European Fitness Community Gathers at EHFF to Focus on Trends, Consumers, Inclusivity, Certification

The 9th annual European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF) attracted more than 450 fitness representatives on April 6 in Cologne, Germany, according to EuropeActive, which hosted the event ahead of FIBO, which occurs April 7-10 in Cologne.

The event’s focus was on the industry’s future beyond COVID-19, business opportunities and overcoming challenges, all of which are encompassed in the event’s theme of “Moving Forward Together — Collaborating to Rebuild and Renew the Fitness and Physical Activity Sector.”

The event included a presentation by EuropeActive Ambassador Herman Rutgers and Karsten Hollasch from Deloitte on the findings of the European Health & Fitness Market Report 2022.

“European memberships increased by roughly one million members or 2 percent from 55.2 million in 2020 to 56.3 million by year end 2021,” Hollasch told the audience. “The total number of fitness clubs slightly increased (0.2 percent) from 63,059in 2020 to 63,173  in 2021.”

EuropeActive President David Stalker and Fitness News Europe’s Barbara Smit moderated the panel “The State of the Industry and 2022 Trends,” which focused on results of a January 2022 survey of EuropeActive members. Panelists Kirsty Angove of Trib3, Silje Garberg Ree of SATS, Neil Randall of Anytime Fitness and Fabian Menzel of XTRAFIT shared how club operators’ key priorities should be on accelerating digitalization, adapting to clients’ expectations, staff recruitment and motivation, and pricing and developing business models.

Ree noted that digitalization offers new opportunities but also challenges.

“It’s not just about fitness clubs anymore,” she said. “The competition is really increasing. We have to broaden our scope, which will allow us to reach new clients.”

4global Chief Product Officer Utku Toprakseven then took the audience through a session on the European Data Hub. The objective of this hub is to provide EuropeActive and partners with the data and insight to demonstrate the scale, impact and value of the European health and fitness market, Toprakseven said. Through the project, a digital ecosystem is being built to aggregate data from across the sector while developing common data standards to allow consistent analysis and reporting. 4global will then share the main principles, current status and value proposition of the European DataHub for operators, national associations and technology partners.

Another session looked at the, a European fitness club certification that is in trial phase at 340 club brands in nine European countries, representing about 1,800 club sites. Club brands participating in the trial include Basic-Fit, PureGym, Sport City, The Gym Group, David Lloyd Leisure and more.

“FITcert is rapidly becoming a clearly identifiable and respected brand mark and includes a public register of certified clubs,” said EuropeActive Senior Advisor Cliff Collins. “The COVID pandemic showed the importance for the fitness sector to be more clearly defined and recognized to explain its political and economic position with governments, health authorities, insurers and in courts of law.”

The certification is managed by the Royal Netherlands Standards Institute (NEN) in cooperation with international inspection bodies including KIWA, SGS and TUV.

Inclusivity took center stage in the panel “Achieving Greatly: Inclusion in Action,” moderated by Chair of the EuropeActive Inclusion Advisory Group Catherine Edmunds. Panelists Maike Kumstel of Sport Alliance, Grace McNamara of EXi Therapeutics, Clive Ormerod of Les Mils and Wladimir Rommich of Westpark Fitness spoke about the importance and benefits of having a more diverse and inclusive fitness industry. They also shared the value of continued learning, measuring the impact of inclusion policies, and the importance of accountability and data.

“Fitness is for everybody,” Kumstel said during the panel. “It is even more important for our sector to have a diverse set of staff that mirror the world we are in.”

Even though the challenges to being inclusive may be large, it is essential to the future of the industry, Ormerod said.

The industry can begin to make strides in this area by having more honest conversations on the topic so business operators know what they need to work on and what help they need, McNamara said.

The next panel, moderated by EuropeActive Board Member Jennifer Halsall, focused on the future of the fitness consumer. Panelists Emma Barry of Good Soul Hunting, Ian Mullane of, and Andreas Paulsen of EuropeActive looked at the changes in fitness consumers, who are now at the center of everything.

“COVID-19 has made clear the strengths and weaknesses of our sector and the paradigm shifts that are needed — and one of them is the consumer focus,” Paulsen said.

Mullane spoke about how mental health is now more valued by consumers, even more in some cases than physical health.  Barry added that the fitness sector has now become the health and wellness sector during the past two years.

The panel also discussed how personalization, digitalization and innovation intersect with what consumers want.

Also during the event, Stalker was re-elected for a three-year term as EuropeActive president.

EuropeActive, based in Brussels, Belgium, is a not-for-profit organization representing the European fitness and physical activity sector. Membership is open to public and private fitness center operators, suppliers, national associations, training providers, higher education and accreditation institutions.