To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. – Buddha
Recent years have seen a boom in the fitness industry among those 40 and under. A desire to be fit, not develop dad bods, and live active lifestyles has seen small gyms popping up all over the country, especially in urban centers. Looking at the numbers of the fitness industry that seems to be just scratching the surface it is not hard to understand the lure for entrepreneurs and investors. According to Statista, “The global fitness and health club industry generates more than 80 billion U.S. dollars in revenue per year. The North American market had an estimated size of more than 28 billion U.S. dollars in 2015, of which 90 percent, around 25.8 billion U.S. dollars, was attributable to the United States. The U.S. is the single biggest market worldwide not only in terms of revenue but in regards to the number of members in health & fitness clubs as well.” This booming industry seems to be just scratching the surface as people’s desire to live longer and more quality lives becomes more and more a societal norm and value. HBCU Money caught up with Marcus Walker, one of Houston, Texas’ premier trainers, who we caught up with in between sessions to talk fitness, the business side, and why he supports HBCUs despite having not attended one.
How can small businesses integrate fitness into their business to ensure they have healthier and productive employees? They can partner with a local trainer to see if they have a plan that would help make the owner and workers aware of living a healthier life. It is no secret that healthy employees call out of work less, work more efficiently, and overall are more productive. From a bottom line perspective alone it is worth small businesses who have to watch every dime to be invested in employees who are healthy and fit.
A second aspect is engaging their customers as well. They could partner with a trainer and run specials for customers who shop with their business. The latter part shows that they care not only about their customers’ business, but their well being. Be more than just a business in the community, be a community partner.
If you could meet with the mayor, governor, or president, what would be your advice on how government can help its citizens achieve healthier lifestyles? I would start by showing them the effects that fast food have on people. Obviously in a city like Houston that is geographically very spread out and has a heavy reliance on cars there is a tendency toward less activity and unhealthy eating as we spend a good deal of our days driving. I would suggest that they create a program focusing on providing favorable small business loans for vegan, gluten-free, and clean eating businesses so that we could have healthier options. The fresher the food, the better it is for you. Replacing those late night fast food chains with healthy options would be a great start.
There are a lot of different avenues to be an entrepreneur within the fitness industry. Where are some areas you feel African Americans are underrepresented or over looking that has opportunity in the industry? We are definitely underrepresented in owning gyms. There are a lot of African American trainers, but not a lot of gym owners. It’s not easy to run a gym, but its doable. It requires hard work, being hands on, and providing an atmosphere that people feel great about being committed too.
How is technology impacting the world of fitness for gyms and trainers? Technology is making gym and training experiences better for all. As a trainer you are allowed the opportunity to train people all over the world by training online. It also has made it possible to make sure clients and gym members keep correct form on certain machines that guide you in the right direction to ensure they are truly maximizing workout efforts. For trainers, it has helped keep their small business running smoothly by offering different apps that do everything from keeping up with clients to filing taxes correctly.
Despite typically being a more active time, health issues like obesity and the like are on the rise at HBCU campuses. A few years ago, Spelman College scrapped its entire athletic program in favor of a campus wise holistic wellness program for all students and Paul Quinn College eliminated pork from its cafeterias. What are some other opportunities you believe HBCUs can help their students be healthy while in college and after? They could offer free seminars on meal prepping, portion control, alternate healthier late night snacks, and drive home the importance of brain food. I also feel like an elective should be required just to bring awareness to being healthy. These students are often returning to family and communities that they can help impart that knowledge on, so it is vital that we give them the information needed.
In closing, you did not attend an HBCU, but have been a staunch advocate over the years. What brought this on and what message would you give to other African Americans who did not attend HBCUs about supporting them? I didn’t attend an HBCU as you said, but as I began to dig deep into our history, I found the importance of HBCUs. I would tell any African Americans to do their best to promote, support, and give to HBCUs. We are some amazing people and we need to support our own. We are all we have.
You can find Marcus Walker training at Houston Muscleheadz Gym. Also follow him on Instagram @MWalker357 to see his Temple Building process.