Romania’s health and fitness industry is expected to grow by 30-40 percent annually over the next three to five years. For Kent Orrgren, CEO of market leader World Class Romania, that makes it one of “great development and business growth opportunities with enormous potential”. BR spoke to the Swedish-born executive about the way cultural differences influence fitness routines and how to make Romanians exercise more.

By Georgeta Gheorghe

Can one be healthy without exercising, given the demands of modern working life?

Modern life is an advantage and a challenge at the same time. We were born for movement; therefore we need to exercise on a daily basis. Inactivity and lifestyle related illness are on the rise and it is our duty to do everything in our power to motivate, inspire and educate people on the crucial importance of physical exercise for healthy living. The World Health Organization  (WHO) recommends at least 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, but vigorous aerobic and muscle strengthening activities are also part of the weekly recommendations.

Going back to your question, it is important for Romanians to understand the benefits of exercising and those of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise reduces stress, restores energy, builds strength, endurance, balance and concentration, encourages positive thinking and promotes happiness. Moreover, it reduces the risk of numerous diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. The benefits are enormous and to make more and more people aware of that is our top priority, as a health & fitness services provider.

Very few Romanians exercise regularly. In the Nordic countries, however, the figures are quite impressive. How can that be explained, from your point of view? 

It’s all about education. Education can save people, can give them back their health and longevity. In order to motivate and inspire, we need to educate and that means presenting and explaining to people the true benefits of active living and exercising. In Nordic countries, sport education starts at an early age. The states support non-profit associations and there is a long tradition of exercise started by the non-profit organization Friskis & Svettis and Scandinavian health & fitness chains. Moreover, there are lower taxes on health & fitness services, which makes it more attractive to invest in this industry, and corporate companies enjoy full deductibility of their employees’ fitness club membership costs.

What are the main objectives that define your efforts?

#BeHealthy is a “movement for more movement” designed to bring active living closer to Romanians, inspire them to be more active and adopt a healthy lifestyle. World Class aims to partner with all organizations that want to join the movement and support our efforts in turning fitness into an everyday health routine.

We share our knowledge – people need specifics. Knowing that you should eat healthier and move more is different than knowing how to eat healthier and move more. World Class will share the knowledge of how to get a healthy routine and healthy lifestyle.

Once people know the exact steps they need to take to improve their health or the health of their family or community, they can then take action. Tell others what you know and spark a movement through knowledge. Our health and fitness experts inform and inspire our members on how to get and stick to a healthy routine.

We share our passion – at World Class we care. Most people are aware that they need to make healthy change in their schools, homes, or communities, but without that spark, change is seldom made. At World Class we share our spark, energy and drive. Tell your story and get others to see why you think change for health is important to you and why it should be important to them. With our BeHealthy movement, we create positive awareness and attention around living a healthy lifestyle.

Who could improve the figures in Romania on the short and long term: the state, companies, market players?

I would say all of us could. If we are working in parallel but towards the same objectives to get more Romanians to be more active more often, this would give great benefits to everyone, state companies, market actors and consumers of health & fitness services. Of course more investment is needed at state level to support and educate Romanians about the vital importance of health as a daily routine. A healthier population means a healthier economy and we can all benefit from that. For companies as well, it is very important to see the effect of having healthier, happier and more efficient employees by encouraging them to exercise and implementing corporate wellness programs. Health & fitness education and opportunities still see a low market penetration but this can only mean, in fact, a great opportunity for all market actors to grow, invest and improve the accessibility to more gyms in strategic locations.

How would you assess the impact of World Class Romania on the local fitness market, given your long-term presence?

World Class Romania is the market leader and to us this is definitely a success but also a responsibility. We know that we count, we know that we can influence and we work every day to show people the benefits of health and fitness. We continuously innovate, we create original training routines and also bring to Romania exclusive international training programs. We have a strong team of specialized trainers and instructors in major Romanian cities and the capital. We also have an educational company – Move On – that provides specific industry education and training. Our impact is constantly growing, as we keep opening new World Class clubs. The fact that we have been here for such a long time means that we grow and develop together with the community, we are part of it and we can bring the change from within.

What is the most challenging part: informing people of the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, convincing them to join a gym/start a fitness routine or encouraging them to stick to it? How is World Class Romania involved in this process, at every step?

All of the parts that you mentioned are challenging. We started the #BeHealthy movement in order to create a statement and a call-to-action for a healthy lifestyle. This initiative involves all aspects of informing, motivating, making active and inspiring new and existing members to start a healthy routine, to join a gym close to their home or their workplace and the ongoing process of sticking to a healthy routine. To us it is a step-by-step process that is ongoing every time we interact with our clients, both inside our clubs and outside. All our trainers support our clients when they use our Group Fitness services or exercise in the gym. It is fun, creates good energy, reduces stress and makes you feel great after your workout. In this period we are offering new members five personal trainer (PT) sessions, when they join, in order to support them to start a healthy routine and keep it up over the long term.

What are the cornerstones of the business growth strategy of World Class Romania?

Our business growth strategy is to grow in Bucharest and Cluj, where we have a strong network. We are present in high-traffic areas close to where people live or work. We also want to offer the most efficient training solutions. World Class boasts the most diverse and modern portfolio of top health & fitness services, facilities and amenities on the market, presented by highly skilled health and fitness professionals.

Why did you choose Cluj as the next city to expand to?

We have three clubs in Cluj and we have boasted a strong presence in the city since 2016, when we expanded with the acquisition of Club Moving there. We will open the new World Class Record Park, in the proximity of the Office complex, in Q1 2019. This will be a spectacular location in the heart of the city: the 2,500 sqm club, with a pool, will be surrounded by an impressive forest stretching for 3,000 sq ft. It will have a spectacular retractable pool that will serve both the indoor and outdoor space.

What is the value of investments planned for 2018? And for 2019?

We will continue to invest in our existing clubs in order to keep up the high standard in terms of facilities, training equipment, training programs and trainers’ expertise. We are opening new clubs in 2018 and 2019. For 2018 we have already signed contracts for the opening of two new clubs in strategic urban locations and in 2019 two more World Class clubs will open.

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