The difference between ‘activity’ and ‘exercise’ lies not just in the physical manifestation of a chosen pastime, but also in people’s mentality and approach. Herein lies an opportunity for leisure operators to expand their offering – and workforce – to extend the opportunity to engage and attract members.
Renowned paleoanthropologist Daniel Lieberman is known for his mode of thinking that differentiates exercise and activity. Lieberman’s stance is that humans aren’t naturally programmed to exercise in the way we understand it – such as going to the gym, joining a group exercise class or training for a specific sport.
While these can all be good for our physical fitness, they’re not the only route to wellness and wellbeing, which is good news, because while some people are committed to doing regular gym sessions, classes and sports-specific training, others don’t like exercising in these ways.
As people aren’t very good at sticking with things they don’t enjoy, those in our communities who dislike traditional exercise forms can end up not very active at all. This can be a problem for them, but perhaps also an opportunity for operators.
Lieberman believes we’re hard-wired to be physically active if a) it’s necessary (such as ‘hunting and gathering’) or b) when it’s rewarding (enjoyable).
On that basis, the secret to getting more people to be physically active lies in engaging them in something they actually want to do. And that’s where activity comes into play.
Opportunity for operators
The pandemic saw many people venture outdoors for activities and exercise, as indoor facilities couldn’t open. Tapping into people’s new appreciation of being active outside provides a good opportunity for leisure operators who can adapt to offer more than just traditional exercise options. Embracing activity is a chance for operators to expand their offering to engage with more people in different ways. It’s a chance to go beyond the traditional walls of a facility and to create activity hubs.
Bringing activity alongside exercise and fitness makes perfect sense – people who keep fit and well are more likely to enjoy an alternative activity outside the gym and studio. Likewise, people who start with outdoor activities may soon seek a fitness programme to give them the strength and endurance they need to enjoy their outdoor pursuits more fully.
There really is a huge variety of options available to people to be physically active and enjoy the outdoors.
At Active IQ we’ve just launched our Level 3 Outdoor Activity Instructor apprenticeship standard. This trains people in how to supervise and guide children and adults in outdoor activities and pastimes as diverse as canoeing, sailing and climbing, surfing, cycling, hillwalking and archery. It also covers bushcraft, rock pooling, geology and plant identification, as well as habitat and wildlife walks.
We’re working with training providers to deliver this qualification to learners aged 16+, making it an ideal first career opportunity for school and college leavers. Quite apart from the additional options it gives members, this new strand of activity can bring a new type of instructor into a facility to complement the more traditional fitness team members. The broader the offering, the wider the appeal, which can only be a good way to encourage greater footfall within facilities.
By engaging beyond the four walls of a leisure centre, we can encourage more people to take up physical activity and then, in turn, engage with other pursuits inside our facilities.
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