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The business of fitness

June 2008

The business of fitness

Sport, fitness and leisure are an integral part of New Zealand’s identity. The business of fitness is also a multi-million dollar industry. The New Zealand fitness industry alone has an annual turnover of over $250 million. As estimated by the last census, between 8-10% of the population are members of Fitness Centres - the seventh highest membership per capita in the world.

Phillip Mills, who heads the Les Mills gym empire, says the industry has burgeoned from just seven gyms in Auckland 30 years ago to 175 today. The gym, he says, is now the single biggest “sport” in the world. “22% of the US population either belong to a gym or attend on a casual basis, that figure is double what it was 10 years ago. We believe that trend is being, or will be, replicated in other developed countries, driven by the world-wide obesity epidemic.”

Over 8,000 people are currently working in the fitness field according to a recent industry survey.
Exercise Science graduate, Stephen Walls is one of many to capitalise on the booming industry. He went straight from study to landing his ideal job as a gym instructor at Les Mills Extreme.

“I’ve always wanted to get into the fitness industry. I studied Exercise Science at WelTec (Wellington Institute of Technology). It was great, we studied anatomy, physiology, nutrition, sports psychology, fitness testing and body composition. As part of my studies I was able to do work experience at Les Mills and that lead to me getting a job here once I finished studying.”

Stephen is loving his role at Les Mills. “Everything I’ve learnt in my studies I’ve been able to use in my work - like how to screen clients and how to write fitness programmes. I like introducing people to the gym with our ‘gym explorer’ programme where we can go through all the options and customise their training to specifically meet their needs.”

One of the most rewarding parts of the job, according to Stephen, is seeing the impact you can have on people’s lives. “I took a guy for a fitness test recently - his body fat had been reduced from 28% to 19% in a few weeks since he started. His aerobics fitness level had increased from 25% to 38%. You end up getting quite close to the clients that you work with. It’s great to be able to give them tips about nutrition, look after their wellbeing and see their confidence improve.”

Stephen is thoroughly enjoying working in such a vibrant and exciting industry. “You can go into so many different areas like nutrition, therapy, fitness training and so much more. I don’t like to think of it as a job, it’s something that I really like to do and I get paid for it.”


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