Brian Firth is the CEO of MIE Research and Managing Director of FitQuest, an accurate fitness measurement tool that measures a person’s physical capacity and supports operators’ goals by offering tailored exercise programming for gym goers.
With over 30 years’ experience in medical technology innovation, Brian was responsible for developing the first diabetes home testing kit and was instrumental in the development of the world’s first digital pregnancy testing kit.
Brian brings a wealth of experience in the medical sector to the fitness industry and recognises the opportunities for cross sector collaboration. We met with Brian to find out:
– Why the medical and fitness industries would benefit from a closer relationship
– What we can do to close the gap with the medical industry
– How proper research could help boost sales
How would you describe the relationship between the medical and fitness industries?
Clearly there should be a strong one, but at the moment it’s slightly distant. Doctors tend to look at the fitness industry with a bit of suspicion, mainly because they see a lack of evidence and rigour.
What would be the benefits of a more collaborative approach to wellness?
We know that activity is the great cure, the saviour to the NHS, the thing that stops people from getting ill. In the fitness industry, we may see early warning signs in an individual that can be treated earlier. We might see problems with somebody’s gait or their strength, which are indicative of more fundamental medical issues that if picked up early enough are much easier to treat.
It may well be that there are things which the fitness industry can deliver in a more cost-effective way. People are being referred to physios that a well-qualified personal trainer could deal with. For example, with a knee injury, you may need to work on strength around the knee post-injury, and a lot of rehabilitation can be done in a gym. Similarly, if someone has had a hip replacement, working with a physio and a personal trainer can accelerate their recovery threefold.
How could the fitness industry improve their relationship with the medical industry?
By continuously working on professionalism, an average junior doctor will have completed seven years of study by the time he’s qualified, whereas there is a growing number of people in the fitness industry who have achieved a Level 3 PT qualification relatively quickly. We’re seeing more people come into the industry with sports science degrees, and we need to progress them into roles that make a difference.
We need to watch the trends that are purporting to have a medical benefit without any clinical evidence.
The fitness industry needs to work on its ability to present the long-term health economies associated with activity. It must become much more data and evidence driven, while still making it fun and sociable. We are starting to see operators around the world who are doing proper research and presenting hard evidence. Some things will come in and then they’ll fade out again because we have to keep things up to date and fun and interesting for people. We will always see things that are a trend for a while and then they’ll move on. We need to watch the trends that are purporting to have a medical benefit without any clinical evidence. In the medical industry, you would get absolutely slammed, if not taken to court, if you made a marketing claim that you could not substantiate with a study.
You mention research, why do you think the fitness industry shies away from research and any tips on how we should be approaching it?
I think in the past the industry hasn’t had the capability to do that research, but that’s changing. What you’re now seeing is companies like Les Mills, MyZone and FitQuest that have research backing up what they do. We need to see the same in operators. Many operators now employ well-qualified sport scientists but in junior roles. We need to take these people and use their skills to prove that what we’re doing is making a difference. FitQuest works with a number of universities, and we have a scientific advisory panel, members of which are often from universities. We’re also encouraging other researchers to come to us to do independent research. We’ve had papers published about our jump test, and that helps us to know that we know the measurements are solid.
In the past the industry hasn’t had the capability to do that research, but that’s changing
Do you think proper research would translate to more sales in both the fitness and medical markets for fitness brands?
I don’t think more research in itself necessarily translates into more people coming to leisure facilities, but it does allow you to make marketing claims that are solid. Better quality research would strengthen the relationship, which would see more people coming to facilities. More quality research leads to more sales, because it allows you to make much more informed decisions about which pieces of kit you should be putting into facilities. Research is not a magic wand, but if you do good research and use it well then you will see an increase in sales.