Each year, when I sit down to write the editor’s letter for the Health Club Management Handbook, I take a step back from the day-to-day – where many of the sector’s operational challenges remain unchanged – and look instead at the bigger picture: the new opportunities presented by emerging trends.
This year there are two trends I find particularly interesting, and they complement and oppose each other in equal measure.
The first, inevitably, is technology. Over recent years we’ve seen the huge impact this is already having on our sector, from activity trackers and apps to virtual classes. But we’ve really only begun to explore its potential to dramatically enhance the fitness experience. As virtual reality and augmented reality move towards the mainstream (see p18), we can expect more fitness providers to experiment with fusing fitness and entertainment – with it boosting user engagement and bringing new audiences into activity.
Meanwhile, artificial intelligence looks set to transform the sector: devices all around us will become lifestyle coaches, able to feed back 24/7 on the health impact of our every decision (see p18).
But with all this data comes information overload; the ‘always on’ society can be exhausting, and there will be times when people simply want to switch off (even if they measure that too). The second trend is therefore meditation and mindfulness (see p19), which is now appearing on health clubs’ radars and which will, say experts, soon be a trillion dollar industry. Expect to see more balance between yin and yang in people’s workouts, more time for recovery (see p15) and a greater focus on mental health as a key benefit of physical activity (page 12).