's a true story.

Education aside, it's no longer enough for fitness facilities to offer just the mainstream in equipment. Too many "cool" products exist today for a facility to not invest in at least one new technology - especially in light of the fact that your prospects are worried about being bored. In this issue, we have reviewed the interactive products on the market today. While not all of these products will serve the 31-and-older age group, I think you'll find that there will be something that will. Let's really try to make our facilities fun, and change individuals' preconceived notions about our industry. The suppliers are providing us with the products; we just have to show members (and prospects) how to use them.

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