5 April 2021
David Stalker has served the fitness industry well for more than 20 years. He is the current president of Europe Active and CEO of Myzone EMEA. His past roles include Chairman of Fit For Sport, Chairman of CIMSPA and CEO of ukactive.
David, you have a lot of industry experience under your belt, what do you think will be the biggest challenges for health club operators in the UK over the next 5 years?
I believe the biggest challenge for our sector will also be one of our biggest opportunities. As a sector, we have long claimed that we can help to solve the UK’s obesity and inactivity crisis and support the nation’s health.
Indeed, our facilities, programmes and services have proved a lifeline for people’s physical and mental wellbeing during this pandemic. But to be a real solution partner for public health, we need to get much better at engaging with the large percentage of the population who don’t currently use our facilities.
And to do that, we have to find ways of embracing their chosen form of activity – in our clubs, outdoors or in their own homes – and rewarding them for their efforts. The sector has failed to this to date, but it’s vital that we become relevant for these people if we are to move beyond the rhetoric and become true community facilities.
On the flip side, where do you see the biggest opportunities within the UK fitness industry over the next 5 years?
As we emerge from this crisis, I believe we have a unique opportunity to rebuild our sector in closer alignment with the healthcare industry to take a whole systems approach to public health. Throughout this pandemic, both the government and the medical profession have championed physical activity as a means of boosting our immunity to protect ourselves against the virus.
Yet, we still have a long way to go to earn the trust and respect of our healthcare colleagues. To be a true health delivery partner, we have to develop an offer that is both community and health driven, we have to provide robust evidence that proves our impact and we have to upskill the people working in our clubs so they can collaborate with healthcare professionals to improve the lives of all people through though regular physical activity.
The Covid pandemic has forced the fitness industry to adapt & evolve. What do you think are some key elements a traditional health club can implement to succeed in this new landscape once the govt allows gyms to open?
I believe clubs have to embrace the digital revolution if they want to succeed going forwards. The pandemic has shown that digitalisation is vital to engaging with existing members, but it can also help clubs reach out to new audiences.
Digital platforms can make fitness more accessible and affordable. They allow clubs to move beyond the confines of their four walls and take their services to consumers wherever they may be. This opens up new markets and income streams for clubs and allows them to develop relationships with people who might never have considered joining their facilities in the past, for example those who live further afield or who prefer to exercise from home.
Taking advantage of digitalisation is I believe one of the most important things operators can do to in this new landscape.