When we started to open up membership programs at Activate Brain and Body, I was surprised to learn how many of our new clients were interested in connecting with a community. For almost 50% of our new clients, making social connections was near the top of the list for them when they were making a decision about which facility that they were going to join.
When we envisioned what Activate Brain and Body was going to become, we saw it as not only a place for people to improve their fitness (both cognitively and physically), but we also saw it as a center of a new community.
As a result of the pandemic, the related lockdowns, and remote work, people are suffering more from isolation and loneliness than any time in modern history. According to the WHO, there has been a massive 25% surge in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. While our jobs and our technology may have afforded us some new conveniences in the ability to work remotely, we still crave human interaction.
To bring that sense of community to Activate, we approached the challenge from four different perspectives, 1)Class size (we actually call them sessions rather than classes) 2)a gathering place 3)Team builders, and 4)regularly scheduled engagement events.
1) Class/session size: We cap the size of each session at six people. Years of experience (and some science of data analytics) have helped us arrive at what some group dynamics experts call the magic number of six. Founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has a rule that if it takes more than two pizzas to feed the team, the team is too big. With six people in a session, there’s a wonderful mix of energy and intimacy. It allows the participants to experience plenty of attention from the coach while still feeling like they are experiencing the workout as a shared experience.
2) A gathering place: Probably the first thing that you will notice when you walk into an Activate Brain and Body is the smell and look of a coffee shop. That’s by design. You’ll also find tables with the magic number of six chairs positioned around them. Whether it’s before the workout session or after, we knew it would be critical for us to provide a place outside of the workout studio where bonds could form among our members.
3) Team builders: At the conclusion of every Activate workout, we take a break from the individual portion of the program and we have everyone work together for a few minutes. It could be rooted in the technology of our Smartfit boards or our T-Wall, or maybe something a little bit more analog designed by our coach, but the gist of it is that the member shares a challenge and a goal with other members in that same session. It’s a fun way to start or strengthen that community bond.
4) Scheduled community activity: We started with a Salsa night that included food and dance (and maybe even a taste of mezcal), and we’re moving forward to “game night” for month number two. Exercise isn’t the focus of the community events, it’s getting to know the other members, learning something new, and sharing some laughs. Sometimes we host these activities inside of our four walls, and sometimes we’ll meet out at another venue. Regardless of where it happens, it’s about bringing people together.
The science is very clear when it comes to socialization and brain health. People that have strong connections with their core group of friends have a much greater likelihood of maintaining their cognitive health as they age. And shared experiences are simply much more powerful than things we experience alone. Perhaps we will see you at our next Activate community event. You know that I’ll be there.