Feature Article - June 2009
Find a printable version here


A Look at Trends in Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs


aking up 3.7 percent of the survey respondents, those representing health, fitness and sports clubs were largely representative of private, for-profit organizations. Because they operate on a for-profit basis, these respondents expressed different concerns—focusing heavily on marketing, increasing memberships and coming up with new programming to keep existing members and attract new ones.

Respondents from health clubs were among the most likely to indicate that they operate or manage just a single facility. Nearly two-thirds (64.5 percent) of health club respondents said they operate a single club, and only 6.5 percent said they operate 10 or more facilities.

Many health clubs aim to address a specific niche of members, but that niche is not limited to hard-core exercisers. Increasingly, health clubs are looking to address a wider range of needs for their members of all ages and backgrounds.

"Some of the growing trends within the industry are in programming and services for wellness, baby boomers, generation X and children," said a spokesperson for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). "Wellness programming emphasizes a holistic approach to exercise; wellness services can cover programming for special populations with medical issues and offerings for the overall population just seeking to improve their overall health and feel better. Baby boomers and generation X'ers are growing populations, and as they age, they become increasingly more concerned with appearance, health and performance. Increased youth sports participation and child care services call for the opportunity or need for corresponding children's fitness programming."

Economic Impact

As the economy has slumped, experts have seen an impact in the fitness arena—both on how people are working out and where they are choosing to work out.

"We have certainly seen some changes in people's fitness behaviors and spending as a response to the recession," said Scott Goudeseune, CEO of the American Council on Exercise. "Budget-friendly, simple workouts that do not require an investment in expensive equipment or training are enjoying a resurgence, including bodyweight exercises, which utilize one's own body weight as a form of resistance, requiring no weights or equipment, training with resistance bands and walking."

He added that when it comes to health clubs, "while people are continuing to retain gym memberships and personal trainers, spending on added services and personalized, individualized training has decreased." Now people are more likely to pool their money and share group training sessions, Goudeseune said, and they may skip the pricier health and spa treatments that used to be a more common indulgence.