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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

A big welcome

For some overweight people, going to a gym or exercise class is a daunting prospect. Kath Hudson talks to gym operators specifically targeting plus-size customers with a welcoming, tailored package

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 6
many of the successful plus-size offerings are run by people who have successfully lost weight themselves

In the US and the UK, 60 per cent of people are either overweight or obese. Obesity causes many health issues including some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress and depression. Some experts say obesity is responsible for more ill health than smoking.

Although this is a hard market for the fitness industry to reach, we are now seeing concerted efforts to meet the needs of overweight consumers. “The opening of gyms specific to plus-size people in the US is indicative of a wider change within the sector – a move towards adapting to the needs and demands of consumers and offering increasingly niche fitness facilities and programmes,” says CEO of ukactive David Stalker.

He continues: “A cultural shift has begun in the sector towards viewing people in a holistic way, and looking at the causes of an individual being overweight rather than just treating the consequences. We need to continue to build on this, through further innovation and collaboration, to reach the large percentage of the population who remain inactive.”

In the UK, we’re starting to see a change in the sort of programmes being offered. LA Fitness has partnered with Weight Watchers to link physical activity and nutrition, for example, while Nuffield Health launched a comprehensive nutritional programme in January 2013 covering everything from digestive health, through blood sugar management, to energy and stress consultations. Groups such as Nordic Walking also tie up with local healthcare providers to deliver programmes for the management of obesity and related conditions. Meanwhile Curves and Gymophobics target their marketing at women who want to get more active, but who previously may not have felt comfortable using a gym.

Complementing these efforts, the ukactive Research Institute is currently working with fitness centres across the country to build an evidence base for delivering physical activity counselling to people who may be overweight and suffering from chronic health problems, to help them make positive lifestyle changes. There’s also a rise in niche qualifications in areas such as weight management, nutrition and psychology.

Many of the successful plus-size offerings are run by people who have successfully lost weight themselves, and so understand the challenges and the fears that overweight people have about entering gyms and starting to exercise. To cover fitness alone is not enough; most providers also look at nutrition, and give counselling support too.

Here we take a look at a selection of fitness operations that have been designed specifically for overweight customers.

Body Exchange Canada

FOUNDER: Louise Green

I set up Body Exchange in Vancouver in 2008, as a lifestyle change, after having a baby. Previously I was working as a talent agent in the film industry. It was stressful and involved long hours, and I didn’t think it would mix well with motherhood.

While pregnant I gained around 45lbs, but I was still passionate about working in fitness, so I decided to target upper-size people. I did some market research and found there was nothing dedicated to this group of people in Canada. It immediately attracted a lot of media interest, so I realised it was very timely.

No-one is banned, but the language and imagery of our marketing material is targeted at upper-size people. To market the business, we’ve looked at the lifestyle patterns of our target client and have gone to them, as they won’t come to us. I call places like Weight Watchers clubs “watering holes”, as here you find larger people who are motivated to change. Doctors also refer people to us.

The programme is bootcamp-style, using equipment like resistance bands, BOSU balls and agility ladders, and is run in community-based locations. Exercise takes place either one-to-one or in classes, which vary in size from five to 25 participants. We don’t run sessions in health clubs because our customers wouldn’t enter the buildings; they take place in community halls or outdoors. Body Exchange also offers an online, customisable nutrition programme, as well as goal-setting and lifestyle coaching.

We offer a programme based on two or three days a week. To start with, people are fearful they won’t keep it up – people come with a lot of fear and lack of trust in themselves. But the sense of community in the group really builds motivation. Our customers organise hikes and snow-shoeing in the mountains together. For those who buy into our offering, retention is really good.

Some people lose huge amounts of weight and transform their bodies, while others come off their medication and are now no longer pre-diabetic. Others become more fit but don’t lose weight, because they can’t control their eating – I think we’re dealing with a lot of emotional eating. Very often obesity is just a symptom of a deeper problem. Eating is the biggest struggle for most.

I have now licensed the business, so it operates in six different communities in Vancouver, but I want to make Body Exchange a national company through licensing. Alberta, Calgary and Ontario are the first cities I want to target and, as I’m originally from the UK, I’d like to take it there.

Green has now licensed the concept
Green has now licensed the concept
Green says her clients prefer to avoid gyms
Green says her clients prefer to avoid gyms

Square One - United States

FOUNDER: Marty Wolff

Ilived 25 years of my life morbidly obese and learned many bad habits, but I always wanted something else. When I appeared on The Biggest Loser, I found my place – as well as meeting my wife.

After leaving the show 146lbs lighter, I did a lot of public speaking, which culminated in launching Square One in Omaha, US, last year. It’s a club of like-minded, larger people. Most are morbidly obese and we use a mixture of exercise, therapy, dieting and mentoring on how to tackle obstacles to help members control their triggers and cravings. Most of them have no clue about the fight they are fighting, or how to defend themselves, so we help them to build strategies.

The programme is based on a mix of research and my own experience. For example, one thing obese people tend to suffer with is an ‘all or nothing’ mentality: they think that, if they break the pattern by eating a cookie, they might as well give up that day. I compare this to spending money. If you buy one thing you haven’t planned, you don’t have to go and empty the bank account.

Many people see incredible results with weight loss, but some people simply can’t get past the emotional eating and fail to lose weight. Working out is the easiest habit to grasp, because I can watch them, but I can’t watch them when they’re at the fridge at home.

But even when people are obese, or morbidly obese, exercising can make a huge difference. Losing 8–10lbs could mean reducing or coming off blood pressure and cholesterol medication.

Recruiting members is one of the things we’re still learning how to do. The difficult part is working out how to approach people and we’re experimenting with that – targeted advertising on Facebook, for example, for those who have ‘liked’ The Biggest Loser and Weight Watchers. When compared to the industry standard, we do a really good job at retaining people. This is because we’ve created a community of people.

Square One offers packages starting at US$60 and rising to US$300 a month. Whether in the gym or in classes, PT or small group training, people always have to work under the guidance of a trainer.

Going forward we plan to franchise, initially in the mid-west of the US.

Square One sees a high rate of retention
Square One sees a high rate of retention

Buddha Body Yoga - United States

FOUNDER: Michael Hayes

I was tired of being the biggest person in my yoga class, so in 1996 I embarked on a Sivananda yoga teacher-training course in Barbados. After this, I developed my own practice and worked privately with another teacher, discovering how to get my body into the yoga postures.

Buddha Body Yoga grew out of this experimentation and is the only yoga offering I know of that caters exclusively for plus-size people. Although with my skills I could teach regular yoga, I find larger people more interesting and challenging to work with. Millions of teachers work with the slender, strong and fit, but only a handful work with big people.

I run seven classes a week at our New York studio and am just negotiating new space so I can expand my class size. Finding clients is not necessarily easy though: word of mouth and media coverage seem to be the best way, but many plus-size people remain scared to come to classes. I’ve had people register and not turn up, or arrive five minutes late but then refuse to join the class.

Once people start coming, however, retention is good because I make it fun – it’s a community with lots of jokes and playing with postures. It’s not serious like many other yoga classes can be.

Some people come because they want to lose weight, some want to be more flexible, some want to experience yoga and others like the feeling of movement. If I can stop someone hobbling, or help them move and sit more comfortably, I consider that a success.

I’d like to take the concept across the US and around the world with teacher-training. I’ve set up a certified five-day yoga teacher-training programme for working with big people, which is open to qualified yoga teachers.

Classes are taught in a light-hearted way
Classes are taught in a light-hearted way
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2013_6plus.gif
Kath Hudson talks to gym operators specifically targeting plus-sized customers with tailored, non-intimidating packages
People
HCM people

José Teixeira

SC Fitness, Portugal: head of customer experience
People often assume that those who pay more stay longer, but we don’t see this. What we see is that if you have PT you stay longer because you use more, not because you pay more
People
One of the opportunities we’re looking at is in London. The location doesn’t suit a low-cost gym, but would suit a boutique-style model. - John Oxley
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features

A big welcome

For some overweight people, going to a gym or exercise class is a daunting prospect. Kath Hudson talks to gym operators specifically targeting plus-size customers with a welcoming, tailored package

By Kath Hudson | Published in Health Club Management 2013 issue 6
many of the successful plus-size offerings are run by people who have successfully lost weight themselves

In the US and the UK, 60 per cent of people are either overweight or obese. Obesity causes many health issues including some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress and depression. Some experts say obesity is responsible for more ill health than smoking.

Although this is a hard market for the fitness industry to reach, we are now seeing concerted efforts to meet the needs of overweight consumers. “The opening of gyms specific to plus-size people in the US is indicative of a wider change within the sector – a move towards adapting to the needs and demands of consumers and offering increasingly niche fitness facilities and programmes,” says CEO of ukactive David Stalker.

He continues: “A cultural shift has begun in the sector towards viewing people in a holistic way, and looking at the causes of an individual being overweight rather than just treating the consequences. We need to continue to build on this, through further innovation and collaboration, to reach the large percentage of the population who remain inactive.”

In the UK, we’re starting to see a change in the sort of programmes being offered. LA Fitness has partnered with Weight Watchers to link physical activity and nutrition, for example, while Nuffield Health launched a comprehensive nutritional programme in January 2013 covering everything from digestive health, through blood sugar management, to energy and stress consultations. Groups such as Nordic Walking also tie up with local healthcare providers to deliver programmes for the management of obesity and related conditions. Meanwhile Curves and Gymophobics target their marketing at women who want to get more active, but who previously may not have felt comfortable using a gym.

Complementing these efforts, the ukactive Research Institute is currently working with fitness centres across the country to build an evidence base for delivering physical activity counselling to people who may be overweight and suffering from chronic health problems, to help them make positive lifestyle changes. There’s also a rise in niche qualifications in areas such as weight management, nutrition and psychology.

Many of the successful plus-size offerings are run by people who have successfully lost weight themselves, and so understand the challenges and the fears that overweight people have about entering gyms and starting to exercise. To cover fitness alone is not enough; most providers also look at nutrition, and give counselling support too.

Here we take a look at a selection of fitness operations that have been designed specifically for overweight customers.

Body Exchange Canada

FOUNDER: Louise Green

I set up Body Exchange in Vancouver in 2008, as a lifestyle change, after having a baby. Previously I was working as a talent agent in the film industry. It was stressful and involved long hours, and I didn’t think it would mix well with motherhood.

While pregnant I gained around 45lbs, but I was still passionate about working in fitness, so I decided to target upper-size people. I did some market research and found there was nothing dedicated to this group of people in Canada. It immediately attracted a lot of media interest, so I realised it was very timely.

No-one is banned, but the language and imagery of our marketing material is targeted at upper-size people. To market the business, we’ve looked at the lifestyle patterns of our target client and have gone to them, as they won’t come to us. I call places like Weight Watchers clubs “watering holes”, as here you find larger people who are motivated to change. Doctors also refer people to us.

The programme is bootcamp-style, using equipment like resistance bands, BOSU balls and agility ladders, and is run in community-based locations. Exercise takes place either one-to-one or in classes, which vary in size from five to 25 participants. We don’t run sessions in health clubs because our customers wouldn’t enter the buildings; they take place in community halls or outdoors. Body Exchange also offers an online, customisable nutrition programme, as well as goal-setting and lifestyle coaching.

We offer a programme based on two or three days a week. To start with, people are fearful they won’t keep it up – people come with a lot of fear and lack of trust in themselves. But the sense of community in the group really builds motivation. Our customers organise hikes and snow-shoeing in the mountains together. For those who buy into our offering, retention is really good.

Some people lose huge amounts of weight and transform their bodies, while others come off their medication and are now no longer pre-diabetic. Others become more fit but don’t lose weight, because they can’t control their eating – I think we’re dealing with a lot of emotional eating. Very often obesity is just a symptom of a deeper problem. Eating is the biggest struggle for most.

I have now licensed the business, so it operates in six different communities in Vancouver, but I want to make Body Exchange a national company through licensing. Alberta, Calgary and Ontario are the first cities I want to target and, as I’m originally from the UK, I’d like to take it there.

Green has now licensed the concept
Green has now licensed the concept
Green says her clients prefer to avoid gyms
Green says her clients prefer to avoid gyms

Square One - United States

FOUNDER: Marty Wolff

Ilived 25 years of my life morbidly obese and learned many bad habits, but I always wanted something else. When I appeared on The Biggest Loser, I found my place – as well as meeting my wife.

After leaving the show 146lbs lighter, I did a lot of public speaking, which culminated in launching Square One in Omaha, US, last year. It’s a club of like-minded, larger people. Most are morbidly obese and we use a mixture of exercise, therapy, dieting and mentoring on how to tackle obstacles to help members control their triggers and cravings. Most of them have no clue about the fight they are fighting, or how to defend themselves, so we help them to build strategies.

The programme is based on a mix of research and my own experience. For example, one thing obese people tend to suffer with is an ‘all or nothing’ mentality: they think that, if they break the pattern by eating a cookie, they might as well give up that day. I compare this to spending money. If you buy one thing you haven’t planned, you don’t have to go and empty the bank account.

Many people see incredible results with weight loss, but some people simply can’t get past the emotional eating and fail to lose weight. Working out is the easiest habit to grasp, because I can watch them, but I can’t watch them when they’re at the fridge at home.

But even when people are obese, or morbidly obese, exercising can make a huge difference. Losing 8–10lbs could mean reducing or coming off blood pressure and cholesterol medication.

Recruiting members is one of the things we’re still learning how to do. The difficult part is working out how to approach people and we’re experimenting with that – targeted advertising on Facebook, for example, for those who have ‘liked’ The Biggest Loser and Weight Watchers. When compared to the industry standard, we do a really good job at retaining people. This is because we’ve created a community of people.

Square One offers packages starting at US$60 and rising to US$300 a month. Whether in the gym or in classes, PT or small group training, people always have to work under the guidance of a trainer.

Going forward we plan to franchise, initially in the mid-west of the US.

Square One sees a high rate of retention
Square One sees a high rate of retention

Buddha Body Yoga - United States

FOUNDER: Michael Hayes

I was tired of being the biggest person in my yoga class, so in 1996 I embarked on a Sivananda yoga teacher-training course in Barbados. After this, I developed my own practice and worked privately with another teacher, discovering how to get my body into the yoga postures.

Buddha Body Yoga grew out of this experimentation and is the only yoga offering I know of that caters exclusively for plus-size people. Although with my skills I could teach regular yoga, I find larger people more interesting and challenging to work with. Millions of teachers work with the slender, strong and fit, but only a handful work with big people.

I run seven classes a week at our New York studio and am just negotiating new space so I can expand my class size. Finding clients is not necessarily easy though: word of mouth and media coverage seem to be the best way, but many plus-size people remain scared to come to classes. I’ve had people register and not turn up, or arrive five minutes late but then refuse to join the class.

Once people start coming, however, retention is good because I make it fun – it’s a community with lots of jokes and playing with postures. It’s not serious like many other yoga classes can be.

Some people come because they want to lose weight, some want to be more flexible, some want to experience yoga and others like the feeling of movement. If I can stop someone hobbling, or help them move and sit more comfortably, I consider that a success.

I’d like to take the concept across the US and around the world with teacher-training. I’ve set up a certified five-day yoga teacher-training programme for working with big people, which is open to qualified yoga teachers.

Classes are taught in a light-hearted way
Classes are taught in a light-hearted way
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/HCM2013_6plus.gif
Kath Hudson talks to gym operators specifically targeting plus-sized customers with tailored, non-intimidating packages
Latest News
The Gym Group has confirmed plans to roll out a new small box format in ...
Latest News
Representatives from the three main political parties have backed the view that physical activity has ...
Latest News
Life Leisure is expanding its facility portfolio with the launch of an independent boutique fitness ...
Latest News
Almost half of children and young people (46.8 per cent) in England are doing the ...
Latest News
A local fitness operator with 11 clubs in Chicago, US, is looking to muscle in ...
Latest News
Fitness industry veteran Nick Coutts has been appointed chair of Danish fitness tech firm Motosumo. ...
Latest News
The improvements in health and wellbeing associated with exercise referral schemes aren’t as large as ...
Latest News
The Bannatyne Group has appointed Hugh Hanley as its new head of fitness. He joins ...
Latest News
Physical exercise can improve the health of blood vessels in the heart for people with ...
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Hufft have created a community fitness centre in Humboldt, Kansas, that reflects the US city's ...
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The main political parties need to "discuss prevention in the same breath as they discuss ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: GLL chooses Ethitec’s Tiara9 system for its exercise-based public health referral schemes
The Tiara9 system has been selected by leisure trust, GLL, to support the nationwide rollout of its Healthwise GP referral programme.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Pulse Fitness modernises Leiston Leisure Centre in £4m redevelopment
The Leiston Leisure Centre, owned by East Suffolk Council, reopened recently following a £4m redevelopment designed and implemented by Pulse Fitness.
Company profiles
Company profile: TRX Training UK
TRX provides world-class functional training by offering quality equipment, effective workouts and world-class education capable ...
Company profiles
Company profile: EXF Fitness
EXF offer so much more than modular systems and pick and mix installations, they don’t ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Audio visual
Hutchison Technologies: Audio visual
Direct debit solutions
Debit Finance Collections: Direct debit solutions
Fitness equipment
Healthcheck Services Ltd: Fitness equipment
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Exercise equipment
Eleiko Sport AB: Exercise equipment
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
10-12 Dec 2019
tbc, Fort Lauderdale, United States
Diary dates
21-23 Jan 2020
Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-30 Jan 2020
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
29-30 Jan 2020
Holiday Inn San Francisco-Golden Gateway, San Francisco, United States
Diary dates
23-25 Mar 2020
Hilton, Barcelona, Spain
Diary dates
25-26 Mar 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
10-27 Jun 2020
tbc, Pinggu, China
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
17-18 Jun 2020
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
Diary dates
30-31 Oct 2020
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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