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CULTURE

Beyond Exercise: The Technogym Approach

An intimate look inside the world's leading fitness equipment maker from their scenic Italian headquarters

by Hans Aschim
on 11 July 2014
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Gym equipment might not be the first thing to evoke philosophical ideas of happiness, community wellness or indeed overall life satisfaction. However, Technogym isn't your average fitness company and their mission statement extends well beyond the gym. With visionary leader and founder Nerio Alessandri at the helm, the company's equipment reaches 35 million people in over 100 countries every day—not to mention, leads the field in both biomechanics and technology integration.

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From humble beginnings in Alessandri's garage to a full-blown model for healthy living, the company's values speak for themselves in their Antonio Citterio-designed headquarters, known as the Wellness Village. Opened with President Bill Clinton's blessing in 2012, it's arguably Italy's most conceptual workplace and a surely strong contender for the world's healthiest. Located an hour southeast of Bologna and minutes from the shores of the Adriatic, the scenic headquarters embodies a uniquely Italian approach to design, life and presents a proprietary idea of wellness rooted in the Renaissance-era idea of a balanced mind and body.

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One of the core tenets of Technogym's mission to foster healthy lifestyles is achieved through human-centric design—as one quickly realizes making the hike between the elegantly tucked away parking area and the grand entrance. You won't see chairs at Technogym (the company's active sitting Wellness Ball is the norm, a stylish and effective sitting solution that improves spine stabilization and engages core muscles) and the elevators are seldom used.

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Wellness is not three times per week in the gym. Wellness is 24 hours in terms of approach, culture, design, quality of life.

"Wellness is not three times per week in the gym. Wellness is 24 hours in terms of approach, culture, design, quality of life," Alessandri tells CH. "For example in your day-to-day life, you take the stairs instead of the elevator; you park the car further away to walk a bit more. At first people complained, so we gave them umbrellas," Alessandri adds with a smile. This human-centric approach extends from the parking lot to the running trails around the facility to the massive naturally lit factory floor and of course, to the workout facility.

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All of the company's equipment is designed and built onsite. Most importantly, the headquarters host a research facility similar to those found at universities, where an academic staff of scientists works to ensure safety and efficacy of the brand's products. By bringing this process in-house, Technogym is able to streamline research and development with design and production—ultimately leading to a more informed, considered product with a greater result for the consumer.

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The theme of human-centric design runs throughout and is essential to Technogym's efforts to buck common aesthetic problems that plague workout facilities. "The environment is very important in terms of material, shape, color, texture," Alessandri explains. "There are many touch-points, and we do not ignore this with the equipment or the the facilities we design."

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Given Italian culture's emphasis on eating quality food, lunch is a key part of the day at Technogym. The two-hour break allows employees enough time to hit the gym or go for a run in the woods, then snack on the in-house café's several course meals prepared with local ingredients. While intrinsically pleasurable (fresh cuttlefish, pomodoro with homemade pasta and Caprese salad were just a few of the items on offer on a given day), the café speaks to a larger goal of the organization. Alessandri's focus is on making the surrounding region a model for community wellness. Organizing with different stakeholder from the arts, industry and political leaders, Technogym is creating a model known as the Wellness Valley, where cooperation and dialogue leads to healthier, happier and more economically robust communities.

It's this kind of thoughtful leadership that makes Technogym one of the few visionary companies that seek to change the world. Collaborating with the World Health Organization and consulting in wellness for major corporations around the world, Technogym is proving to be not only cost-effective, but inspiring creativity in workplaces. "The technology of the future is going to be people's creativity," Alessandri explains. "It's not going to be the most powerful processor. Creativity is the key point and creativity is strongly linked to wellbeing."

For more information on Technogym's products, services, Wellness Centers and philosophies, visit them online.

Photos by Hans Aschim

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