Results from a recent poll of 2,000 women landed in my inbox this week. The top line? ‘More women now work out for wellbeing than weight loss.’ It’s a trend we’re seeing more and more of as the recognition of the mental and physical health benefits of exercise continues to grow across the globe.
It’s undeniable that physical activity has so much more to offer than just weight loss, but is our eagerness to spread this message making those who do want to exercise for weight loss feel somewhat vilified?
An industry expert recently told me that weight loss is now considered a ‘dirty’ phrase that few consumers wish to align themselves with. Many, she said, now use the phrase ‘get healthy’ when they really mean ‘lose weight’.
Research by Leisure-net appears to support her claim. As reported by Leisure-net’s director Mike Hill (see HCM August 2017, p78), findings from the company’s past surveys have shown that members of the public tend to under-report their desire to exercise to improve body shape.
At a time when obesity remains the second most common cause of premature death in Europe – smoking is number one – it feels absurd that overweight individuals who are admirably striving to lose weight should feel embarrassed to admit it.
So what can we, as an industry, do to remedy this?
While understanding member motivation is essential for health clubs seeking to better tailor their offerings to members, perhaps more can be done to avoid categorising exercisers in marketing materials. Instead, all reasons for getting active could be equally championed.
After all, as long as a person is physically active on a regular basis, he or she will reap the wide spectrum of benefits exercising has to offer, regardless of his or her primary intention. Heart health improves in those who run to improve their mood, just as physical fitness increases among overweight individuals who cycle to lose weight.
By encouraging safe and non-excessive exercise, regardless of intention, we may be able to unite exercisers of all types in a common goal of improving their lives through physical activity. And achieving this unity may be the change that’s needed to inspire action among those who currently feel like fitness is a movement they can’t identify with.