Trend Report: How Club Operators Can Put Their Spin on Social Wellness (Part II)

As discussed in Part I of this article, social wellness is a concept whose time has come. People are increasingly looking for places where they can connect with others in real life. Businesses that can develop community among their members have the potential to become third places, venues people habitually go to when not at home or at the office.

How does a fitness center become a favored third place? By transitioning into a social wellness club. Not only will the transition help put your business ahead of the curve, the strategy will help with client enrollment and retention.

Developing Community at Your Club or Studio

Josh Leve, founder and CEO of the Fitness Business Association notes, “During COVID, people leaned on their gyms for a social component, even though it was initially all online. The places that did an awesome job of online community building are continuing the progression post-pandemic.”

To continue that progression, it’s important for operators to take a step back and identify what their members crave through the lens of social wellness. Think about the type of events that can encourage connection. Think about what members enjoy.

There are a variety of strategies for developing social wellness programming. Start first with what you know best. Add more group classes and sports leagues to encourage social interaction. Leve suggests that staging relay races, tournaments and fitness challenges can help foster a sense of camaraderie among members.

Then there are fitness-adjacent concepts, like workshops on various aspects of health and nutrition, book clubs focusing on wellness topics, cooking classes, or wellness product fairs and demonstrations.

The next level is adding programming that goes beyond fitness per se. Many clubs have added communal get-togethers, from game nights to movie nights to mocktail happy hours. For example, Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago has regular happy hours and movie nights, and members are encouraged to take part in charitable events it hosts.

Hosting charity events, by the way, can be a community and social wellness builder within your business and within the town in which you operate. Find out which local charities align with the values of your company and its members. Ask members to help organize, volunteer at the event, or just show up at the event. These affairs also draw in the local community, folks who are potential customers for your business. 

By focusing on social wellness, business operators will end up nurturing relationships with and between members. By hosting regular interactive events, you can boost your member retention by building a sense of community. 

As Leve points out, “People don’t leave situations where they have strong foundational relationships. The more a club becomes the place to hang out, the more integrated their social networks are within a certain club, the less likely clients are to leave.”