IHRSA and CEOs set sights on research into barriers to exercise

Looking for ways to help consumers get more active and lead them in that quest to health club doors, IHRSA will commission independent research into the barriers to exercise.
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Looking for ways to help consumers get more active and lead them in that quest to health club doors, IHRSA will commission independent research into the barriers to exercise.

Partly stemming from a meeting of CEOs last fall instead of the public CEO Forum of the last few years at the spring IHRSA show, the project could supply the association and its supplier members with information about what the industry can do not only to help people overcome barriers but also to help them start and maintain regular workouts.

When IHRSA decided not to hold the annual CEO forum at the 2005 show, it began to look for better ways to tap into the "terribly valuable" front-line knowledge held by executives at the key manufacturers, IHRSA's Director of Business Development Chuck Leve told SNEWS®.

At a meeting last fall and through a series of follow-up calls, Leve said the association asked executives what wasn't happening in the industry that could be happening that IHRSA could help implement.

Attendees included a representative from Life Fitness, Technogym, Precor, Cybex, Star Trac, Matrix, Nautilus, Keiser, FreeMotion Fitness, True Fitness and Check Free -- a group that was expanded from the six or so representatives on the forums to keep them manageable as a public presentation.

The common thread in responses, Leve said, was the need to know, one, what stops people from working out and, two, what keeps them from joining a club.

"Not that we're expecting a silver bullet, but we would like to find out why more people don't come to clubs or exercise, Leve said, calling it 'barrier research.'" The group also hopes the research will provide clubs with data, strategies and tactics that are defined and defensible.

The result of one CEO council begun about two years ago by IHRSA, then called the Industry Growth Council (see SNEWS® story, June 12, 2003, "IHRSA plans council to grow fitness industry") was the Get Active America club promotion event in May, with the second-annual Get Active event next month. That happened because the association and the council said it was more productive to rally around a single campaign and week to do its part to combat inactivity and obesity.

The last two years of CEO Forums at the IHRSA show have been partly effective and partly entertaining, but they've remained simply that: Forums for talking and not intended to produce to-do lists despite some good ideas tossed out. This CEO group was intended to end in implementation, not just chatter and applause.

Nautilus said the area was worthy of study, after being briefed recently on the final plan.

"Unlocking the behavioral aspects of avoiding or limiting exercise can help us all better meet the fitness needs of the public," said Nautilus Senior Vice President and Spokesman Ron Arp. "We look forward to seeing the results of it,"

As of early April, a Request for Proposal (RFP) had been sent, and several responses had already been returned, with several more expected, Leve said. CEO members will receive a summary of the responses this month, IHRSA will gather opinions and comments, then come up with a consensus by late May, Leve said. The final "go" should be ready to be given to the selected research group by July 1, with the project expected to take from four to six months. Results and a report should be done to present and discuss at the March 2006 IHRSA trade show.

"We'll go faster if we can," Leve said, "but we want to get it right."

The project will be funded partly by IHRSA and partly by donations by member manufacturers; however, the results will be open to everybody.

"This will be research for the entire industry," he said, "and it will be used for the good of everybody."

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