Creating A Better Fit – How Can the Health and Fitness Industry Better Serve You?

I’m not one to step up on a soap box very often, but Leah Segedie, founder of Mamavation, a health community for moms that I’m very actively involved in, has encouraged us to write a post about “the health & fitness industry from an average American perspective, ie: what they can do to make to make us all feel more welcome and comfortable with them” in an effort to help create a better fit. Although I’m Canadian, I feel the need to join in this blogging revolution (albeit a little late) because this is a topic I feel quite strongly about.

Fitness… Fitness in my humble opinion is NOT about seeking to achieve thinness, six-pack abs, or even a healthy body weight. To me, fitness is about developing and maintaining optimal health. Fitness is being free of disease, and having the strength, balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance necessary to lead a high quality of life, both now and well into our eighties (perhaps even beyond!). It’s eating foods that will help our bodies perform optimally ie: fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, etc… Clean eating.

Unfortunately the so-called fitness industry has decided that their definition of “fitness” looks a little bit more like this:

(This is one of the first images I found when I googled “Fit Chick“)

The images of “fit” people in gym advertising campaigns depicts people with a physique that is unattainable for the majority of us. Yet it creates a feeling of shame in us for not looking like that – we *think* that’s what being fit looks like. Although I can run a half-marathon in two hours flat and I’m very active, even I don’t “feel fit” because I don’t LOOK the way the so-called fitness industry says a fit person looks. I don’t have six-pack abs, legs free of cellulite, and tight toned arms. Does that mean I’m not fit?

“Hi, I’m Janice, and I’m not “fit”, can you make me “fit”?

This is so wrong!  In my opinion, gyms can better serve us by shifting their thinking, and their advertising.  What if gyms were focused on improving yourself?  Teaching us to run further, faster, better, increase our overall body strength, improve our flexibility, and our balance?  Yes, gyms somewhat do that now with their class offerings, but the focus is on doing those things to LOOK fit, not actually BEING fit.  What if the “before” and “after” campaigns was something like:

“This is Janice, in January she returned to running with a Couch-to-5k program and by May she ran a half marathon”

Leah, who started this blogging revolution, never felt that gyms were a comfortable place, instead she worked out at home to improve her strength, endurance, balance and flexibility – as she improved she lost an amazing amount of weight.  When she first started her fitness journey she could barely walk, yet now she can run 5k’s and participate in Tae Bo classes easily.  Her results aren’t typical, she had an enormous amount of self motivation to do that.

What if gyms were different?  Would Leah have felt more comfortable if gyms were about self-improvement? What if gyms were more welcoming, and supportive?  What if people talked to each other about their goals and what they were doing to improve them, instead of people eyeing each other: “oh, see that chick over there?  She’s not fit – look at her….”.  What if gyms fostered a healthy environment through their ad campaigns, their staff, and their attitude towards fitness?  What if gyms were about BEING fit instead of LOOKING fit?  Would more people go?  Would more people work towards goals and improving themselves?  In my opinion, that’s how the fitness industry can better serve us.

What do you think?  How can the health and fitness industry better serve you?


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  • Kodjo
    December 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Though it would be ideal if Gyms around the country engage on the campaign you suggest, the human is by default a goal-oriented being. It is unfortunate, but that means, if we don’t know what we are going to look like, we don’t find the motivation to go to the gym. Now, that doesn’t apply to everyone, and you and I are testimonials of that. But for the majority of people, it is true. This means that Gyms have to find a way to cater to that human tendency of achieving goals. That’s all they are doing.
    I don’t think Gyms are the root of the problem. They may be branch or the leaf, but not the root.


    • Janice
      December 13, 2011 at 7:41 am

      That’s the misconception I was referring to – that weight loss is the only goal possible that gyms can help with. Many people don’t believe they can lose weight to look like the models, so they don’t go or even try. It’s up to us, the fitness industry to educate them that there are lots of ways to measure and track improvements in strength, balance, flexibility and endurance, and these improvements are just, if not more important to longevity than attaining an ideal aesthetic weight. I’m not familiar with the education that a personal trainer has – my background is in Kinesiology, so perhaps they just don’t have that knowledge?
      As for goals… Running a 5k, marathon, completing a triathlon etc, are all great goals! However the few times I enquired at a gym about working with a personal trainer for sport specific improvements in my speed, endurance, flexibility and core strength they looked at me like I had two heads & honestly admitted they knew NOTHING about endurance training. Aren’t those components of fitness?


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