Feature Article - June 2012
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Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

A Look at Trends in Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

Over the course of the economic downturn and sputtering starts of recovery, health clubs have been both quicker to see positive movement and more volatile, according to our annual Industry Report. This year's results further reflect this trend.

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association's "2012 IHRSA Global Report: The State of the Health Club Industry," the United States was home to 51.4 million health club members in 2011, an increase of 2.4 percent from 2010. And revenue, according to the report, increased by 5 percent to $21.4 billion.

"Led by strong performance in the Americas, the industry is well positioned for steady growth as consumers continue to place a high value on the role health clubs play in improving their health," said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA's executive vice president of global products in a press release announcing the report's release.

There was no change in the percentage of respondents who claimed to work for health, sports and fitness clubs from 2011 to 2012. Some 3.6 percent of the entire survey population works for these types of facilities, which can range from small privately owned health clubs to larger franchises, medical fitness facilities and more.

The majority of health club respondents, in contrast with most other survey respondents, work for private organizations. Nearly half (47.9 percent) said they were with private for-profit organizations, and nearly one-third (31.5 percent) worked for private nonprofit organizations.

Health club respondents were more likely to be from the West and from the South Central region than respondents from other facility types. Nearly three in 10 (29.2 percent) health club respondents were from the West vs. 20.6 percent of all respondents, and 16.7 percent of health club respondents were from the South Central states vs. 13.6 percent of all respondents. Health club respondents were less likely than the general survey population to be from the Midwest (22.2 percent vs. 28.7 percent), the South Atlantic states (18.1 percent vs. 18.8 percent) and the Northeast (13.9 percent vs. 17.8 percent).

Respondents working at health and fitness clubs were more likely than others to be from urban areas, with nearly a third (31.9 percent) of these respondents reporting in from urban communities vs. 25.3 percent of all respondents. They were slightly less likely to hail from the suburbs (40.3 percent vs. 41.2 percent), and just over a quarter (27.8 percent) were from rural areas, compared with a third (33.5 percent) of all respondents.

When it comes to the primary audience served by their facilities, health club respondents differ a great deal from the general survey population, where facilities for all ages dominate. In the case of health clubs, it is adults ages 19 to 64 who are the predominant audience, with 58.3 percent of health clubs. This compares with just 17 percent of all respondents who called adults their primary audience. And while 38.4 percent of all respondents serve all ages, less than a quarter (23.6 percent) of health club respondents said their facilities are meant for all ages. They also were far more likely than other respondents to name seniors 65 and older as their primary audience. Some 13.9 percent of health club respondents serve seniors, compared with just 2.5 percent of all respondents. Finally, a small number of health club respondents, 4.2 percent, said their primary audience was either children ages 4 to 12 or teens age 13 to 18.

The number of health club respondents who said they partner with other organizations is down from 80.3 percent in 2011 to less than three-quarters (73.6 percent) in 2012. In addition, when all facility types were asked who their most common partners were, they were least likely to name private health clubs as a partner. Just 5 percent of all respondents said they partner with health clubs. The most common partners for health clubs differ from other respondents, with the most common partners being corporate or local businesses (37.5 percent of health clubs partner with corporate or local businesses) and health care or medical facilities (36.1 percent), followed by schools, nonprofit organizations (34.7 percent each) and colleges and universities (25 percent).