With Fitness Training at Its Core, Why Does Dongling Health Want to Be An Exercise and Healthcare Brand for Middle-aged and Elderly People?

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What is the first thought that comes to your mind when it comes to exercise for the middle-aged and elderly population? Is it walking, Tai Chi or square dancing?

Admittedly, due to the decline in muscle strength, joint flexibility and other physical functions, the middle-aged and elderly groups, especially the elderly sports market seems to have been in a marginalized position. However, in reality, the demand for exercise among the middle-aged and elderly is not as low as it is thought to be, and the forms are not as homogeneous.

Dongling Health, founded in 2021, focuses on the middle-aged and elderly population aged 50+, using scientific exercise as a means to improve the health and fitness level of the middle-aged and elderly population and actively promote healthy aging in China. To date, Dongling Health has two stores in Shenzhen and is promoting cooperation with several recreational communities and senior service organizations.

“At present, the track of sports and health for the middle-aged and elderly is still in its infancy in China, and everyone is still in the exploration stage. Some choose to start with exercise equipment, some choose to start with product selling, while Dongling Health chooses to start with the perspective of middle-aged and elderly health and fitness courses to meet the needs of middle-aged and elderly people’s exercise and health, and solve the pain and difficulty points faced by the industry at present one by one.” Li Yanan said.

The domestic fitness industry has been developing for many years, why has there not been a best practice in the middle-aged and elderly sports and health market? The special physical and mental characteristics of the middle-aged and elderly population may be one of the reasons.

According to Li Yanan, as we age, the human muscle content and muscle strength will have faster decay, and bone loss will be faster, which brings problems such as osteoporosis. And, due to long-term poor body gait, sports injuries, degenerative diseases of the elderly, etc., human motor function will inevitably be affected. For example, diseases such as frozen shoulder and knee osteoarthritis will not only bring physical pain, but also directly affect the body’s activity and movement ability.

Not only that, middle-aged and elderly people are also the main population of chronic diseases, “especially aunts and uncles who are over 65 years old, may be a person suffering from at least two types of chronic diseases. And people with diseases such as hypertension, hyperglycemia, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular do have certain exercise risks. Therefore, in the current environment where most gyms do not have the ability to screen and discern the exercise risks of the elderly, they choose to reject the elderly population with fitness needs in order to prevent the risk.”

In addition, in the field of sports and health, the awareness of the middle-aged and elderly population to pay has not yet been formed. The whole market still needs to go through a longer period of user education process.

Therefore, the business logic of traditional gyms does not apply in the middle-aged and elderly sports and health track; while practitioners in the senior care industry have a shallow understanding of sports and health and doubtful recognition of the value of sports; as for the medical industry, although the doctor community generally recognizes and accepts the concept of physical medicine integration, it may overemphasize the sports rehabilitation attributes, i.e., emphasizing sports rehabilitation for the disease population rather than the healthy population. Therefore, there are few gyms, senior citizens and medical professionals involved in the field of sports and health for the middle-aged and elderly.

Therefore, Li Yanan founded Dongling Health to advocate and practice “scientific exercise is the best way to be healthy”. From the perspective of its business positioning, Dongling Health’s business covers “health and fitness curriculum research and development”, “scientific exercise training services”, and “comprehensive operation of sports and health space” for people aged 50+. “. Around these three business positioning, Dongling Health has extended five service modules: sports training, sports dance, sports massage, sports rehabilitation and sports therapy.

Among them, sports training and sports dance are currently the more popular types of courses at Dongling Health, and are also the basis for carrying out services such as sports rehabilitation and sports therapy. In addition, courses for human muscle fitness, cardiorespiratory fitness, exercise fitness and metabolic fitness are all centered on its innovative health fitness training system.

At present, Dongling Health has formed an online + offline fitness course system, which can be individually configured for each user’s physical characteristics and exercise habits. However, as mentioned earlier, middle-aged and elderly people have special physical and mental characteristics, so in terms of curriculum development, Dongling Health will draw on the scientific standards of the American College of Sports Medicine for development and design.

After the initial design of the program is completed, the program will be reviewed by a team of professionals from Dongling Health. In addition, before the course is formally implemented, Dongling Health will organize a trial class for users to adjust the course movements and choreography design to better fit the space and equipment conditions of the venue.

In particular, Dongling Health’s internal professional team can undoubtedly guarantee the professionalism, science and safety of the developed courses. For example, Dongling Health’s Chief Technical Officer, Shanjiao Luo, is an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified group exercise instructor, exercise physiologist, American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified medical exercise specialist, one of the first CPT certified instructors of the ACSM-China Sports Science Society Sports Medicine Branch, and a German MTT certified medical exercise rehabilitator.

In addition, Dongling Health has proposed its own solution to the difficulty of exercise capacity assessment and exercise risk screening in the middle-aged and elderly population: first, Dongling Health will conduct a preliminary understanding of the user’s medical history, special physical signs, usual exercise habits and intensity, based on which, the user’s resting heart rate and blood pressure, height, weight and Based on this, Dongling Health will test the user’s resting heart rate and blood pressure, height, weight and BMI; then, Dongling Health will conduct a multidimensional assessment of the user’s health and fitness. Based on the assessment results, Dongling Health will develop a personalized exercise program for each user.

During the exercise process, Dongling Health will also wear a heart rate armband for each user and monitor the heart rate through the large screen of the venue, and the system will alert if the heart rate is abnormal.

Relying on a curriculum system that precisely matches demand and a perfect risk assessment and response mechanism, Dongling Health has been able to have two self-operated stores in Shenzhen and has established partnerships with several recreational communities to provide staff training and course output, and is in the process of applying for the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Livelihood Micro-project to provide services in government-provided venues in the form of events.

In addition to its own stores, why does Dongling Health choose to cooperate with recreational communities and apply to join government-led livelihood projects? The answer is actually obvious – to broaden revenue channels and balance income and expenses.

As mentioned earlier, middle-aged and elderly people are less aware of paying for exercise and health, and less willing to pay. This has become a major obstacle for traditional gyms to enter this field.

In this regard, Dongling Health’s strategy is to reduce costs and broaden channels.

For any store, store rent is one of the main components of operating costs. This is one of Dongling Health’s strengths.

Since 2012, Li Yanan has been in the senior living industry for 10 years, and has not only developed a clear understanding of the pain points and needs of various senior living projects, but also accumulated a large number of industry contacts, so he can quickly grasp the cooperation needs of docking projects and obtain lower-cost operating sites and relatively relaxed operating conditions.

At the same time of cost reduction, Dongling Health is also thinking hard about how to increase users’ willingness to pay and broaden revenue channels.

According to Li Yanan, in order to quickly establish a brand image and form a brand influence, Dongling Health is now mainly attracting middle-aged and elderly people to repeatedly or continuously visit the store and participate in the experience through health campaigns and community organizations.

Among them, health exercise means that every morning the store coach will lead and guide the older customers to practice traditional health exercise, cultivate the exercise habit of users and maintain the contact between users and the store; while the association organization is to set up “moving age grandmother group” to attract new users to join in the form of dance, and at the same time use the influence of “opinion leaders” in the grandmother group. The “opinion leaders” in the grandmother group have the influence to call on new users to participate.

However, these two forms can only achieve the function of user attraction and retention, as for user conversion, Dongling Health has also thought of another way.

For example, during the summer months, when he organized health campaigns and clubs, Li Yanan found that Dongling Health’s customer base was also dominated by people with children at home. When grandparents exercise, children are left unattended and run around, which not only poses a safety risk, but also prevents grandparents from concentrating on their workouts. Therefore, Li Yanan thought, why not let the children also exercise?

This is how Dongling Health’s children’s fitness program came about. And, Dongling Health’s move was also a “good one” – there were many customers who were willing to pay for their children’s exercise. In response, Dongling Health also took advantage of the situation and launched a family package, which boosted store revenue and increased the stickiness between Dongling Health and its customers.

Not only that, Dongling Health has also put a lot of effort into improving its products and services.

As mentioned earlier, chronic diseases are the number one “killer” of middle-aged and elderly people’s health, and with the aging of the population, the size of the chronic patient population is getting bigger and bigger, and the intervention role of scientific exercise for common chronic diseases such as high blood sugar and high blood lipid is an industry consensus. Therefore, joining hands with health management and health insurance companies to jointly carry out chronic disease intervention will become the key direction for Dongling Health in the future.

In addition, with the deepening of sports training, coupled with the existing musculoskeletal pain, restricted movement and poor gait of some middle-aged and elderly groups, the existence of sports massage and sports rehabilitation services becomes reasonable and necessary. Therefore, compared with sports training and sports dance, sports rehabilitation and sports therapy (chronic disease intervention) will become a more advanced business module for Dongling Health.

From the perspective of overall corporate development, Li Yanan’s plan for Dongling Health’s future development is to run through the business unit models of self-operated stores, jointly operated stores and recreational community cooperation within this year, and to summarize the “best practices” of each business line within six months. In the middle of next year, Dongling Health will form the ability to replicate in other places on the basis of achieving break-even; and within three years, Dongling Health will complete the business layout of online platform + offline national chain operation, and will strive to become the No. 1 brand in the field of senior sports and health in China.

“In fact, we position ourselves as a ‘community-based sports convenience store’. We are not only a gym for the middle-aged and elderly population, but also a comprehensive exercise service organization that provides healthy exercise content science, exercise guidance, exercise training, chronic disease intervention, rehabilitation physiotherapy, and healthy lifestyle guidance. Our biggest advantage is convenience, cheapness, affinity and peace of mind.” Li Yanan concluded.

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