Your Next Client Is Stressed and Terrified Right Now

A closeup image of a very stressed man with his hands on his head.

COVID changed the fitness industry in 2020, and fitness pros are still trying to figure out the new rules of the game.

As more and more data comes out, we’ll continue to learn how we can adjust our businesses to serve clients better.

Read on for my key takeaways from Mindbody’s “2022 Wellness Index Fitness Report.”

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

Mindbody’s report is based on a survey of 16,000 Americans who live in big U.S. cities. You can get the 39-page PDF here.

One of the report’s overarching themes is an echo of the all-too-common news stories that fill the health sections of every publication: People are stressed. The pandemic and its restrictions were hard on everyone, and we’re starting to learn exactly how challenging the last two years have been.

For example, about half of survey respondents said the pandemic had negative effects on their mental health. Gen Z (18-24) and Millennials (25-40) suffered most, at 57 and 53 percent, respectively.

Here’s a bombshell: 40 percent of respondents believe the pandemic has negatively affected their physical health.

And get this: The report states that 77 percent of consumers know physical activity improves their mental health. In fact, stress relief is now the No. 1 reason people work out. Before the pandemic, the top three reasons to hit the gym were:

1. Control weight—35 percent
2. Feel good—33 percent
3. Live a long and healthy life—32 percent

Here are the Top 3 from the Mindbody report for 2022 (you’ll note that the first two are basically the exact same thing):

1. Reduce stress—43 percent
2. Feel better mentally—43 percent
3. Look better physically—39 percent

Here’s a solid line from the report’s Takeaways section: “Rather than messages that focus on ‘getting in shape’ or ‘losing weight,’ leading with the mental health benefits of exercise may resonate more.”

You’ll have to analyze your own audience, but the info above might make you question the wisdom of posting yet another video on squat technique. You might be better off posting a testimonial from a member who says, “I can’t believe how much better I feel mentally after an hour at this gym.”

Why People Don’t Call You

The report also digs into the reasons people don’t use fitness to improve their lives. Here are the top barriers:

1. Too expensive
2. Worry about COVID-19 cleanliness
3. Don’t have time
4. Feel too intimidated

I’d suggest you ignore the first one. Your rates should be set to support your business and your life. People will pay them if you find the right people. And No. 2? All you can do is keep cleaning your space and telling people about it as COVID fears subside.

No. 3? We all know people can find time for anything they want to do. To address it, you might highlight the time-saving features of your business. Perhaps you have a 30-minute class or a “mommy and me” program that doubles down on adult fitness and child care. Maybe you have an at-home programming stream or provide online coaching that eliminates travel time. If your business can help people get fit fast, tell the world.

No. 4 is big deal—and it’s fixable.

Check this out: According to the report, more people feel too intimidated to go to a gym in 2022. This year, 19 percent of survey respondents said so, and that’s well up from 12 percent in 2021.

And here are the responses to the question “what would make you less intimidated in going to a studio/gym?”:

  • Getting in better shape first—55 percent
  • Seeing more people like me in the gym/studio and its promotions
  • Seeing that the gym/studio supports diverse populations

You can–and should—address this stuff. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Put out a series of articles and videos that detail the exact fitness level required to join your gym. Define it even though the only qualification is likely “breathing.” Tell people that you serve beginners, and smile when you say it.
  • Focus on the welcoming aspects of your facility: your staff people, your intake process, your friendly members, and so on. Don’t post about your turf and reverse-hyper machine. Post about how you help new people feel comfortable.
  • Post pics that show beginners having fun. Not beastly athletes hitting PRs. Feature average people from all cultures and walks of life. Make sure your ideal prospective clients look at your media and see “people like me.”

Mindbody’s report highlighted once again a disconnect that has always existed: People know fitness improves health, but they’re so intimidated by gyms that they won’t start working out.  

I’ll provide a simple action plan to help you address the issue.

Every day, put up a post that does one of these three things:

1. Presents the mental-health benefits of fitness or details your mindset coaching services.

2. Makes your intake process and facility look professional and extremely welcoming. Tell people you’ll hold their hands.

3. Shows very average people doing basic fitness activities with smiles on their faces.

Remember this: People are out of shape and stressed, and you have the exact skills that can help them feel better.

You just need to explain that to them and address their fears. Do it every day. And do it as many times as it takes.


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.