If you aren’t already doing so, tracking participation levels in your community fitness offerings is a must! This includes collecting resident visits to the fitness center, participation in individual classes on the group fitness calendar, and participation in fitness center appointments and services.
One obstacle for many communities in doing this is evaluating whether they have a dedicated point person who can regularly support this effort. Participation will need to be tracked, documented, and evaluated on a regular basis for it to be of any value.
Tracking this data is not rocket science. We are talking about some basic spreadsheets to serve as weekly sign-in sheets for the fitness center and group classes, and then some sort of a weekly or monthly tracking template to regularly document the information. It simply takes establishing a system that can be communicated to the entire fitness staff and then consistently followed through on from week to week.
Benefits to the Community
Although it can be a challenge to determine the return on investment your fitness program is lending to your community, regularly tracking participation levels and establishing target goals for the program can be great banter for your marketing department when it speaks with prospects. Meet with your marketing team and tell them about the data you are going to gather from month to month to make sure it is being documented in a way that will serve their purposes when promoting the healthy lifestyle culture at your community.
While they may not have statistics on decreased falls at the community or improved quality of life as a result of fitness programming (although many communities are moving to a model in which they are able to collect this data), marketing can share with prospects and their families that XX% of the resident population are active participants in the fitness program or that XX number of residents regularly attend your community balance class. This hard data puts a backbone behind the legitimacy of your program for marketing to work with beyond, “we have a lot of residents who come to our fitness center and balance class is their favorite!”
Benefits for Fitness Staff
Ready…aim…fire! Without regular participation data to evaluate when deciding on your next fitness program, you may as well step up to pull the trigger and go straight from “ready” to “fire” without an opportunity to aim. The aim should involve looking at ebbs and flows in visits to the fitness center or participation levels in classes and creating targeted programs to increase the number and frequency of participants. Without the opportunity to aim, it will be more difficult to anticipate your residents’ needs.
Even worse, don’t keep a poorly attended program running just because you’ve always offered it. I guarantee you have at least one class on your monthly calendar in which participation has trickled off in recent months or even years. You may be saying to yourself, “Yes, but those three participants still really enjoy the class.” While that may be true, you may be neglecting a dozen more residents who have a desire for a different class while you are pouring resources into a sinking ship. Allow participation data to be a free resource to advance your community fitness program by allowing your staff to aim toward meaningful goals and hopefully more effective programs.
Benefits for Residents
The greatest benefit of all from tracking participation is how it can better serve the residents of your community! Everything that was stated in the previous section on benefiting the staff will of course carry over to benefit the residents through more meaningful program options. By tracking participation data, your fitness staff will be able to further evaluate who is coming to different classes or visiting the fitness center and how often they are doing so…and conversely, who is not! This is truly where relationships are made between the fitness staff and residents!
For example, the fitness staff will have the ability to note whether a three time per week balance class participant suddenly isn’t coming. A follow-up phone call to a resident noting their absence and welcoming them back makes a huge impact in resident adherence and satisfaction. Furthermore, targeted membership campaigns can be tailored to attract residents not currently participating in the program. Without the data to regularly report who is coming to what and when, these outreach efforts to residents would not be possible in a strategic and effective manner.