Rethinking the gym experience

The general manager at my gym approached me this week with a tempting renewal offer. He asked me to extend my current annual membership though I had 4 months remaining. As I debated the benefits of signing up before the annual January rush, I started contemplating whether my gym does enough for me.

Considering that 80% of Americans aren’t engaged in fitness — either they don’t participate in a regular fitness program or belong to a gym, the manager actually has a 20% pool of prospects so he should try to do whatever it takes to keep me motivated and paying. And motivation can come from a mobile application vs. a personal trainer. Why? Well, besides the fact that one in every two consumers in the US has a smartphone (according to 2012 data from Nielsen), we’re religiously using our iPhone and Android devices to monitor every aspect of our everyday life. In fact 52% of consumers with smartphones use their device to gather and measure health information, such as how many minutes they’ve exercised or the intensity level of the workout routine (according to a 2012 Mobile Health report by Pew Research). And apps motivate us to remain healthy because documenting our workout increases awareness. Psychologically, awareness is the key to adopting healthy behaviors.

I also want more out of the time I spend at the gym which is currently 3 – 5 hours a week. While many gyms use fitness programs to entice members to participate, none seemingly consider how to extend a members’s visit beyond the actual workout. It is known that the longer you are in a store, the more you are likely to spend. So one approach worth considering is for gyms to lease out space to health-focused online retailers to promote their products. The retailers could create temporary pop-up stores at the the gym and either sell the product directly, drop-ship the product or send consumers online to make the purchase. Gym staff could even serve as the product advocates. I’ve been dying to check out the latest fitness gadget, like the Nike+ FuelbandFitbit and Jawbone Up, but haven’t had the time. I would gladly spend a few minutes at my gym checking these out before I run out the door to start my day.

Maybe one day some a gym will take me up on the challenge. Until then, I’ll continue to just focus on working off the Chunky Monkey ice cream that I had last night! ;)

NOTE: There’s a very informative panel presentation on mobile health apps at SXSW 2012.

Image Credit: Joint Base Lewis McCord