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A Glimpse Into European Health. Part 2

by Daniel on October 14th, 2012

Fitness facility services

The services offered at some of the European facilities I visited include some services that are becoming less popular in the U.S. Solariums, known as tanning beds in the U.S., are popular throughout Europe, and bronzed skin is promoted as a sign of good health and beauty. In fact, the brochure of Gymnasium Health Clubs in Paris states that sun-bathing is beneficial to the body, and bronzed skin is “synonymous with form and health.”1 In addition to solariums, electro-stimulation equipment and machines that vibrate and massage are promoted to club members in Paris to eliminate cellulite and increase muscle mass.1

Club trends by city

Following is a breakdown of services, programs and fitness trends by city and individual health clubs that I visited. While these trends may also occur in the U.S., they can help to explain the role that cultural factors play in determining an area’s fitness needs, and how American trends can affect the European health club industry.

London. In London, members of local health clubs seem to be health-conscious, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see many of them eating steak and potato dinners and consuming alcoholic drinks in club restaurants. Drinking at local pubs is a way of life for the British, and health clubs offer their members bars and restaurants to relax in and enjoy the company of others after working out. The trend toward low-fat, healthy eating is becoming more popular in British culture, so many clubs offer healthy foods to members, such as low-fat foods, shakes and protein bars.

I also found that Londoners like to participate in a wide variety of sports, especially racquet sports such as tennis, paddle tennis and squash. Vicky Lamb, PR manager of Holmes Place Health Clubs, with 50 clubs throughout the U.K. and 15 clubs across Europe, says, “Racquet sports are very popular, with tennis most popular in the summer months and squash [most popular with] men.”

In addition to racquet sports, group exercise classes are a big trend in London health clubs. The busiest classes at Holmes Place clubs include strength, Pilates and cycling classes, with martial-arts-based classes more popular with men, and toning, stretching and aerobics classes more popular with women. Also, many of Holmes Place’s group exercise classes were imported from the U.S., and members have a rising interest in mind/body fitness from the East. Mind/body classes such as tai chi and yoga are garnering such a positive reception in London that many health clubs are building separate studios solely for these classes. Lamb adds that these classes are popular among both men and women, with participation rates at about 60 percent for female members and 40 percent for male members.

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