Feature Article - June 2010
Find a printable version here


A Look at Trends in Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs


n the wake of the recently passed health care bill, several initiatives have been introduced that aim to get Americans off the couch and into the gym. From the Let's Move program, introduced by First Lady Michelle Obama to try to address rising rates of childhood obesity, to the National Physical Activity Plan, a multidisciplinary, public-private effort to get all Americans to engage in physical activity, these measures offer opportunities for fitness, health and sports clubs to reach out to their communities and encourage people to get involved in what they offer.

The health clubs covered by Recreation Management's industry report survey were primarily privately run. Regionally, far fewer of these respondents were from the Midwest than those in other facility categories, Just over a quarter (26.3 percent) of health club respondents were from the Midwest. Almost as many were from the West (23.7 percent) or the Northeast (23.7 percent). Fewer were from the South Central states (13.2 percent) or the South Atlantic (11.8 percent).

Nearly half (48.1 percent) of health club respondents were from suburban communities. Another 28.6 percent were from urban areas, and less than a quarter (23.4 percent) were from rural areas.

As in years past, respondents from health clubs were less likely than most other respondents to indicate that they were a part of any partnership with external organizations. That said, this year saw a slight increase in the number of health clubs that did form partnerships. Last year, 77.1 percent of health club respondents had formed partnerships, and this year, 80.3 percent had done so.

The most common partners among health clubs tell a very different story from the general survey population, where local schools, local government and nonprofit organizations were the most common partners. For health club respondents, the most common partners were corporate or local businesses (50 percent of health clubs had formed a partnership with a business). They were followed by local schools (43.4 percent); health care or medical facilities (34.2 percent); nonprofit organizations (30.3 percent); and local government (22.4 percent).

Budget and Growth

Health clubs represent a very different type of operation from many of our other respondents. In these clubs revenue and member retention is critical to survival, and usage tells a very different story.

This year's health club respondents were slightly more likely than last year's respondents expected to see lower revenues in 2009 than 2008. While 35.7 percent of respondents to the 2009 survey said they expected revenues to decrease in 2009, 38.7 percent of 2010 respondents said they actually saw such a decrease. That said, respondents are expecting to see a quick return to growth, with more than half (52.7 percent) expecting revenue growth in 2010, and nearly six in 10 (59.7 percent) expecting revenue growth in 2011. (See Figure 51.)