Moving More; are we asking the correct questions?
Hardly a day goes by without reading or hearing how we should move more, that we should be more active and how exercise, combined with sound nutrition maybe the silver bullet to disease and illness.
The 2017 ukactive National Summit, with its excellent keynote speakers, relevant and interactive breakout sessions, reminded us once again just how inactive as a nation we have become and the importance of keeping active through every stage of our lives. The full report titled Moving More, Ageing Well is available to download on www.lifefitness.co.uk/ukactive_report.
This thinking may or may not be true, however, the fact remains that as a society we are more sedentary than ever as our lives consistently become ‘easier’. With the ever-increasing automation of digital products and the capabilities of machines to complete our manual labour tasks, is it any wonder that we are doing less?!!
It is only the eldest of our population that still has the move more mentality as they grew up during the second world war or were born just after, where rebuilding while healing were societies drivers. They had to get on, they had to do and they knew no different.
In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s most occupations placed far more movement demands on the workforce than in the subsequent decades, meaning todays 80 and 90-year olds simply did more. They are the ‘can do’ generations and sedentary behaviour was not an option.
It is only at the other end of our spectrum, in our youngest that we can see the overarching desire to move, explore, sprint, climb, jump, swim and complete gymnastics movements without a care or concern around hurting oneself! For many, nowadays though, the passion to move is over long before puberty.
So, specifically when do we lose this innate drive to move? When is activity no longer fun? When does exercise become limited or painful?
Whilst the answers to these questions will undoubtedly be individual; our solution as an industry appears to be to create exercise spaces that only appeal to a small proportion of the population!
Take Active Ageing as an example, to create a sub-division of the market space based purely on age and then to assume we know what these generations want seems both a little short-sighted and somewhat offensive! Even the term Active Ageing is none descript with the second word potentially holding negative connotations.
Now, we need to be cognisant that as humans we tend to be attracted to people we instantly like and there may be an argument that we seek social groups where we find people like ourselves. It may well be that generations born in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s wish to socialise with those of a similar age, who may or may not have the same physical limitations as themselves.
Yet, are we naive enough to assume that these generations who were the pioneers of a different business model, one that was less focused on physically exhausting oneself every day, are going to reach part-retirement or full retirement and wish to suddenly buy a gym membership?
Might we wish to instead discuss that the 10 - 15% of these generations have always been active, participating in a variety of sports, outdoor pursuits and social based activities. These are simply not our target audience.
Whilst this section of society, may not own gym memberships you only have to go out on any trail to see these generations walking, running, cycling and even climbing. Or attend any leisure centre during off peak hours and see them swimming, playing racket sports or attending group classes.
The challenge is not how to engage the ‘Active Agers’ better, it is certainly not how to provide facilities and equipment that is best suited to this population and it is not to question why these generations chose not to participate in our gym sessions.
Therefore, perhaps the question we need to address is ‘ageless’. How do we reduce the barriers to activity, making movement fun again while limiting the alternative distractions/ demands placed on each one of us?
And when we find the answer we can effectively create solutions…