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Health Club Management

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Editor's letter: The importance of maintaining choice for the wellbeing of health club clients

Health clubs are increasingly adapting their offerings to become more wellbeing-focused. But as the case of a US gym chain at the centre of a recent media frenzy shows, making wellbeing-centred changes brings new challenges for operators

By Dr Lauretta Ihonor, Health Club Management Magazine | Published in Health Club Management 2018 issue 2
Some gyms are banning TV news because it is considered negative / shutterstock
Some gyms are banning TV news because it is considered negative / shutterstock
Life Time Fitness’ news ban makes one thing clear: gyms are no longer viewed as places to simply work out

Last month, US gym chain Life Time Fitness made a controversial decision. It removed cable TV news from all of its clubs without warning – leaving many members confused and unhappy. Taking to Twitter to defend the move, the company cited member feedback and the belief that gym-goers cannot truly improve their health and wellbeing while surrounded by negativity as the key reasons for the sudden change.

It’s a decision that triggers debate about censorship, interfering with personal choice and the impact of news on wellbeing. And whether you agree or disagree with the logic behind it, Life Time Fitness’ news ban makes one thing clear: gyms are no longer viewed as places to simply work out.

So where exactly should fitness facilities sit in the wellbeing equation? Do health club operators have a responsibility to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk where member health is concerned?

Let’s be honest, sugar-packed protein bars and sports drinks are still more commonly sold in gyms than fresh, nutritious food options; lifts are regularly used instead of stairs; and gym marketing campaigns still feature fitness models with physiques that the average person will struggle to achieve without going to extremes.

But as we move into an age where gyms are increasingly expected to play a role in improving overall wellbeing, there’s a need to discuss how to strike a balance.

Life Time Fitness members who were unhappy with the news ban told the US media that they weren’t consulted in the decision-making process and have countered the company’s ‘negativity’ explanation with claims that watching the news adds structure to their day and informs them of what’s going on in the world – factors that are also important for wellbeing.

Perhaps then, the lesson to be learned here is the importance of maintaining choice and avoiding blanket assumptions when striving to meet the growing demand for truly health-focused gyms. While many people turn to health clubs to assist their pursuit of wellbeing, that definition differs from member to member, and that’s something that operators cannot afford to lose sight of.

Dr Lauretta Ihonor, editor,

laurettaihonor@leisuremedia.com

@laurettaihonor

http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/212587_976519.jpg
Health clubs should maintain choice, as wellbeing is different for everyone, says Lauretta Ihonor, in response to the recent controversial decision by Life Time Fitness to remove cable TV news from all of its clubs.
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