Given that Millennials are in their prime athletic years (18-35), it might be expected that they would be in better shape than other generations and at least meeting the Centers for Disease Control’s minimum guidelines of 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. Unfortunately, researchers are finding that isn’t necessarily the case. According to Mintel, while 88% of Millennials engage in some form of exercise, they are not as physical as they think. And a study by Life University found that Millennials believe they are healthier than other generations but their actual habits are in fact no different from their parents.
So how can fitness-related brands get this generation moving in the physical direction? Here are a few ideas:
Make it Exciting and Social
One of the main challenges of exercise is that it lacks excitement and sociability. Being a generation of diversity, immediate gratification and sociability, Millennials spark to things that keep their attention, remix the ordinary and tie in with their social worlds.
Some clubs are already catching on and creating new workouts that mix it up. Chi Running and Soul Cycle are two examples. KiwiSweat is a pop up gym in New York that keeps things exciting by offering classes in nontraditional places like Chelsea Market and an art center in Brooklyn.
And the more brands can incorporate social, the better. Brands can build on a Millennial’s social connections by giving users the ability to share their own results and seek support from both the brand and their community. Brands can also use social channels to become the spark needed to keep fitness interesting by offering personal training tips and new workouts digitally. Or gyms and brands like Brooks could partner with social organizations such as It’s Just Lunch to organize lunchtime runs.
Make it Fast and Flexible
Millennials grew up in an on-demand world. They are used to speed, ease and convenience, which could be one reason why activities like running are growing faster than gym memberships.
Gyms do have opportunities. Mintel found that the same percentage of Millennials is interested in online fitness videos as going to a gym but 72% of 18-25 year olds think gyms are too expensive. Gyms need to add flexibility in their programs and pricing. They are competing with the 18K fitness apps currently available in iTunes that give people the ability to try different types of activities. Couldn’t gyms enable people to sample new activities and create flexible fee structures that encourage variety and persistence? Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago has a unique strategy of encouraging usage by offering new members the chance to earn their enrollment fee back if they work out 36 times in 90 days.
Brands can also help Millennials take their workout with them by offering podcasts of classes to do at home or creating branded podcast memberships. Equinox utilizes a YouTube channel (6.1 million video views) to feature workout videos that are high-quality, well-designed films that feel fresh and interesting. And Westin Hotels (in partnership with New Balance) has made exercise fast and flexible by offering guests the ability to rent whatever gear they need for $5.
Reward Them and Their Interests
Along with immediate gratification comes a Millennial’s love for prizes and other symbols of accomplishment. Millennials appreciate brands that utilize technology to track and reward progress. Nike+ was a pioneer and there are now others like Striiv – a pedometer that offers rewards, challenges and punishments to motivate users and keep them active. The trophies and points earned for accomplishments can be used to play MyLand, a FarmVille-like game to help motivate people, or to make a donation to one of three charities.
But the opportunity extends beyond fitness gadgets. Millennials will continue to look for gaming and other technologies to sync with their life and their bodies. Healthcare in general needs to add a social gaming layer to reward Millennials for engaging in their health in a deeper way while keeping it fun. There’s even an opportunity to incorporate technologies into everyday clothing and gear that measure health and provide instant feedback. And it could be worth paying more for… according to Mintel’s “Fitness Clothing—U.S., September 2011”report, 38% of exercising 18-24 year olds said that it’s worth it to pay more for better quality products and technologies.
Make it Personal
Millennial’s value personalization and customization in the experiences they participate in. One way brands can add opportunities for personalization is through partnerships. Could you enable your users to choose their rewards from the brands they value rather than from a predetermined set? Or what if you could personalize your company healthcare plan by adding gym memberships, massages, and things like fresh fruit deliveries into the monthly cost of your plan?
Gyms can also enable Millennials to make their experience more personal and customized. They could offer members the ability to create custom fitness platforms using different fitness gear like accelerometers that marry music tracks to different workouts. They could even customize their refreshments. There is an Australian vending machine that tailors a protein drink to your body fat and fitness goals.
According to Mintel’s “Exercise Trends” (October 2012), 80% of Americans who have gym memberships don’t use them. Who knows … maybe adding excitement, flexibility, personalization and rewards might just benefit more than the Millennial.