How Active Spaces Will Define The Future Of Public Health
A new concept to define a more meaningful and accessible system for health management
What is an Active Space?
I first wrote about active spaces back in 2020. The idea being gyms needed to expand beyond fitness and bodybuilding spaces to actually manage the health of their members. The inclusion of nutrition, mental health and expanded views of physical health (recovery, sleep etc) were the strongest strategies for creating deeper meaning and accessibility in their health service.
It actually led to the creation of my second company Affinity Active Spaces. I worked with gyms to implement strategies to provide a more complete, holistic view of their member’s health.
I built out a model for Complete Health consisting of physical, nutritional, mental and social health. Alongside health intelligence and health longevity. It gives every person a complete view of their health beyond abstract terms like wellness and wellbeing.
If a health business could implement this concept it would increase the chances of behaviour changes, long term commitment and sustained business for them. A far more ethical business model than gyms selling memberships they hope don’t get used, or apps selling subscriptions to poor standard services with the help of influencer marketing.
These are just some of the problems that exist within the preventative health landscape, dominated by the fitness and wellness industry. There has to be greater meaning and accessibility within the services offered to truly make a difference in people's lives.
I needed a term to describe organisations that are pursuing a greater vision of health beyond the negative feedback loops of fitness & wellness. It had to be broad enough to cover every type of professional and organisation. I simplified it to ‘active space’
Active = the intentional development of body and mind
Space = physical or digital spaces designed to facilitate active progress
It is designed to be a catch-all term for the huge variety of spaces and organisations that exist to support our health. Gyms, studios, nutritionists, therapists, fitness apps, mental health apps, women’s health apps etc.
Active spaces (AS) cover most dimensions of preventative health that are grounded in science and measurable impact.
The fundamentals of active spaces include:
Complete Health - AS can specialise in their focus of health support, but more will have an increasingly holistic view of health services.
Health > Fitness - the January fitness rush and summer bodies have been the staple of the fitness industry's inability to escape body image over health priorities.
Communities - the deeper connections that support personal health journies.
Personalisation - as we understand more about our bodies we are able to measure the health of each component and how they work together. These measures are now quantified and increasingly able to be personalised.
Changing The Culture - active spaces will be the driving force in a cultural change toward health.
Health > Fitness
A transition is underway for many of the businesses within fitness to prioritise programming and services around health over body image. Fitness has grown to what it is today because of the desire to look a certain way, reinforced by pressures around social media. This has left fitness stuck serving ~20% of the population. Some organisations continue to fight for the same demographic as it is in some circumstances easier to grow a business than pursuing the 80%.
We will see an increase in collaboration across preventative health industries and verticals. Fitness companies partnering with nutrition companies, nutrition companies partnering with mental health companies. Services partnerships, marketing partnerships, operational partnerships - aligning different expertise across the sector to create solutions that hold greater meaning and accessibility to consumers.
The importance of a community in our lives cannot be overstated. The number of people with effective support structures is declining. Losing vital accountability and compersive behaviours that make a significant difference in our health journey.
Active spaces carefully curate their community environment so it is both open to expansion and a secure space for its members. A strong community has constant support networks available which makes the presence of digital community tools an important component of community success. AS carefully nurture communities and expand responsibilities across employees and members to deliver an organic and authentic community spirit.
Innovations in preventable health solutions are aiming to effectively put every type of health specialist into your phone, watch or other devices. A scaled personalised intelligence through AI can determine which foods are best for you, whether you’re performing the movement correctly, how to regress negative mindsets and much more. This is shaping the drive to personalised health solutions that can be integrated into apps and digital products.
There needs to be a balance of support and autonomy that ensures each person takes responsibility for their health and understands what actions cause what outcomes and why. This is a big part of my concept of health intelligence. Having a constantly growing knowledge base that is unique to our own health so we understand ourselves more without the need for any external support. Personalised health services provide the vital information we need to gain a greater perspective on our health journey. Active spaces must add the context.
In this new era of work, there is a greater search for the purpose behind the work we do. In many cases, the health sector embodies this well given the relatively low pay compared to the impact they have on consumers' lives.
By reshaping the sector to demonstrate a greater impact and more acute financial gain we have the capacity to compound the emerging innovation within the sector. As more educated, experienced, entrepreneurial and passionate professionals see opportunities in the sector we have to give them the opportunity to flourish. This channels the purpose of a new wave of sectoral brain gain that will develop exciting novel solutions that form new active spaces.
This ideal of purpose is central to The Active Spaces Project. Members are rewarded for actions taken and successes made away from the platform. The Project is aligned to the mission of health and those that contribute the most value towards health measures benefit on-platform. So when a member leads with purpose and creates meaningful value for their community they are financially rewarded. This reinforces the importance of truly supporting people's health and developing an impactful active space.
Changing The Culture
I believe that one day everyone will be part of one or more active spaces as health becomes almost equal in societal importance to having a smartphone. This change is reliant on the services available being more meaningful and accessible, truly serving each person's unique health journey.
We have to move on from the ineffective concept of wellness and poorly aligned ideals of fitness. Consumers are stuck in a cycle of failed health pursuits that fails to keep them on a lifelong journey.
Inspirational stories of dangerously obese people losing incredible amounts of weight and sustaining the weight loss long term. People on the verge of suicide overcoming their mental struggles through activity and sustaining a happy, fulfilled life. These give me optimism that however bad an individual's situation may be, there is always a way out. Every statistic that we are numbed to within the industry is a person searching for the help they cannot find.
We have to show people that there are always options. Solutions that are not found on tik toks hacks or talk shows. To change the culture of wellness to something that is far more tangible in its delivery and consistent in its meaning.
The Expansion Of The Concept
This concept was designed around the preventative health landscape. The desire to replace broken systems within fitness & wellness. The clear missing piece is looking upward to healthcare. It is connected to this concept and full of problem systems of its own.
The breakdown of the concept of the active space still applies to the way healthcare is structured. Active spaces in the broader healthcare system will create more effective solutions that are foundationally structured by holistic health, personalisation, community, and broader technological innovation.
What are your thoughts on expanding the active spaces concept?