Yesterday I was up at the NEC attending the first day of Leisure Industry Week (LIW), the enormous trade show dedicated to all things sport, fitness and leisure. It was great to see some old friends (including the ladies from Promote PR in the press office – thanks for the coffee! – and the guys on the Aqua Sphere, Zoggs, Speedo and ASA stands.)
I attended the keynote talk and panel session from the Fitness Industry Association (FIA), the sector’s trade association, where David Stalker (the FIA’s Exec Director), Dr John Searle (the FIA’s Chief Medical Officer) and a panel of other speakers heavily involved in community and workplace health and fitness initiatives talked us through the industry’s five-year plan aimed at helping government deliver public health plans. It’s the most important industry development in 20 years. The talks presented both the huge and exciting scope for the initiative and the challenges… It gave us a lot to think about, and I’ll be keeping an eye on developments. Some of the points which came out of the talks:
– localism is key. fitness facilities should operate as local community ‘hubs’
– 90% of the population live within 2 miles of a fitness facility
– 50% of the population aren’t active enough to derive any medical benefit from it
– 30% of the population report that they hit the government’s “30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week” target but in actual fact only 6% do so
– the industry needs a new and compelling message for a new generation, with the necessary soft-skills to accompany it
– there’s little point us telling each other about how great activity and fitness is – we already know. The challenge is in convincing those outside the industry
– the industry needs to sell emotionally, not functionally. What do people actually want, and how do they want to engage with it?
– how can the industry reach out to minority groups and difficult-to-reach communities, for whom fitness and activity might have cultural barriers?
– we need to look at and measure the consumer’s fitness journey, from the moment they walk through the door of their local facility to the time they reach their goal
– there are 3m companies and 40m employees nationwide, and those with an active workforce report 30% fewer absences
– as far as threats to our country go (terrorism, climate change, recession), where does that of an increasingly sedentary population rank…?
I’ve got plenty more notes scribbled down but those were some of the ones which gave me most food for thought. What are your thoughts about how the fitness and leisure industry can help more people engage with regular exercise?
In the afternoon, I wandered halls 17, 18 and 19 of the NEC, talking to triathlon and swimming suppliers and introducing myself to a few new contacts. I swung by the stand of Mike Buss, the ultra athlete who is (as I type!) finishing his 100 marathons in 100 days challenge. He’s already run his marathon for the day (on a treadmill in front of the crowds). Rumour has it he’s been hitting around 4-hour pace for most of the marathons so far. He’s doing marathon 99 today and marathon 100 tomorrow. I’m hoping to catch up with him on the phone soon to ask him a few questions. Is there anything I can ask on your behalf? (More info about Mike and his challenge here.)
I popped over to Aqua Sphere to get a sneak preview of a very special product which will be unveiled to the triathlon community in the New Year. It was being kept away from prying eyes but was brought out of the cupboard so I could have a squeeze, a stretch and a “what’s that bit in there for?” I think it looks great. Triathlete’s World have asked me to test it and I’ll let you know when the review is coming out.
At the end of the day, I had a coffee with a someone who, though I’ve only just met her, is going to be very near and dear to me over the next couple of months. You’ll be hearing a lot of her advice and words of wisdom on these pages… Stay tuned for my next challenge (which I’m really excited about) – to be unveiled on Monday.
Were you at LIW? What were the highlights of the show for you?