Gym Owner Monthly

EHFF 2021: Capitalising on Health, Digital, Community and Standards for the future of fitness

EuropeActive hosted its 8th annual European Health and Fitness Forum (EHFF) on Wednesday, 3rd November. The event was live-streamed globally from Cologne, Germany, with an audience of industry representatives on-site. This year’s theme ‘The Great Transformation’ allowed speakers and panellists to provide in-depth analysis about the current situation in which the sector stands in the areas of Health, Digital Community and Standards as well as to identify potential opportunities moving forward.

The day began with EuropeActive President David Stalker introducing EHFF moderator Jennifer Halsall who welcomed online and on-site participants and introduced the programme for the day: “The road to EHFF was long and winding and I am so happy that we can all be here, many in person, and many more digitally joining us from around the world. We are in for a powerful event. I am thrilled to have the honour of opening this year’s event, which is organised under the same four pillars you will find in EuropeActive’s Sectoral Manifesto: Health, Digital, Community and Standards”.

Health-enhancing physical activity and launch of the Sectoral Charter

EuropeActive Board Member Alfonso Jimenez introduced the different sessions under the Health pillar and welcomed Deputy Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, Viviane Hoffmann. In her speech she underlined the Cabinet’s strong appreciation for EuropeActive after many years of joint cooperation. She also mentioned the importance of the HealthyLifestyle4All initiative, the EU Commission’s two-year campaign that aims to link sport and active lifestyles with health, food and other policies.

WHO Head of Unit for physical activity Dr Fiona Bull took the audience through the importance of transforming physical activity through stronger partnerships as well as involving decision-makers across the health, sport and education sectors to further promote the benefits exercise regularly: “We need to focus on sustained communication campaigns to effectively reach, motivate and engage people, together with environments that provide safe, affordable places and spaces to enable physical activity as well as programmes, products and services for people of all ages and abilities.”

Keynote speaker Imran Rashid shared his knowledge and expertise on mental health and wellbeing in the digital age: “We should create customer journeys with the right preconditions for the right emotions leading to the right habits. Closer and deep relationships make us happier and healthier. The great transformation requires a shift; from digitalisation to humanisation, from customers to humans, from looking good to feeling good and from individualism to togetherness”.

Health-oriented sessions concluded with Barbara Klein’s analysing the different fitness needs Baby Boomers and Generation X present as well as the club operator and equipment/tech supplier approach to keep these two age groups engaged: “Functional training should not only be about ropes and cross-fit but also about moving, stretching, mobility, mental balance. If we have that ready, we can guide X’s and boomers holistically”.

EREPS Ambassador Tony Stone led the way for speakers and panelists under the Community pillar. He introduced Andrea Orsag who provided an insightful presentation about the impact we have on the planet and the need for a more mindful, sensitive approach to lead a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle: “We exercise to be the best version of ourselves. The more people jump onboard now, the better the chance we have to improve our environment. The fitness community has a huge opportunity to be the best for ourselves and for our planet”.

A panel session on Inclusivity and Equality featured moderator Rachel Young and panelists Tony Stone, Catherine Edmunds, Saly Marone, Maike Kumstel. The panel concluded with the official launch of the Sectoral Charter on Inclusion, Anti-Discrimination and Fair Treatment. Participants were encouraged to pledge their support electronically to ensure fair, non-discriminatory and inclusive treatment across the European fitness and physical activity ecosystem.

Rebuilding the sector through standards and the role of intermediaries and aggregators in the fitness industry



Deputy Director – Standards, Anna Szumilewicz, took the lead for the Standards-related sessions and moderated a panel discussion with Director of Professional Standards Committee Julian Berriman, Rocco Venizelos (EREPS Ambassador), George Xiros (Studio One) and Lene Skytte (Fit&Sund) about the need of rebuilding the Sector through Standards: “Standards as minimum requirements are not enough, we need a system of lifelong learning and requirements to maintain that lifelong learning. As an industry we should buy into that ‘lifelong education”.

Merel Wagner (Royal Netherlands Standardization Institute, NEN) took the audience through the importance of assuring quality with CEN Standards for fitness facilities and officially launched the 5-stage scheme for fitness club certification using the EN 17229 standards. The scheme covers the essential management, operational, and supervision requirements for all clubs as well as fitness trainer qualifications. Several hundred invited clubs from across Europe will take place in a trial to test the certification scheme which will be opened-up from April 2022.

Standards sessions concluded with Julian Berriman explaining how to get exercise professionals on the European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS) and how relevant the register is for recognising qualifications and skills of those professionals as a quality assurance for consumers and employers.

The EHFF focus moved to Digital with FitTech Summit Founder Natalia Karbasova, who lead the discussions on the importance of digitalisation in the fitness industry. The digital future and the impact of COVID-19 was analysed in depth by Ian Mullane (Keepme) in an insightful presentation where he expressed that “COVID was a sort of accelerator for opportunities to rise with the digital transformation. This pace of adoption has not been that smooth. It did help with the resilience of our sector and its capacity to bounce back. Digital requires the capital, resources and the plan, and a will to understand this increasingly important aspect of our business, which is bound to evolve”.

The EHFF sessions concluded with the role of intermediaries and aggregators in the fitness industry discussed by moderator Grace McNamara (EXi) and panelists Natalia Karbasova, Benjamin Roth (Urban Sports Club), Tom Moos (Saints & Stars) and Ricard Canela (DiR) to get a better understanding on how the aggregator market is developing, diversifying and adapting in response to market and consumer needs.

The day culminated with EHFF moderator Jennifer Halsall wrapping-up the event by thanking EuropeActive and FIBO teams, speakers and audience for showing up and investing in our sector. EuropeActive CEO Andreas Paulsen concluded the event by saying: “This Great Transformation during the coming years is defined in the Horizon 2025 Sectoral Manifesto that EuropeActive published in the autumn of last year. At this critical time for our sector, indeed for European society at large, as we move beyond the immediate challenges of the pandemic and into a future of new opportunities and new consumer expectations, we are incredibly excited and thankful about the support EuropeActive is experiencing for our Hybrid EHFF 2021!”.