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INTERVIEW


CHUCK RUNYON


THE CEO AND CO-FOUNDER OF ANYTIME FITNESS, THE WORLD’S LARGEST AND FASTEST-GROWING CO-ED FITNESS FRANCHISE, TALKS TO KATE CRACKNELL ABOUT INCENTIVISING HEALTHY HABITS AND EXPANSION INTO NEW SECTORS


“M


oney plays an important role in behaviour change,” states Chuck


Runyon, CEO and co-founder of fitness franchise Anytime Fitness. He’s talking about the initiative in Anytime’s own backyard of Minnesota, US – a scheme known as Fit Minnesota. Set up fi ve months ago, the project has seen Anytime teaming up with Snap Fitness, the YMCAs and Life Time Fitness “to fi nd a way to get consumers healthier”. Runyon explains: “We can’t ignore the stats on how obesity, or even just overweight, is dramatically impacting our health insurance costs. It threatens to bankrupt the US.”


INCENTIVISING HEALTH He continues: “In recent years, the World Health Organization said we didn’t have an obesity problem, but rather a physical inactivity problem. With the Fit Minnesota initiative, we’re working to get the State of Minnesota to be a nationwide – and hopefully a


global – leader in fi nancially incentivising individuals or employers to be healthy, to get off their sofas and join a health club or just get their families active. And we’ve seen that money changes behaviour far faster than education ever could. “In the State of Minnesota, our four largest health insurance providers now subsidise gym memberships. They reimburse people based on usage: those using a Minnesota health club 12 times or more a month receive US$20 a month to offset against their membership fees. “Now I’m going to give you some remarkable stats. The people on that programme use a health club four times more than those not on a reimbursement scheme. They also renew their membership at a rate of 93 per cent, whereas those not receiving reimbursement renew at a rate of 60 per cent. So a lousy US$20 a month really does change behaviour and gets people to be more active.


“We believe that, if we can provide taxable incentives for an individual to work out – such as a tax or income


tax credit, for example – or for an employer to pay for their employees’ wellness using pre-tax dollars and not pass on any taxable consequences, it will stimulate physical activity and begin to reverse our obesity epidemic. “What we’re working on in Minnesota right now is therefore to get legislation passed, an actual law, that gives tax incentives to either employers or individuals to be healthy. We’re hopeful we can get that passed in 2013. It will be specifi c to Minnesota for now – IHRSA’s been trying for many years to get this sort of legislation passed nationally, with no joy so far – but we hope it will then be like a domino effect, with other States following suit.


Diverse markets: The brand has a male-only club in Qatar, with valet parking 30 Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


“As we go forward, I believe there will be a collision of health insurance, obesity, and employers’ and government intervention. I see more insurance companies getting involved in the reimbursement, I see government intervention in the shape of incentives for employers and employees, and I see the medical community moving towards a preventative approach, with doctors being paid based on the positive impact they have on getting their patients healthier.” I mention the fact that, in the UK, GPs still aren’t incentivised through QOF to refer people into physical activity. “I think it’s insane that they literally can’t prescribe fi tness when it’s proven


March 2013 © Cybertrek 2013


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