As we move into 2022 we find the active living industry at a crossroads. The scars of the ongoing pandemic have pushed entities to re-imagine space. Staffing, which was once an afterthought, is at a premium. Members have become increasingly savvy in their approach to fitness creating a demand for sophisticated programming. Technology continues to evolve and be implemented both with in person and virtual program offerings. And as we continue to dig out from the results of shutdowns and restrictions, let’s pause and try to predict what the industry will look like in 10 years.
In my crystal ball I see a global initiative to active living. Technology will continue to make it easier for people on one continent to communicate with people on the other side of the world. Today we see initiatives start on each coast and work their way inland. In the future I see initiatives starting throughout the world and instantly growing, albeit with a shorter life span.
I see clubs without walls- often acting as a “home base” but leaders utilizing natural surroundings such as beaches, mountains, and trails as well as hybrid programming in challenging weather areas that encourage participation from home when needed. Yes, some of this is being done now, but creating synergy with local parks and recreation departments and affordable program options that combine the need for live interaction and respect for remote participation will be better.
Just as the term aerobics has been replaced by group exercise, I see the term “health club” being replaced by active living facilities. They say reality tv is often the least real thing to watch on television… sometimes “health clubs/gyms” are not the greatest platform for individuals to stay active. Is there a place for discounted fitness? Of course. But let’s call it what it is and not attempt to put this in the same category as an active living entity committed to servicing, educating, and supporting people in their quests to be active and healthy. “No judgement zones” are in fact “no accountability zones” and should be honest and forthright to potential members, particularly individuals who are new to active living and whose expectations are unsupported at such entities. Do they make a buck? Sure. So does McDonalds, Wendys, Shake Shack. I see more responsibility taken and with that will come much needed credibility for the active living industry.
I see the potential of one strong united front towards wellness. The industry is splintered currently and much of this can be attributed to lack of leadership. The tennis industry is on one island… YMCAs/JCC’s in another….municipal recreation on their island…. Sports campuses have their growing space… but it’s splintered and I know this because our firm works with entities from each “sector” and the lack of connection is obvious.
I see an umbrella of leadership that connects each and all of these important pieces to medical fitness. Exercise with purpose and the purpose being to extend life….stay healthy….not just make a buck. I see voices beyond the active living industry having an impact on the industry. Doctors sitting on boards, like several of our board members, and bridging the gap that currently exists between medicinal methodologies and exercise. I see Technology companies, who have created futuristic experiences at hotels and resorts, someday doing the same with our industry.
I see a lot of things but most importantly I see an opportunity for the industry to be a lot better than it is today.