The fitness industry is powerful and profitable, but it is failing people. Savvy marketers cherry pick research, paying huge amounts on advertising that targets insecure individuals. This downplays the critical role of diet, discipline and the hard work it takes to see results.
High rates of inactivity, the prevalence of contradictory and misguided information as well as rising obesity rates are proof that the fitness industry is failing and its approach needs to change. World Health Organization statistics show that type 2 diabetes prevalence has risen dramatically over the past three decades and obesity has virtually tripledsince 1975.
Obesity is a leading cause of preventable chronic diseases. In just the United States annual costs are estimated to be between $147 billion and $210 billion. Obesity is associated with increased job absenteeism, costing another $4.3 billion annually and lowering work productivity. In total, obese workers will cost their employers an extra $506 per obese worker just this year.
Too much conflicting and inaccurate information
The problem today is that people are faced with too much information. With the confusing morass of products, apps, strategies and conflicting theories, it’s no wonder that people either hop from program to program or are so confused they don’t know where to start. Most people still don’t know what to do, how much of it to do or how hard to work at it, despite clear physical activity guidelines from health authorities. People are even lead into believing myths such as the fact that they can be fit and fat.
For many years research has shown that fitness prolongs and improves life. Consistent effort, discipline and being able to adapt to new or better strategies is what brings success, rather than self-interested marketing. For example, finding innovative ways to increase the effectiveness of training is made possible by advances in technology. Electro Muscular Stimulation (EMS), for instance, is providing a way to decrease workout time from two hours or more to 20 minutes with better results.
The myth that no pain is no gain
Many people tend not to think about exercise, which naturally stimulates endorphins or ‘feel good’ hormones, as pleasurable. They have an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to exercise which is generally not sustainable. What’s far better for long term health is to engage in consistent, daily exercise of a nature that is sustainable and that requires hard work and discipline.
A focus on aesthetics rather than health
Many fitness companies send the message that the most important thing is to look good. People are told that this trick or shake or strategy will give results with very little effort on their part. The images which make up their publicity campaigns are often unrealistic with models living unhealthy extreme lifestyles. A focus on fitting constant, sustainable exercise and diet into your lifestyle is important for lifelong results.
Promoting guilt and inadequacy
Fitness companies imply that your body isn’t good enough and that their products offer a magical, quick-fix solution to a problem. These messages are considered normal and do not positively encourage those who haven’t experienced the value of consistent exercise to give it a try. The industry is currently too elitist and not inclusive enough of regular people.
An aggressive elitist mindset
Having a personal trainer who works one-on-one with you and drills you hard can improve your physique, but it has been found that exercise classes that have built a social community around them have higher retention rates. Having friends in an exercise class gives you another reason to want to exercise.
Attempts are being made to combat the aggressive, elite mindset of fitness companies. The practice of hooking clients in 12-month fitness contracts is slowly changing and contracts are being drawn up that suit the people rather than just the gym. However, more changes need to take place if the fitness industry is to fulfill a role in preventative health which is essential for helping curb the current health crises.