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Feature Article - June 2015

Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

A Look at Trends in Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs


The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) reported a 2.3 percent growth in health club use in 2014 vs. 2013. More than 63 million Americans used a health club in 2014, the association said, and 54.1 million Americans belonged to at least one of the 34,460 health clubs nationwide. Membership has grown by 18.6 percent since 2008, and the total number of consumers has increased by 19.2 percent over the same time.

"For the second consecutive year, total health club visits surpassed 5 billion, an impressive mark for the industry," said Joe Moore, IHRSA's president and CEO. "By another measure, members frequented their health clubs for an all-time high of 103 visits, on average, in 2014. These numbers demonstrate the important role health clubs play in helping more and more Americans improve their overall health and well-being."

Indeed, fitness and health clubs occupy a unique place in the American landscape, and with obesity and the chronic illnesses it causes still a major concern, it should come as no surprise that the number of people looking to get fit is on the rise. In this section, we'll take a look at respondents who work for health, fitness and sports clubs.

While respondents generally are most likely to be from the Midwest, health club respondents were more likely to be from the Western states. Some 27 percent of health club respondents reported in from the West, while 24.3 percent were from the Midwest. The next largest group was from the South Central region (17.6 percent), followed by the Northeast (16.2 percent) and the South Atlantic (14.9 percent).

Health club respondents were more likely to be from suburban communities, with 60.8 percent reporting in from the suburbs. This compares with just 41.2 percent of non-health-club respondents. Another 21.6 percent of health club respondents said they were in rural areas, and 17.6 percent were in urban communities.

As might be expected, health club respondents were far more likely to report that they worked for private, for-profit organizations. Some 68.5 percent of health club respondents were with for-profit facilities, compared with 10.4 percent of non-health-club respondents. Another 17.8 percent of health club respondents were with public organizations, and 12.3 percent were with private nonprofit organizations.

On average, health club respondents manage 3.3 facilities. They were much more likely than other respondents to report that they manage three or fewer facilities. Some 87.7 percent of health club respondents manage three or fewer facilities, whereas 59.2 percent of non-health-club respondents manage three or fewer.

Health clubs were less likely than other respondents to form partnerships with other organizations. While 73 percent of health club respondents said they formed partnerships, some 86 percent of non-health-club respondents had done so. That said, health clubs are much more likely than non-health-club respondents to partner with corporate or local business, and with health care of medical facilities. Corporate or local businesses were the most common partner for health clubs, with 51.4 percent saying they had formed this type of partnership. This compares with 33.5 percent of non-health-club respondents. Likewise, 31.1 percent of health club respondents had partnered with health care or medical facilities, compared with 18.9 percent of non-health-care respondents. Other common partners for health clubs include local schools (36.5 percent of health clubs partner with them), local government (23 percent) and colleges and universities (20.3 percent).

When it comes to the primary audience served by their facilities, health club respondents are much more likely to report that they serve adults ages 19 to 64. Some 71.6 percent of health club respondents named this age group as their primary audience, compared with 15.9 percent of non-health-club respondents. Another 23 percent of health club respondents said their primary audience was all ages.

Revenues & Expenditures

After a significant increase to the percentage of health club respondents reporting increases in revenue in 2014, this year saw a drop. While 64.8 percent of health club respondents said their revenues increased from 2012 to 2013, just 45.2 percent reported that revenues increased from 2013 to 2014. Another 17.8 percent reported a decrease in revenues in that time period. (See Figure 51.) Looking forward, more than two-thirds (68.1 percent) of health club respondents expect revenues to increase from 2014 to 2015, and 61.5 percent expect to see increases in 2016.

Similarly, after reporting a significant increase in operating expenditures from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013, this year, health club respondents reported that their average annual operating expenses fell by 26.2 percent, dropping from $1,302,000 in fiscal 2013 to an average of $961,000 in 2014. They expect a slight increase to $974,000 in fiscal 2015. And, from 2014 to 2016, health club respondents project average operating expenses to increase by 5.8 percent to $1,017,000.

Health club respondents were slightly more likely than other respondents to report that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures. Some 88.7 percent of health club respondents had taken such actions, compared with 84.1 percent of non-health-club respondents. The actions health club respondents were most likely to have taken include: improving energy efficiency (57.7 percent); reducing staff (36.6 percent); increasing fees (35.2 percent); and putting construction or renovation plans on hold (23.9 percent).

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