What gives people the motivation to exercise? According to Professor Stuart Biddle—a specialist in the theory of self-determination—there are two key triggers. One is intrinsic stimulus and the other is extrinsic factors.

For Fitness First, this information has proved to be an important driver in its strategic direction for the future. Simon Flint, the CEO of Fitness First Asia, says that at the start of the business’s rebranding process two years ago it engaged with Stuart’s ideas to better understand what it needed to do to add value to its offering and to keep its customers loyal. It quickly discovered that by having a greater knowledge of what the most common motivators were it could tailor its tools, innovations, spaces, and staff training to give gym-goers the best possible support on their journey to fitness.

“The intrinsic motivators are for people to feel competent and autonomous, yet part of a community,” Simon explains. “Not everybody feels that way in a gym so we wanted to work out how we could change that. How could we give our customers the competency, freedom, and autonomy of choice in terms of something that fits them best, so that they can best achieve their goals?”

This led to Fitness First embarking on a large-scale program to look inside staff behaviour, reassess the design of the clubs, and invest in new digital tools. One outcome of that process was CustomFit—a free digital training app which features more than 800 exercises tailored to suit the user’s goals and preferences. The device uses a smart algorithm to customise its workouts, tapping into people’s intrinsic motivators.

Next, Simon says, the group looked at how it could motivate its customers extrinsically. The result was BioScore—a health and fitness assessment which compares a person’s biological age with their actual age. A series of simple tests are conducted by a qualified trainer and the number, when used in conjunction with CustomFit, clearly highlights areas to work on to turn back the clock.

“BioScore gives people that extra nudge,” Simon elaborates. “It’s a very interesting approach and we are quite buoyed by it. It seems to be going down very well and we think it’s going to help our innovation stream and get more people attracted to the brand.”

Then there is Fit for Fashion, a television project which is unparalleled in the industry, and a defining campaign for Fitness First. Season one of the program helped many people realise the importance of fitness in transforming their lives.