A Look at Trends in Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

Health, Fitness & Sports Clubs

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), more than 62.1 million Americans used a health club in 2013 for more than 5 billion visits, making 2013 the first year that total health club visits surpassed the 5 billion mark. Based on the study, conducted by IHRSA as part of the Physical Activity Council, results show that 52.9 million Americans belonged to at least one of the 32,150 health clubs nationwide. With non-member health club patrons factored in, more than one in five Americans (21 percent) are health club members.

"The health club industry offers all kinds of fitness options for every budget," said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA's executive vice president of global products. "Among the many choices available are full-service centers providing a resort-like experience, family-friendly centers, small studios with expert trainers, convenient 24-hour gyms, women-only clubs and sport-specific facilities."

What's more, IHRSA found that in 2013, health club industry revenue in the United States increased to $22.4 billion, up from $21.8 billion in 2012.

"All metrics show an industry that is clearly growing and meeting the needs of consumers," said Melissa Rodriguez, senior research manager for IHRSA. "Total number of members, non-members, visits and revenue all reached historic highs in the United States."

Health club respondents to the survey were more evenly spread through the regions of the United States. The largest percentage, 24.1 percent, came from the West. They were closely followed by the Midwest, with 22.4 percent, and the South Central states, with 20.7 percent of health club respondents. Some 19 percent of health club respondents were from the South Atlantic and 12.1 percent were from the Northeast.

Health club respondents were most likely to be located in suburban communities, though the percentage in suburban areas fell from 2013. In 2013, 56.3 percent of health club respondents were in suburban communities, and in 2014, 45.6 percent reported in from the suburbs. Another 28.1 percent of health club respondents were from urban communities, and 26.3 percent were from rural areas.

Some 60.3 percent of health club respondents indicated that they worked for private, for-profit organizations. Another 27.6 percent said they worked for nonprofits, and 12.1 percent reported from public organizations.

On average, health club respondents manage 3.3 facilities, down from 4.6 in 2013. They were much more likely than others to report that they managed just a single facility. Some 68.4 percent of health club respondents managed just one facility, compared with 33.8 percent of non-health-club respondents.

Health club respondents were far less likely to report that they had formed partnerships with other organizations. While 84.1 percent of non-health-club respondents had formed such partnerships, just 73.7 percent of health club respondents had done so. Their most common partners were corporate or local businesses (47.4 percent of health club respondents partner with them); local schools (43.9 percent); nonprofit organizations (31.6 percent); health care or medical facilities (29.8 percent); and colleges and universities (22.8 percent).

When it comes to the primary audience for their main facility, health club respondents are much more likely than others to report that they serve an audience of adults ages 19 and up. While 16.3 percent of non-health-club respondents said adults were their main audience, 70.7 percent of health club respondents said they primarily serve adults. Another 22.4 percent said they served all ages. And 3.4 percent served seniors as their primary audience.

Revenues & Expenditures

Nearly half (49.2 percent) of health club respondents to the 2013 Industry Report survey said their revenues had increased from 2011 to 2012. In this year's survey, the number reporting higher revenues in 2013 vs. 2012 increased dramatically, with 64.8 percent reporting they had seen higher revenues. The number expecting revenue growth continues to increase for 2014, when 76.8 percent are projecting revenue increases, and for 2015, when 77.1 percent expect revenue to increase. (See Figure 51.)

Health club respondents bucked the trend in operating expenditures from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013. While among all survey respondents, the average operating expenditure fell by 1.7 percent over that year, health club respondents reported a 12 percent increase from $1,162,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,302,000 in fiscal 2013. Further, health club respondents are expecting more rapid growth from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2015 than other respondents. While health club respondents expect their revenues to grow by 16.4 percent from fiscal 2012, reaching $1,352,000 in fiscal 2015, among all respondents, a more modest growth rate of 4.1 percent is projected.

Health club respondents were much more likely than others to report that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures in the past year. While 80.4 percent of non-health-club respondents said they had taken such action, 89.3 percent of health club respondents had done so. They were more likely than others to report that they had increased fees (48.2 percent). Other common measures employed included improving energy efficiency (50 percent), reducing staff (37.5 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (21.1 percent); or cutting programs and services (17.9 percent).

Health Club Facilities

Respondents from health clubs tend to be very positive about expected growth in membership, and 2014 is no exception. The percentage of respondents reporting increasing usage year over year grew from 50.8 percent who saw an increase in 2012 to 58.2 percent reporting an increase in 2013. Looking ahead, more than two-thirds (67.9 percent) expect to see further growth in 2014, and 70 percent expect growth in 2015. (See Figure 52.)

Interestingly, while only 3.3 percent of 2013 respondents projected a decrease in usage from 2012 to 2013, this year, 14.5 percent reported that such a decrease had taken place.

Health club respondents were slightly more likely than others to report that they had plans for construction over the next three years. While 63.6 percent of non-health-club respondents are planning construction, 69 percent of health club respondents had such plans.

What's more, the number of health club respondents who plan to build has grown dramatically since 2012, when less than half said they had such plans. (See Figure 53.)

Half of health club respondents said they plan to make renovations at their existing facilities. Another 31 percent have plans for additions, up from 17.2 percent in 2013. And, 25.9 percent are planning to build new facilities, up from 15.6 percent in 2013.

Despite the fact that more are planning construction, health club respondents' budgets for construction fell significantly from 2013 to 2014. Average spending for construction fell by 25.2 percent from $2,154,000 in 2013 to $1,611,000 in 2014.

The features most commonly included in health club facilities changes little year over year. The top 10 most common features in 2014 include: fitness centers; exercise studios; locker rooms; childcare or daycare facilities; classrooms and meeting rooms; indoor aquatic facilities; indoor sports courts; concession areas; outdoor aquatic facilities; and indoor running tracks.

Far fewer health club respondents are planning to add features at their facilities over the next three years. While 38 percent of non-health-club respondents plan to add features, just 24.1 percent of health club respondents have such plans. That said, this is an increase from 2013, when just 14.1 percent of health club respondents had plans to add features.

The most commonly planned additions include: locker rooms; concession areas; exercise studio rooms; outdoor sports courts; climbing walls; outdoor running tracks; splash play areas; playgrounds; indoor sports courts; and challenge or ropes courses.


For health clubs, one of the keys to success is keeping members engaged by offering creative and exciting programs. The top 10 programs currently found among health club respondents' facilities include: fitness programs (92.9 percent of health clubs that offer any programs); personal training (80.4 percent); mind-body balance programs such as tai chi and yoga (78.6 percent); nutrition and diet counseling (58.9 percent); programs for active older adults (55.4 percent); holiday events and other special events (51.8 percent); aquatic exercise programs (46.4 percent); educational programs (44.6 percent); swimming programs (41.1 percent); and sports-specific training (37.5 percent).

Program areas that saw growth from 2013 to 2014 include: nutrition and diet counseling (58.9 percent in 2014 vs. 50 percent in 2013); holidays and other special events (51.8 percent vs. 48.4 percent); and educational programs and sport-specific training, which were not included in the top 10 current programs in 2013.They replaced individual sports programs and daycare and preschool programs.

The number of health club respondents who plan to add programming at their facilities has grown over the past few years, from 23.3 percent in 2012 to 31.3 percent in 2013. This year, 37.9 percent of health care respondents have plans to add programming at their facilities. This compares with 28.1 percent of non-health-care respondents who have such plans.

The most commonly planned programs include:

  1. Programs for active older adults (up from No. 3)
  2. Mind-body balance programs like yoga, Pilates and tai chi (did not appear in 2013)
  3. Fitness programs (up from No. 9)
  4. Educational programs (down from No. 1)
  5. Teen programming (up from No. 6)
  6. Nutrition and diet counseling (down from No. 2)
  7. Holidays and special events (did not appear in 2013)
  8. Sports tournaments and races (did not appear in 2013)
  9. Day camps and summer camps (did not appear in 2013)
  10. Performing arts programs (did not appear in 2013)

There is a great deal of change from 2013 to 2014. New programs appearing among the top 10 that were not included in 2013 include mind-body balance programs, holidays and special events, sports tournaments and races, day camps and summer camps, and performing arts programs. They replace personal training (No. 4 in 2013), daycare and preschool programs (No. 5 in 2013), individual sports activities (No. 7 in 2013), special needs programs (No. 8 in 2013), and therapeutic programs (No. 10 in 2013).

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