Feature Article - June 2008
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HEALTH CLUBS

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Programming

Like the amenities included in their facilities, the top programs offered at the facilities of our health club respondents were what one might expect. Nearly 90 percent of respondents in this category said they offered fitness programs. (We must assume that the remaining 10 percent represent sports-focused facilities without fitness-oriented options.) More than 86 percent also indicated that they currently offer personal training. Mind-body balance programs like yoga and tai chi and nutrition and diet counseling were both offered by around 70 percent of respondents. More than half also indicated that they offer programs designed specifically for active older adults.

The respondents with plans to add new programs over the next three years are expecting to add more of the same types of programs, as well as diversifying into other areas to reach a wider audience. The top 10 program options health and fitness clubs surveyed were planning to add included:

  1. Nutrition and diet counseling
  2. Fitness programs
  3. Individual sports activities, like running clubs
  4. Personal training
  5. Programming designed specifically for active older adults
  6. Programming aimed specifically at teen audiences
  7. Mind-body balance programs like yoga and tai chi
  8. Sports tournaments and races
  9. Educational programs
  10. Programs designed for special-needs populations
  11. Trips and excursions

Fewer respondents from health and fitness clubs were worried about their budgets than respondents in other categories, though it was still their top concern.

As one respondent reported, current economic conditions are worrisome for an industry that relies on fee-paying customers to remain successful: "In a declining economy, customers, looking to tighten their budget, may find health club participation not necessary compared to the rising costs of gas, etc. We worry and feel that it is already happening—that business is down to the downward economy."

Competing with the issue of budgets were such problems as marketing their facilities and increasing participation, and creating new and innovative programming. In fact, over the next three years, health club respondents said these two issues would be of greater concern than their budgets. The problem of how to address older adults with fitness and wellness issues also enters the picture for our respondents in this category over the next three years.

One respondent voiced several concerns at once, saying the problem was figuring out "how to best integrate the fitness industry/facility into a medical model. …We are a health club owned by a hospital and would like to take advantage of this relationship through weight management programs, cardiac rehab programs, etc."

Many find themselves struggling to compete with their nonprofit counterparts—the YMCAs and other, similar facilities. One club owner asserted that "competition with for-profit but nonprofit, protected health clubs (i.e., YMCA) was the top problem facing his facility.