Who owns health? Health care reform, the new fitness paradigm, and building a culture of wellness

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The administration announced a few days before the July fourth holiday that the implementation of the major mandate section of the President’s massive health care reform law, due to go live in 2014, is being delayed. The good news is that this gives small businesses another year to prepare, and fitness-related companies more time to position themselves advantageously in the wellness market.

Regardless of what happens with the law, health is sure to be one of the coins of the new realm. No sensible person can contest the fact that our health care system is in crisis. Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are all on the rise, and most experts agree that our present course is unsustainable, economically and also essentially. But even beyond that, to meet the demands of our competitive and fast-paced world, we must become stronger, faster, and fitter.

Producing health is about more than marketing trends and fads. With rising medical costs and the mantle of responsibility shifted to private companies, we cannot afford to fool ourselves about health anymore. Whether you’re a small business thinking about coping with rising health-care costs, or an individual wanting to negotiate the best possible package in the health-insurance marketplace, you’ll want to know what gets results. And an image-obsessed, experiential, and competitive generation will want to look and feel better, quickly.

These conditions will transform the fitness experience, and along with it the market. Some factors certain to shape this transformation:

Technology: The treadmill and elliptical machines saw their heyday in the nineties. Machines will still be around, but they will be much, much smaller. Heart monitors will be built into wearables and devices, helping trainers optimize and individualize workouts precisely to an individuals fitness level. Software will collect valuable data and gamification will be used to motivate and inspire. People enjoy tracking their progress, and technology can make that easier and even more fun for people.

The body: Savvy fitness centers are paring down the bulky machinery, and creating more open space where simple equipment, bodyweight exercises, and compound movements that train both strength and flexibility are utilized. As an antidote to an intensely cerebral life spent in virtual spaces, people will come to fitness more for a radical experience in their bodies, rather than mental escape from it. Learning new skills and proficiencies will also be a preoccupation with an emerging recreation-oriented, globe-trotting demographic. Dance, boxing, and other body arts are trend-setting (but very effective) fitness experiences that this novelty-seeking cross-section will seek out.

New thought-leadership: There is a lot of credible research out there about wellness, and a lot of pseudo-science. What is the difference? Real science works, and pseudo-science doesn’t. Curating evidence-based information tested in the lab of experience will position you as a thought-leader in the field, and then you can partner with companies and people that will help your clients succeed in achieving real health and wellness. Debunking some of the bad science out there will help fitness customers spend their dollars more wisely, and drive a wedge into weak markets. For example, people spend on detox and cleanse products, but have you ever known someone who was extremely fit to go on a cleanse? It is usually unnecessary, because these products only simulate the metabolic effects of exercise.

A personalized experience: The fitness center—popularized in the nineties—democratized fitness but failed to deliver wellness in any meaningful way. This may be because most people don’t have the basic skills and understanding to create an effective and safe workout on their own. Using equipment or performing exercises with poor form can create more health problems, especially for the spine, for years down the line. Likewise, interval training or cardio that is too intense runs down the immune system and causes exhaustion and injury. In addition, supporting nutrition is essential to wellness. A more personalized approach is simply more effective.

Enterprise-fitness: Building a culture of wellness into the workplace is going to be the best alternative for many new companies starting off with a clean slate. It will become more common for companies to contract with trainers to implement this culture, and even to train teams together to develop confidence, trust and cohesiveness, much like the military has done since time immemorial.

Brain Power: Where the body goes, the mind will follow. Businesses have every reason to interest themselves in fitness when they consider the benefits to the mind. There is more and more evidence to support what yogis and gurus have long claimed: The mind can be transformed through the body. Improved concentration, confidence, creativity and ability to cope with stress are some of the documented benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle.

As health moves into national focus, fitness entrepreneurs are in a great position to create a new fitness paradigm and build a brand that can go the distance.

Questions? Contact us and we’ll see if we can help.

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