Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

A Look at Trends in Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

By Emily Tipping

According to a report from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) released in April 2011, U.S. health club membership reached 50.2 million in 2010, strong growth in a field that has been challenged, like others, by the economic downturn. It represents a 10.8 percent increase over membership in 2009. Total industry revenues in 2010 were up 4 percent to $20.3 billion.

"One year does not constitute a trend, but it is certainly a positive sign that 2010 saw real membership growth after four years of treading water," said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA's executive vice president of global products. "The health club industry has weathered the economic storm of the past few years better than many other industries."

Our report also shows health club respondents recovering well. While there are many possible reasons for this, it is likely that the operating structure of most health clubs—their tendency to be for-profit, privately operated facilities—makes them more flexible and able to adjust.

And, in fact, a majority of our health club respondents were from private, for-profit facilities. Nearly seven out of 10 (69.9 percent) respondents said their facilities were under private ownership, on a for-profit basis. Another 15.1 percent said they worked for private nonprofit clubs. And 15.1 percent worked for public facilities.

Health club respondents were most likely to come from the Midwest, with more than a quarter (26.8 percent) indicating that this was their region. Another 23.9 percent were from the West. The South Atlantic and the South Central states each had 16.9 percent of health club respondents, and 15.5 percent were from the Northeast.

Half (50 percent) of health club respondents reported in from suburban communities, and another 30 percent said they worked in rural communities. A fifth (20 percent) said they were working in urban areas.

Unlike other respondents working for organizations that managed multiple facilities from a centralized department, respondents from health clubs were far more likely to report that they manage just a single facility. In fact, more than three-quarters (76.7 percent) of health club respondents said they manage just one facility. Another 15.1 percent said they manage two to three facilities. And, just 4.1 percent of our respondents said they manage 20 or more facilities.

A majority (80.3 percent) of health club respondents said that they partner with other organizations. The most common partnerships for health club respondents departed from the norm for other respondents, i.e., local schools. The most common partners were health care and medical facilities (45.1 percent of health care respondents partnered with them), corporate or local businesses (42.3 percent), local schools (39.4 percent), local government (26.8 percent), and colleges and universities (21.1 percent).


Medical Fitness

The No. 1 partnership formed by health club respondents was with health care and medical facilities. Nearly half (45.1 percent) of health club respondents said they had partnered with such facilities, compared with just 20.1 percent of all respondents.

According to the Medical Fitness Association (MFA), the medical fitness industry has been showing steady growth, of approximately 6 percent per year from 2003 through 2010, when the association's survey results and analysis were released. There has been a growth in the number of centers, as well as the number of people served by medical fitness facilities, with the most recent report estimating more than 3.3 million members—a number expected to grow to more than 4 million by 2015.

"With the advent of healthcare reform, the international launch of ACSM's Exercise Is Medicine initiative and the continued escalation of chronic health conditions in America, the need for the expertise and services provided by medically integrated centers are greater than ever before," said Brad Roy, Ph.D., chairman of the MFA. "The Medical Fitness Association is committed to assisting medically integrated health and fitness facilities in reaching out and improving the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve."

Learn more about the association at www.medicalfitness.org.


Revenues and Expenditures

Respondents from health clubs were among those most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2009 to 2010, and they were also more likely than other respondents to expect those revenue increases to continue over the next couple of years. While just 36 percent of health club respondents in last year's survey said their revenues had increased from 2008 to 2009, this year, half (50 percent) said their revenues had increased from 2009 to 2010. More than half (54 percent) expect an increase from 2010 to 2011, and more than two-thirds (67.2 percent) expect an increase from 2011 to 2012.

At the same time, almost a quarter (24.2 percent) of health club respondents saw their revenues fall from 2009 to 2010. This is a substantial improvement over last year's survey, when 38.7 percent of health club respondents said revenues had dropped from 2008 to 2009. (See Figure 50.)

Health club respondents reported an average yearly operating expenditure for fiscal 2010 of $1,112,000. This is 22.1 percent lower than the average for all respondents, and is 28.4 percent lower than the average operating expenditure reported for fiscal 2009 by respondents to last year's survey.

Interestingly, health club respondents reported a projected increase in their average operating expenditures for fiscal 2011, followed by a drop in fiscal 2012. They expect expenditures to rise by 1.3 percent from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011, to an average of $1,126,000. Then, a 0.8 percent drop is projected from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012.

Over time, a growing percentage of health club respondents expects the number of people using their facilities to increase. While 39 percent of last year's respondents said the number of users had increased from 2008 to 2009, this year, 41.7 percent said there had been an increase from 2009 to 2010. Looking ahead, 55.7 percent project an increase in 2011, and 64.1 percent expect an increase in 2012. At the same time, the percentage seeing users decline is falling. More than one-third (35.1 percent) of health club respondents to last year's survey said the number of people using their facilities fell from 2008 to 2009. This year, a little more than a quarter (26.4 percent) said they saw a decline from 2009 to 2010. That number falls to 10 percent for 2011, and just 1.6 percent for 2012. (See Figure 51.)

A majority of health club respondents, 87.7 percent, reported that they had taken measures to reduce their operating expenditures. The most common tactic used was improving energy efficiency. More than half (58.9 percent) of health club respondents had worked to improve energy efficiency at their facilities. More than a third also said they had reduced staff (38.4 percent) or put construction plans on hold (37 percent). More than a quarter (28.8 percent) said they had increased fees, and 20.5 percent said they had cut programs and services. None of the respondents from this industry segment said they had closed facilities, likely reflecting the for-profit nature of this group's business.

While nearly one in 10 (9.8 percent) of health club respondents in 2010 said they were planning to reduce staff last year, this year that number fell to just 1.4 percent planning to make staff cuts in 2011. The majority (82.2 percent) of health club respondents said they were planning to maintain their current staff levels this year. Another 16.4 percent said they had plans to add staff in 2011.

Construction & Facility Plans

More than half (56.2 percent) of health club respondents reported that they have construction plans over the next three years. Most of these respondents (38.3 percent) are planning to renovate their existing facilities. Another 15.1 percent have plans to add to their facilities, and 12.3 percent are planning to build new facilities. (See Figure 52.)

The most common amenities currently included in health club respondents' facilities include: fitness centers, exercise studio rooms, locker rooms, indoor sports courts (i.e., basketball, volleyball, etc.), indoor aquatic facilities, concessions, classrooms and meeting rooms, indoor running tracks, outdoor sports courts, and outdoor aquatic facilities.

More than a third (34.2 percent) of health club respondents said they have plans to add more amenities to their facilities over the next three years. The most commonly planned additions include:

  1. Locker rooms
  2. Splash play areas
  3. Climbing walls
  4. Exercise studio rooms
  5. Bleachers and seating
  6. Concessions
  7. Indoor track
  8. Challenge course
  9. Playgrounds
  10. Fitness centers
Programming

Programming at fitness, health and sports clubs falls along expected lines, with exercise- and wellness-focused programs predominating. The top 10 current programs found among health club respondents' facilities include:

  1. Fitness (offered by 93.2 percent of health club respondents)
  2. Mind-body/balance programs such as yoga, tai chi, etc. (79.5 percent)
  3. Personal training (79.5 percent)
  4. Programming for active older adults (64.4 percent)
  5. Nutrition/diet counseling (63 percent)
  6. Aquatic exercise programs (50.7 percent)
  7. Holiday events and other special events (47.9 percent)
  8. Swimming (42.5 percent)
  9. Sport training, such as golf lessons (39.7 percent)
  10. Individual sports activities (35.6 percent)

Respondents from health clubs were among those most likely to report that they had plans to add additional programs at their facilities over the next three years. This is an important area for many health clubs, as they aim to boost retention and attract new members to their facilities. Some 38.4 percent said they had plans to add programs. The most popular planned programs include:

  1. Programming for active older adults
  2. Fitness programs
  3. Teen programming
  4. Mind-body/balance programs
  5. Individual sports activities
  6. Nutrition/diet counseling
  7. Aquatic exercise programs
  8. Special needs programs
  9. Adult sports teams
  10. Youth sports teams

Programming for active older adults was also a commonly planned program last year, appearing in the No. 2 spot. Also gaining in popularity on the list of planned programs are: fitness (up from No. 5), teen programming (up from No. 3), mind-body/balance (up from No. 7), and individual sports activities (up from No. 9). Programs that appear on the list of top 10 planned programs this year that were not included on last year's list include: aquatic exercise programs, special needs programs, adult sports teams and youth sports teams.


Older Adults

As the baby boomers begin to reach retirement age, the United States is faced with an aging population, and many directors of recreation, sports and fitness facilities, recognizing this fact, are aiming new programming initiatives straight for this market of aging boomers.

Programming designed for active older adults was the No. 1 planned program among health club respondents. Across the country, facilities are springing up that focus specifically on the aging population, from health clubs with equipment that goes a little easier on joints or offers balance training to over-50 facilities that aim to provide a place for both wellness and recreation.




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