The fitness industry is forever evolving. That has never been more clear than what we have seen over the past year.
Stay-at-home orders brought on by the outbreak of COVID-19 accelerated the virtual health and fitness industry in a matter of weeks. During this time, we realized fitness and other health programming, like nutrition and meditation services, could effectively be delivered online. This has opened us up to the idea of working out at home. Our perceptions of exercise and the overall health experience has changed drastically.
All of this new technology and variety of options at our finger tips has been exciting. But I would be lying if I said that it did not make me wonder — and worry — about what it means for recreational services on campus. Can we remain relevant in these changing times? Recreation centers have always been the go-to place for getting your workout in on college campuses. They have also been the source of information and education about exercise and fitness. But people are now feeling more comfortable and open to virtual fitness programming in all forms. Not only that, people have also been investing in at-home fitness equipment at an unprecedented rate.
As we emerge from the global pandemic, colleges and universities across the country are figuring out how to move forward. Will we go back to doing things the way we did them pre-pandemic? What changes that we have adopted over the past year will we continue with in post-pandemic life? Chances are, our lives will be a combination of the way things were as well as new ways of doing things.
Throughout it all, how can recreation departments maintain their relevancy?
Here are some ways you can continue to support your campus community in the face of a changed industry:
Let’s remember that one size does not fit all, especially in the world of health and fitness. In order to support your campus community, it’s key to remember our students are going to want options.
We know that those who achieved success with at-home workouts are likely to continue to work out at home. However, studies are showing regular exercisers are now likely to look for both at-home and in-person fitness options. Although some of our students may have spent most of 2020 turning their garages and basements into home gyms, campus recreation centers still house more equipment than the average person can fit in their home. Not to mention, the basketball courts, competition-size swimming pools, saunas and other offerings in recreation centers.
Another big appeal is the support of other people working out. Some users will look to recreations centers for a place to sweat it out among other exercise enthusiasts.
Throughout lockdown, the majority of gymgoers were forced to take time off from their regular fitness routines. Many stopped working out altogether.
However, coming out of COVID, many of these people will be looking to get back into a routine and regain their form. This is a great opportunity for rec centers to provide support. Offering services like fitness assessments and programs such as “gym refreshers” can be a great way to lure users back into your rec centers.
Although we have found new ways to incorporate fitness into our lives, what isn’t new is that movement and exercise have always been crucial to health. But just knowing that regular exercise can prevent disease does not always motivate people to act. After living through a global pandemic and seeing the devastating impact disease had on so many, now is the time for fitness professionals to push the benefits of fitness in boosting the immune system. Now more than ever people may be more open to the idea of working to put themselves in the best shape to fight infections such as COVID-19.
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