The fitness industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in an era marked by profound societal shifts and technological advancement. The traditional perception of fitness as a mere physical pursuit is fading away, giving rise to fitness becoming important for preventive healthcare.
In this episode, Liz Clark, the President & CEO of IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association), shares how It’s time to include fitness as another important component of preventative healthcare and create legislation to support the inclusion of fitness.
As the world grapples with the enduring effects of a global pandemic and as technology becomes increasingly intertwined with daily life, the dynamics are driving the fitness sector to become intertwined with preventive health and general well-being. Preventive healthcare should include a holistic and proactive approach to fitness, including the ability to improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of the population.
The mission of IHRSA, the Global Health & Fitness Association, is to grow, promote, and protect the health and fitness industry and to provide its members with the benefits that will help them be more successful. IHRSA and its members—health and fitness clubs, gyms, studios, sports and aquatic facilities, and industry partners—are dedicated to making the world healthier through regular exercise. In addition, IHRSA’s advocacy team is fighting to pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, federal legislation that incentivizes physical activity and lowers consumer costs.
Navigating Industry Challenges During COVID-19
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic proved an unprecedented hurdle for the industry, creating an environment for fitness businesses to reimagine their role within the healthcare continuum. During the pandemic, the fitness industry struggled to gain recognition as an essential part of preventative healthcare. This lack of recognition impacted the industry’s ability to operate and receive support, resulting in significant operational challenges, with gym closures, canceled trade shows, and financial difficulties.
Recovery required strategic changes to adapt to the new environment and create a focus on advocacy and policy. This highlighted a need to proactively engage with policymakers to ensure the industry’s survival.
Advocacy and Legislative Progress within the Fitness Industry
Advocacy plays a pivotal role in shaping the fitness industry’s trajectory. IHRSA’s concerted efforts include collaborating with state alliances and legislators to forge policies that bolster fitness centers and endorse preventive healthcare initiatives. Liz underscores the organization’s legislative success and accomplishments that underscore the far-reaching impact of cohesive industry action.
In addition, IHRSA’s advocacy team is fighting to pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, federal legislation that incentivizes physical activity and lowers consumer costs. Specifically, the PHIT Act would allow healthcare dollars to be used for gym memberships. The federal exemption is needed for gym memberships, giving added importance to collaborating and aligning the fitness industry with the wellness and nutrition sectors.
Fitness as Preventative Healthcare
Positioning the fitness industry as a cornerstone of preventive healthcare is a central goal for Liz Clark and URSA. Liz underscores the necessity for policymakers to acknowledge that fitness centers contribute significantly to holistic well-being by providing health benefits from physical fitness. Fitness should be recognized as a major industry that contribute more benefits to overall health, wellness, and preventative healthcare.
Fitness can play a role in addressing health crises. The increasing prioritization of exercise for mental health benefits has resulted in many adaptations within the industry to support mental well-being through exercise. The industry’s impact on overall health and physical fitness can also contribute to addressing fitness-related challenges in the military.
The industry’s evolution beyond traditional fitness embraces wellness and healthy aging. It is constantly working toward offering services that cater to holistic health. The connection between exercise and nutrition as complementary aspects of preventive healthcare and the collaboration between fitness and other sectors to address comprehensive health needs is critical to this continued evolution.
“In the US, 77% of people that are of age to be able to apply for military service can’t meet the basic physical fitness test. We have a major scary crisis as far as an unfit, under-funded, and underrepresented military.”
~ Liz Clark, President & CEO of IHRSA ~
Technology and AI Role In The Fitness Industry
Technology and AI have played an increasingly significant role in the fitness industry. With the advancement of technology, many fitness professionals and companies have turned to virtual platforms to offer fitness and wellness sessions, classes, and consultations. With an internet connection, people can access fitness and wellness guidance from home or anywhere.
Some fitness apps and platforms use AI algorithms to create personalized fitness plans and workouts for users. These algorithms consider personalized fitness goals, physical conditions, and sometimes available equipment. AI continuously learns from the user’s feedback and progress to adapt the workout plans over time. Wearable devices equipped with sensors and AI capabilities can track various fitness metrics, including heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, and even sleep patterns. Users can monitor their progress and make informed decisions to improve their lifestyle.
In diet and nutrition, AI fitness apps can analyze users’ dietary preferences, restrictions, and goals to recommend personalized meal plans. They can also track calorie intake and nutritional content, providing real-time feedback and suggestions.
AI can process and analyze large amounts of data generated by users and fitness equipment. This analysis can offer valuable insights into trends, helping fitness professionals design more effective programs and personalized fitness plans. AI fitness technology can also help analyze movement patterns to prevent injuries during workouts. By comparing the user’s movements against established biomechanical principles, it can provide insights or alerts to avoid strain or incorrect postures and aid in preventative healthcare.
The Transformation of Fitness As Preventative Healthcare
The fitness industry has undergone a profound transformation in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic. The shift from focusing on physical appearance to holistic well-being and fitness as a way to prevent healthcare conditions marks a significant and positive change. This evolution highlights the industry’s adaptability and commitment to meeting the diverse needs of its clientele.
The emphasis on mental health and well-being and the integration of technology, AI fitness, and virtual platforms has expanded access to more personalized fitness resources. The industry’s recognition of gender diversity and the promotion of female leadership further reflect its progressive outlook and dedication to inclusivity.
“We saw some interesting data come out last year that for the first time, people are working out first and foremost to take care of their mental health, second to improving something with their physique.”
~ Liz Clark, President & CEO of IHRSA
Ultimately, those working in the fitness industry have a passion for enhancing lives. It is a testimony to the resilience, responsiveness, and unwavering commitment of the fitness industry. As individuals increasingly prioritize their well-being and legislation supports the fitness industry as part of the solution, the synergy between fitness, wellness, and healthcare will soon shape the future of global healthcare.
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