Just a few weeks ago I was writing and talking about the ‘golden age’ of fitness. The prelapsarian innocence of fitness, when all sectors across the industry were growing.
Then two decades of growth disappeared in just two weeks when all fitness sites closed.
Trend data, built up over many years of auditing the industry, shows fitness to have been recession-proof, but the immediate impact from the coronavirus is far worse than any recession.
Now is the moment of all moments for the fitness community to outfox the lockdown with innovative ideas, since measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 closed down society as we know it.
A new service
In December 1999 I contributed to an article in Health Club Management about artificial intelligence. My column – Aye AI Captain – pointed out that data remained the industry’s most underutilised asset.
I used the analogy of the industry looking through the rear-view mirror at where it’s been, rather than looking ahead to where it’s going, when it came to using data.
In Dublin last October, at the IHRSA European Conference, the concept of intelligent crawlers cataloguing fitness sites worldwide had been proposed for the first time and as the contagion of fitness closures began to sweep across the world, a new startup – based in London – was using this technology to monitor the impact of the closures.
Launched by the team here at The Leisure Database Company, which has been auditing the UK fitness industry for the past 20 years, the new platform – called fitNdata – monitors the industry worldwide.
fitNdata is the fitness industry’s first global platform and will change the way we look at data in 2020. For the first time, fitness trends will be monitored and reported in real-time.
fitNdata is being backed by Theo Hendricks in Holland, Barry Walsh in Ireland and Bryan O’Rourke and his partners at Vedere Ventures in the USA.
With the imposition of lockdowns, limitations of movement and the closure of borders and fitness sites, the intelligent crawlers were – irony of ironies – monitoring the closures and not, as we had planned, the continued expansion of the sector.
Impact of COVID
By the end of March 2020 the World Health Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health, estimated that 2.6 billion people, or roughly 30 per cent of the world’s population, was living under some form of lockdown.
Now, for the first time, the wider fitness family can see the impact of the first pandemic on the industry and its community. The fitNdata platform has reached over 100 of the most populated countries and identified, validated and collected information on 239,101 fitness sites. The shocking reality is that 64 per cent of these are currently closed. The conservative estimate is that 230 million fitness members are in lockdown and unable to use these fitness sites.
The fitNdata platform, by default, has become the de facto source of global fitness data. The platform has also gathered more data, more often, more quickly than ever expected. Once the intelligent crawler has been trained further, it can be put to work in the cloud to deepen the analytics.
One billion data points will be reached this year, with a new ‘time-series’ database to cope with the daily influx of changes on sites, facilities, classes, internet of (fitness) things and social media activity.
A second golden age
The world’s new buzz words: social distancing, self-isolation, flattening the curve and lockdown are part of the new vocabulary, along with the distressing reports on the number of cases and deaths, coming from health researchers.
These researchers, along with the health workers who receive our applause each Thursday, share the platform with politicians and give public information broadcasts.
In many countries, daily exercise is now part of the government guidelines and fitness researchers, academics, personal trainers and instructors could become the new heroes and help change behaviour and attitude towards personal fitness levels.
The pandemic gives the health and fitness industries a chance to work together to improve the health of the world and fitness has a new force, real time data monitoring, ready to track outcomes as we work toward the next golden age of fitness.