"Am I getting anything out of this?" Just because your members know that exercising is good for them, that doesn't mean they like it or that they're getting from it what they think they should.
What do you think is the No. 1 question members ask themselves about their fitness center membership? I'm not sure there is an "answer" to this, but how about: Am I getting anything out of this? Just because your members know that exercising is good for them, that doesn't mean they like it or that they're getting from it what they think they should. Have you asked your members whether what you offer and the programs you have on your schedules are motivation enough to keep them coming back week after week? In other words, are they enjoying themselves and feeling good? As Michael Bracko, Ed.D., FACSM, explained in a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine's 11th Annual Health & Fitness Summit in Dallas, Texas, the focus needs to shift from how exercise makes members look to how exercise makes them feel. "The physical needs and outcomes of exercise, whether it's to lose weight, tone muscle or address obesity dominates what we hear about," Bracko says. "The message needs to be rewritten. When you exercise, you're going to feel better. You'll feel less stress and more relaxed, you'll sleep better, and you'll likely be more confident." But, while the eventual outcome of feeling better because of exercise is important, so, too, is how people feel while exercising - both to get them moving in the first place and to keep them moving. In March, MSNBC published results of its website's online survey it conducted about exercise (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17726232/). The live vote simply asked, "Do you enjoy exercise?" Respondents, who one has to assume are individuals who know they should exercise and who make a conscious effort to exercise regularly, could choose from one of four answers. Thirty-two percent chose "I hate, hate, hate it!" Twenty-four percent said they "tolerate" exercise, 25 percent said they don't mind it most of the time, and 19 percent described themselves as fitness fanatics. The survey stemmed from one of the site's recent Smart Fitness columns titled, "Help! I absolutely DESPISE exercise!" Many readers wrote in to express their frustration with sticking to an exercise regimen, to which many others responded with their tips. The most common reason given for not being able to stick to an exercise program was a lack of enjoyment in the activity. And, not surprisingly, most of the tips to overcome this problem included 1) finding an activity they do enjoy; 2) using external stimuli, such as some sort of entertainment, to take their minds off the exercise task at hand; and 3) finding the motivation they need through results. In this issue, we provide many examples of how you can make your programs enjoyable for your members. But these only scratch the surface. Keep abreast of what fitness facilities across the U.S. and world are doing to create excitement for their members. For instance, the New York Sports Clubs just partnered with the Tribeca Film Festival to allow members to watch short films featured at the festival on cardio equipment personal viewing screens. Many other facilities are providing more social forms of exercise, such as games and dance, to incorporate fun into their programs. Whatever gets people into your facility to be active is what matters. Vegetarian Times reported on a study in which researchers put 44 patients with mild to moderate heart failure on an eight-week treadmill and cycling program, and assigned another 44 to take waltzing lessons. What they found was that the dancers had similar improvements in cardiac fitness as the walkers/cyclists, but they exercised longer and enjoyed themselves more. They concluded that it was the social interaction that accounted for the benefits. The key is to provide a variety of options for the different populations you serve, and, most importantly, to understand that an exercise program is more about how your members "feel," rather than how it will make them look.