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These enduring health, wellness and fitness themes help you build a lasting business without the distraction of fleeting fads.

Programs and services that capture these themes will be sustainable:

1. Recapturing youthful energy

Human beings long to recapture energy and vitality, almost regardless of age. Even people in their late twenties remember the boundless energy of their teens!

That’s why this brand promise is so common. It’s not trite and overused — it’s what people really want.

2. Music and movement

People have danced for thousands of years, driven by nothing more than the sheer joy of movement.

This year’s Zumba is last year’s Jazzercise (remember them?). But there will always be dance.

3. Overcoming obstacles

For many people, part of their personal story is overcoming obstacles. Whether it’s shaving minutes off marathons, pounds off the scale, dealing with chronic health issues, or simply struggling to balance work and personal priorities, nearly every one of your customers can point to obstacles they’ve overcome to reach their current level of health and fitness.

That’s why programs that cheer small or non-traditional weight loss, fitness or wellness successes often have loyal customers.

4. Making progress

It’s not just about the result — for many people, it’s about the journey. The ritual of check-in, group accountability and support, and tangible evidence of progress is motivating for many people.

That’s why Sparkpeople and Videofitness.com are still around.

5. Appeal of the exotic

Some customers love the allure of adventure, the appeal of the new and untried.

That’s why Orange Theory Fitness — old wine in a new bottle — and many of the fitness programs based on a proprietary fitness gadget like weighted ropes or drumsticks attract customers. The risk here is failure to understand the business you’re in, as we illustrate in the Conclusion, below.

6. Pushing limits

For many clients, it’s about discovering just how much they can do. They want to push themselves right to the edge, and then a little bit past it — after all, that’s how you know you hit your limit!

That’s why Crossfit, the Marathon des Sables, and tough mudders persist.

7. Realizing potential

Self-actualization — feeling that you’ve nurtured and fully explored your own human potential — is always in style. The U.S. Army ran a memorable ad campaign many years ago promising that recruits would “be all that you can be.” They were onto something. Seeing what you’re capable of is its own reward.

That’s why many yoga students end up spending thousands of dollars and many months of study in teacher training programs, even though they have no plan to actually teach.

8. Going to your quiet place

Peace, quiet and inner serenity are always in demand. It won’t surprise anyone that meditation is meditative, but runners, swimmers, and many other folks engaged in some kind of solo and repetitive physical activity also say that when they’re “in the zone”, they tune out the world and experience mental clarity and a sense of deep calm.

That’s why group fitness and social wellness platforms will never be the only answer.

9. Poverty of time

Many of your customers feel perpetually chased by schedules, clocks and appointments. The stress caused by time constraints creates an opportunity to provide wellness and fitness programs that help relieve that feeling, either by helping them change their mindset (“Maybe I don’t have to do it all”) or by offering them programs and services that make good use of time.

That’s why 30-minute circuit workouts and online wellness, fitness and weight loss programs are popular.

10. Fear of back-sliding

Many of your customers aren’t fully convinced that their successes will be sustainable. They may fear injury, work or family pressures that interfere with training or their new way of eating, social obstacles…the list seems endless.

That’s why Weight Watchers Lifetime Membership is appealing.

11. Competition

It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but measuring your accomplishment against others is intensely appealing for many customers.

It’s why Strava’s cycling app is so successful.

Sustainable business model…or fad?

Successful health and wellness businesses are built around one or more of these themes.

You can’t build a healthy wellness business around a fad, something that’s here today, gone tomorrow. Interest typically dies out long before you’ve scouted investors, developed and launched your programs, invested in marketing and built a substantial customer base.

We included “appeal of the exotic” and “music and movement” as two of our themes. So let’s consider Indian-themed dance classes, which are increasingly popular in the U.S.

Sustainable business model, or fad?

The traditional Indian aspect probably IS a fad. It’s only interesting for a while — and then customers will move on — to Canadian tap-dancing, or Peruvian street dancing, or square-dancing, or something else. Which in turn will be replaced by yet another dance style a year later.

But an interest in the exotic, and an interest in movement, are lasting themes.

So if you define your business as “Indian fitness dance,” you’re probably doomed. If you define your business as “world fitness dance,” you’ve probably got a model that will never run out of gas. It can always find receptive customers as it moves comfortably from Groove to Zumba to capoeira to Bollywood to pole-dancing — to Canadian tap-dancing!

As you grow your business, test your ideas against these themes to protect yourself from fleeting fads and build a truly sustainable wellness business.