HEALTH AND FITNESS – AN UPHILL BATTLE OR A WALK IN THE PARK?
by DAWN MERCER
The beginning of a new year typically brings about a flurry of action-planning as many of us set ourselves new goals; one being to embrace a healthier lifestyle. There is real growth in the numbers of people adopting exercise as part of their everyday life, from across the demographics. Millennials, working parents and those retired choose to exercise for a number of beneficial reasons; primarily to keep fit but also it provides an opportunity to socialise and do something positive for themselves, which brings about benefits physically and mentally.
There is a growing acceptance of the links between how physical exercise can be of significant benefit to mental wellbeing, strengthened as well by the addition of the natural environment. Studies in the recent Global Wellness Trends Report supports the evidence of a breadth of health benefits of connecting all five senses to nature.
According to Consultancy UK, the health and fitness market is currently worth around £5 billion and has grown 20% over the last five years – with potential for further improvements in the future.
As the health and fitness industry evolves, and people are increasingly looking for alternatives to traditional indoor gyms and social media playing an increasingly large part in promoting the benefits of physical activity, rural backdrops provide a great environment and canvas for alternative types of exercise and activity outdoors.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR LANDOWNERS
So, how can rural land and business owners looking to establish or expand operations make the most of this opportunity? The answer will depend on your location and the assets available to you which will determine what facility or service would work best to enable you to attract customers and benefit from the trends in this growing industry. Here we discuss some options and examples of successful ventures.
MEETING EXISTING MARKET DEMAND
Landowners provide extensive amenities for exercise by virtue of footpaths and other rights of way enabling access to the countryside for walkers, runner, cyclists and climbers. Whilst these activities don’t directly generate income for the landowner, in high footfall areas this could present an opportunity to create services and facilities for these users. Cafes, bike or equipment hire, tuition and training, guided events and so on can all help to drive footfall and create revenue streams for those upon whose land these pursuits take place. One example to take inspiration from is Dalby Forest.
Traditional outdoor pursuit operations which offer activities in attractive rural settings utilising the landscapes such as the hills, waterways, rocks and woodlands to enhance the experience are also a well-established opportunity; services such as those at Brockholes. Operations can either be developed and run in-house or provided by a third party delivering packages of activities on your land.
POP UP EVENTS
For those in relatively easy reach of populated areas, the rise in outdoor events such as Tough Mudder, Muddy Dog and so on demonstrate one trend that requires wide-open spaces and providing land for these types of ‘pop up’ events can be a good entry point for those who don’t want a year-round operation. The landowner opens their gates for an event in exchange for an agreed fee, with potential for additional revenue with pop up catering, entertainment and activities. Some of the more, well-established events bring the full temporary infrastructure required with them, whilst others may look to the landowner to provide some supporting facilities which can provide an additional income stream.
Another popular fitness trend is Bootcamps. This could mean letting either an indoor or outdoor space to established operators to run fitness classes for small groups.
RE-USING EXISTING BUILDINGS
Establishing a permanent facility for those with the right proximity to a sizeable market can be successful, with The Barn Fitness Club at Cholsey being a great example. A derelict, listed barn on the outskirts of a growing but modest commuter village in South Oxfordshire. The founder saw the potential and it is now home to a fitness club that packs a serious punch with many members travelling 15+ minutes to attend a gym with views and atmosphere that urban fitness clubs cannot compete with. In return, the freeholder will obtain regular lease income on an asset that was otherwise generating none.
To compete in the busy fitness industry, it is critical to provide something that capitalises on the landscape, setting and natural assets in rural areas to encourage people out of urban centres.
To understand the opportunity that a health and fitness venture may present for your rural business, please contact us to speak to a member of our advisory team.