The Power of Community: Fostering Healthier Lives Together

Issue 8 - September 2023

Published On


The Power of Community: Fostering Healthier Lives Together

If you look to any of the five Blue Zones around the world — communities from Japan to Greece where residents live healthier, longer lives into their 90s and 100s — you’ll find some common themes. They eat a lot of plants, they have a slower pace of life, they spend time outdoors—but one of the biggest hints to their vitality and longevity is the emphasis on social connectivity.

In Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nikoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, CA; and Okinawa, Japan, communities are connected — socialization is a cornerstone of everyday life. Between church gatherings in California and passeggiata neighborhood walks on the Italian coast, human connection takes center stage, and the benefits are significant.

Harvard has reported on this in the past too. In their 80+ year study, the key takeaway was that “Good genes are nice, but joy is better,” and that “An active social life may help you live longer.”

“People with strong social connections may live longer and healthier lives, according to numerous studies,” says Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Earlier this year, Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, said, “At first, we didn’t believe it; we were wondering how this could be possible,” adding that the concept of relationship quality determining likelihood of “coronary artery disease or Type 2 diabetes or arthritis,” seemed preposterous. But “Other research groups began to find the same thing. Now it is a very robust finding. It’s very well established that interpersonal connectedness, and the quality of those connections, really impact health, as well as happiness.”

But 330 million adults globally go up to two weeks “without talking to a single family member or friend,” reports Gallup. And all this individualism isn’t serving our health.

Social Connection and Fitness

Fitness trends are already heading in the right direction:81% of Gen Z (the ones who currently exercise) take part in group workouts— perhaps the antidote to the loneliness epidemic we’re facing. “Small group training” is trending upward globally, including in Europe. A 200 person case study also found that the most attractive feature of a gym is that it is “friendly and welcoming,” indicating the influence of social interaction on the decision to work out.

As the Washington Post pointed out, “In 2023, people appear to be making up for exercise isolation by returning to the gym in larger numbers than before the pandemic.” According to a recent report, 2022 was tough for digital fitness apps, who registered their worst quarter of adoption since Q1 2020 (there’s still growth potential in this sector but that’s another topic).

Digital connection will continue to be important, though. In fact, before quarantine was over, many turned to fitness as a means of fostering this connection they craved from in-studio and in-gym workouts. The Peloton boom was largely due to the ability to virtually connect with others in real time during a workout. A 2021 study reported that “During isolation, sharing physical activity experiences was positively associated with social connectedness.” The takeaway here is that even when it’s digital, many of us are craving connection through fitness.

Another study found that imbuing fitness with a social component can have positive effects on the workout itself. “Social factors were associated with greater subjective enjoyment and energy. Higher subjective energy, in turn, was associated with faster run times, without any corresponding increase in perceived effort.”

Social opportunities may also influence how often people exercise. A 2022 study found that “Complete absence of social or peer influences resulted in long-term dominance of sedentary behavior and a decline of physically active populations.”

How Can Clubs Leverage Connection?

Fostering community isn’t necessarily entirely up to us as club owners and trainers. As Jennifer Beaton from The Olympic Club says, “Members build the community, not management.”

“What we can do is create an environment that cultivates natural relationships based on shared interests and experiences,” says Beaton. “Create an atmosphere and programming that promotes members engaging with each other. Help facilitate members ability to pursue their passions with like minded individuals and also engage with their community outside their club, be it through things like competition or philanthropy. Team competition naturally builds loyalty and support of the brand and bonds groups who play or compete together. Giving members the ability to build their own member club within a club is also a great way for members to organically socialize and build community.”

Tiffany Hamlin, Senior Director of Global Fitness & Technology at World Gym, comments,"Fostering a strong sense of community is at the heart of our operations. This area of focus has been ingrained into our culture since World Gym’s inception, when our company’s founder would walk the gym floor every day and greet each member by their name. At World Gym, we don’t want our members to simply 'attend' – we want them to feel and know that they belong here." She adds, "We build connections and relationships early by introducing new members to key staff and other members that share the same interests who will help them integrate comfortably into our gym."

Ani Oksayan, VP of Fitness at Chuze Fitness points out that because gym-goers are now “significantly more community-minded,” clubs must follow suit — and echoes what Hamlin and Beaton say about creating the right environment. “At Chuze Fitness, we acknowledge that a large part of giving members a sense of belonging, camaraderie and representation is fostered by being an intrinsically community-minded organization,” adds Oksayan. “We know that community needs are not 'one-size-fits-all' and can vary from city to city and state to state, [but] the foundation of building community is engaging the membership base; whether it is through detailed surveys, ambassador-type employees engaging members in conversation or the casual, organic connections made throughout the front desks and gym floors, we know that we can't hear our members if we're not asking and listening.”

Another suggestion from Oksayan? Go beyond fitness. “Unique events honoring community needs, like local holiday toy drives or school backpack giveaways in underserved communities,” were some incredible, out-of-the-box suggestions that go a step further than training and wellness. Additionally, “9/11 Tributes and Memorial Day Murph Workouts, meaningful events around Black History Month, Pride and Hispanic Heritage Month commemorations, community pet adoptions,” Oksayan says, can “Bolster mental and physical health” while also bringing a community together.

Through these lenses, with this information, social interaction and fitness are inextricably linked. While COVID may have changed the trajectory for how this connectedness takes place, the end result is the same — humans are finding ways to work out together. And through this social fitness, we’re on track to live healthier, happier, longer lives.


Industry Happenings:

Upcoming Events:

  1. Pilates Empowerment Summit, September 14-17, 2023, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Save $50 with code InspirePES50
  2. Sibec EMEA, September 26-29, 2023, Sorrento, Italy
  3. Midwest MANIA®, September 29 - October 1, 2023, Rosemont, Illinois
  4. Sibec 2023, October 16-19, 2023, Dallas, Texas
  5. IHRSA European Congress, October 17-19, 2023, Lisbon, Portugal
  6. NASM Master Trainer Summit, October 28-29, 2023, Virtual
  7. International Council on Active Aging Conference and Expo, October 31-November 2, 2023, Anaheim, California


Upcoming Workshops:

  1. Peak Pilates: 20+ workshops in September
  2. Spinning®: 15+ workshops in September
  3. FMT: 8 workshops in September
  4. Mike Boyle's CFSC: 5 workshops in September
  5. TRX®: 5 workshops in September
  6. Oxygen Advantage: 4 workshops in September
  7. SoulBody Fitness: 3 workshops in September
  8. Gray Institute: 4 workshops in October


Industry News:

  • The John W. Brick Foundation is hosting the Move Your Mental Health Event October 1st through October 10th
  • Hyperice partnered with Pro Pickleball Association and became its Official Recovery Technology Partner
  • Adidas and Les Mills announced their new training offering built for next gen fitness fans
  • Research from Mount Sinai found that the "fat burning zones" on many commercial exercise machines are not accurate
  • Peloton launched a new college strategy, partnering with colleges, universities, athletes, and student platforms to bring the brand's workouts to campuses
  • Crunch Fitness became the first gym to enable Amazon One palm-based entry for its members
  • FlexIt was ranked the fastest-growing digital fitness and wellness service by Inc. Magazine


Thanks for Reading!

This newsletter was brought to you by Kathie Davis, Peter Davis, Ravi Sharma, Dominique Astorino, and the Inspire360 team.


A Note from Peter & Kathie

The industry is changing rapidly and we are here to help you sift through all the noise and get to the good stuff. Every month, we'll bring you trending topics and the inside scoop that we believe is paramount for fitness professionals to know.

Keep Inspiring,

Peter & Kathie Davis

Want to get this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up to receive the Inspire360 Global Fitness Newsletter here.