Active Isn’t Enough: What Gym Owners Know and the Public Doesn’t

A confused woman awkwardly holds a yellow kettlebell in a gym.

“Two-thirds of Americans believe they are currently active.”

This was by far my favorite line in “The Next Fitness Consumer Report” recently published by ClubIntel and sponsored by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and ABC Fitness Solutions.

You can read a summary of the report here or get the full report here for the low price of your contact info.

The line makes me laugh because of the word “believe.”

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

I’m not sure if the publisher intended to throw shade at survey respondents, but to me the term suggests that some people who believe they are active aren’t really active at all.

Here’s another line that adds more detail: “66 percent of consumers are currently exercising, working out or staying active in some regard.”

It’s an interesting stat, but it’s kind of worthless because “staying active” is so vague. It’s like saying this: “66 percent of survey respondents don’t drink at all or drink less than 10 beers a week.”


Activity and Actual Training

Let’s be clear: productive exercise and general activity are not the same thing. To be fair, they’re both important, and I’d never criticize anyone who lives an “active lifestyle.” I want people moving.

But we need to remember that gardening, walking the dog and other activities do not produce the same results as actual physical training. General activity is part of health, but it isn’t the same as a focused plan to maintain or improve health. And, to be honest, most gym goers don’t really have a clue how to systematically improve fitness, though their random training is far better than not training at all.

My argument is that general consumers don’t know what proper physical training actually is, so gym owners have a huge opportunity to tell them.

Physical training is not:

  • Doing some yard work twice a week.
  • Playing with the kids or dog.
  • Riding the bike to work.
  • Hitting the gym and doing the same routine three times a week all year (though this is certainly a step in the right direction).

Physical training for improved health and fitness is:

  • Following an optimal diet and exercise plan that clearly and consistently moves all key metrics in the right direction as people accomplish their goals.

My definition above puts the finer points of physical training and eating properly outside the province of the average person.  

And that’s my point. The average people do not have the skills to create nutrition and fitness programs that improve health. They can certainly make progress, but it won’t be optimal without the help of an educated coach.

I‘ve been there: I used to do the same workouts every day for months because I saw them in some muscle mag. What I did was better than nothing, and I made some progress. But it wasn’t optimal progress, and I made lots of mistakes because I wasn’t switching up my routine, addressing weaknesses, eating properly and sleeping enough.

What I really needed was someone to guide me—or way more education. I chose the latter route eventually and opened a gym. Most people need a guide—but they don’t know it.

Gym owners and trainers need to start conversations with people and explain what physical training and productive activity actually are. Remember, 66 percent of Americans “believe they are currently active,” yet the U.S. adult obesity rate was 42.4 percent in 2020. Something isn’t going according to plan.

If there’s one thing gym owners should do to build their brands, it’s this: Show people how a nutrition and fitness expert can help them make measurable changes to their health.

Two-thirds of Americans believe they’re active—and likely wonder why they aren’t healthier. You can tell them why—and how they can change their lives.

If you need help figuring out how to tell your story to your audience, Two-Brain can help on Aug. 26. Check out our Storytelling Workshop.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.