Medicine: Another day, another study that shows that exercise is the best medicine. From Time:
About 16 million adults in the U.S., and 350 million people around the world, have depression, a major source of physical and mental disability. It affects people’s employment and their ability to socialize and maintain relationships.
Now, in a large study published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers say there may be a relatively inexpensive, non-invasive way to combat depression, beginning in middle-age. The scientists, led by Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, director of the center for depression research and clinical care at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, report that being physically fit can lower the risk of developing depression, and can also lower the risk of developing heart disease and dying early. “Depression doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” says Trivedi, senior author of the paper. “Especially for people who are older, depression has a complicated relationship with other major medical diseases.”
Exercise is the best way to stay out of the doctor’s office. But there is not a solid relationship between medicine and fitness. Doctors might tell a patient to start exercising but they don’t typically provide any guidance nor do they have the resources to do so.
Based on these results, however, Trivedi says, “I want primary care physicians to prescribe not only antidepressants but also prescribe a dose of exercise for the treatment of depression.” In previous studies, he showed that exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medications or psychotherapy in treating depressive symptoms. He hopes the current findings encourage more doctors to consider exercise as another potential treatment, alongside medications and psychotherapy, for helping people with depression.
This would be a complete shift in the way that we approach medicine in this country. Right now, there is very little in the way of preventative medicine. Doctors see their patients when they have a health problem and prescribe something to treat the symptoms. We don’t approach health from a holistic approach. We absolutely should but there would be a lot of opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. Also, what would it look like if doctors prescribed exercise? Would they refer people to a particular gym? Would doctors have to study fitness in addition to medicine? How does insurance factor in? Fitness is a black box to most Americans and doctors are no exception. This type of shift would be great for people’s health but there are a lot of questions as to what this would look like. Reforming our health care system is a herculean task.
The Future of Trainers: Aaptiv, the audio-based training app, is getting a lot of press these days. They’re raising money and adding users and they might be shaping the future of the fitness industry. From PYMNTS:
The problem with the studio model, Agarwal told Webster, often comes with building out scale as the products become more successful. The more people who become interested, the more space and trainers the studio needs to accommodate their business. Being a digital product, Agarwal noted, there is obviously no need to worry about physical space — the “classes” take place in the users’ ears. But Apptiv also has both an easier and more difficult challenge when it comes to recruiting talent.
Over the years, Agarwal noted, Aaptiv has viewed trainers from all over the spectrum — from inside New York City’s most popular studios, through organic connections made through the trainers that are already working with the company and through a host of other referrals. Over the last two years, Agarwal told Webster, Aaptiv has easily spoken to over 1,000 trainers — and hired 22.
“The benefit of our business model is that, unlike a studio [that] has to keep hiring on more trainers, our digital product is something that a master trainer can create and ship out to users millions of time. That, among other things, means we can be extremely selective about the trainers we hire, and we can really preserve a high-quality experience.”
That fact that the company doesn’t always have to be on the lookout for talent — always recruiting to fill too many spaces — is good, Agarwal noted. He said the challenge is in making sure it can expand enough to continue offering rich variety for users while also making sure to offer the best trainer talent and content available.
The thing about being a trainer is that you can only train so any people at once and there are only so many hours in the day. You could be the best trainer around but you are limited by how many clients you can squeeze into your schedule. Services like Aaptiv could transform the profession. Superstar trainers will be able to reach an unlimited number of clients. It will be similar to actors prior to the invention of movies. Theater actors could only do so many performances with so many people seated in the theater. Movies allowed them to record a performance that could be viewed by millions of people. It also created global superstars. The downside of this is that it makes it harder for mediocre performers to make a living because consumers become less willing to settle when they have easy access to the superstars.
Corporate America: A few years ago, it seemed like corporate wellness was the next big thing. Most health-care costs in this country are borne by employers and those companies were awakening to the fact that by offering corporate wellness benefits, they could trim their healthcare expenses and offer their employees workplace benefits. Corporate wellness has continued to grow but it didn’t live up to the hype. Is that about to change? From Fortune:
Exos doesn’t aim at training only C-suite MAMILs (middle-aged men in latex) who want to kill it at an Ironman. It’s explicitly appealing to the rank and file, including those it euphemistically calls “non-movers.” The pain-analysis technology, known as 3D Movement Quotient (3DMQ), is a new feature (it debuted in May) and a key part of the campaign, because pain is a leading cause of lost productivity for athletes and couch potatoes alike. Another new Exos offering: a speedy cardio assessment that relies on VO2 max, a measure of oxygen consumption, to help create individually tailored exercise programs.
“This isn’t fitness, it isn’t wellness, it isn’t just disease prevention—it really is about an integrated mindset,” says president and founder Mark Verstegen.
Exos is hitting its stride just as corporate wellness makes a comeback. Enthusiasm for such programs cooled after efforts to prove that they reduced medical costs were inconclusive, and today many consist of little more than perks such as on-site weight-loss clinics and rebates at local gyms. Still, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 59% of employers offer some form of wellness program, and 24% ramped up their offerings in 2017.
The Great Recession surely dampened the enthusiasm for investment in employee benefits. Companies were loath to invest in anything during those years especially something aimed at acquiring and retaining employees. All the power in the labor market was concentrated in the hands of the employers. But now the unemployment rate is at a historic low and employers are starting to realize that they have to compete for qualified employees. Corporate wellness benefits are a great way to do that. They’ll probably never live up to the hype but that doesn’t mean that they can’t continue to grow.
CrossFit: Whatever you do, don’t get on CrossFit’s bad side because they are relentless. Greg Glassman has been leading a crusade against Big Soda and disclosing how its financial tentacles have extended into the world of exercise science. Now CrossFit has announced that it has uncovered government corruption. From PRNewswire:
WASHINGTON, June 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- CrossFit, Inc. announced today that it has uncovered noncompliance with the law at the Foundation for the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation) and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) that created conflicts of interest between industry partners and the CDC and NIH. The foundations are required by law to produce a report disclosing the sources and amounts of the donations they received, as well as restrictions on the uses of the donations. To date, each foundation has omitted such information from its published reports. CrossFit, Inc. discovered the foundations' noncompliance in March while investigating the soda industry's many attempts to infiltrate the health sciences and unduly influence the scientific record on sugar.
"CrossFit's Founder and Chairman Greg Glassman set a goal for CrossFit to drive Big Soda out of sport and health science," said Russ Greene, CrossFit's Director of Government Relations and Research. "Under his leadership, we've tracked the soda industry's donations and use of proxy groups. We looked over the CDC Foundation's and FNIH's disclosures and found they weren't even close to following the law. Annually reporting the sources, amounts and restrictions of each grant they receive—transparency—is the first step in making sure there's no undue influence on government science and policy."
One of the things holding back the fitness industry is the lack of a true market leader. A market leader will start to focus on growing the entire industry instead of just growing their own market share. Fitness is extremely fragmented and has never had a market leader like that. Could CrossFit eventually take on that role? We are still a long way off from that scenario as this is still borne out of a feud with the NCSA. CrossFit is learning how to lobby and influence policy decisions, which is a necessary skill for a market leader. I think that CrossFit still thinks of itself as the plucky underdog so there would have to be a change in identity. We’ll see how far this current crusade goes.
There’s no crying in baseball: One of the great things about the fitness industry is that there is so much passion in it. That passion expresses itself in a lot of different ways. For some SoulCycle adherents, it expresses itself in crying. From Atlanta Magazine:
This strategy works. While other cycling companies (and they are many) may have individual instructors who are incredibly moving and motivating, none of the other studios have this as part of their DNA quite the way SoulCycle does. The following is devoted, and classes go almost as quickly as tickets to Hamilton.
Science is on SoulCycle’s side—exercise releases endorphins, which interact with serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals that affect mood. Additionally, “exercise can stimulate neurotransmitter activity in the brain, which may lead to increased emotional intensity,” according to Dr. Jennifer Carter of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
But why does SoulCycle make me cry? I’m not entirely sure. Here’s my guess: Turn off the lights, light up some candles, turn on some loud and powerful music, tell me your own story of struggle, push me to ride as hard as I can up a virtual hill that serves as a metaphor for my own challenges, and do all of this in a room full of like-minded fitness freaks trying to be stronger and faster and better not just here but everywhere in their lives, and I guess I’m gonna cry. It’s an “almost sense of communal release. Of high-charged emotional camaraderie,” according to an article on SoulCycle in Time Magazine.
Indeed. As I dabbed my eyes and my sweat after class in the new Buckhead studio, I wiped away my cynicism, too. Whatever the special sauce, whatever the science, I’m sold on SoulCycle.
I didn’t know that this was a thing. How can you cry when you’re pushing yourself that hard? I can understand crying afterwards but not in the middle of it. Man, these classes must be draining. If people are crying then these classes must be very emotional, at least for some people. Couple that with the physical demands of it and I’ surprised that people can do it multiple times a week.
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