Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

October 2017

Health Club Memberships Up, Led by Youth & Older Adults

By Dave Ramont

It seems we hear a lot these days about how Americans are leading more sedentary lifestyles, with childhood obesity and early-onset diabetes rates on the rise. Therefore it's encouraging to learn that health club memberships have increased, with the largest growth happening in the youth and older adult markets. This information comes from the 2017 Health Club Consumer Report, released by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

The report presents data on fitness, health and sports participation by consumers of health clubs in America. A nationwide sample of more than 24,000 interviews provided the basis for the annual publication. Jay Ablondi, executive vice president of global products for the IHRSA, said that membership in U.S. health clubs reached an all-time high in 2016 of 57.3 million, which is up 3.6 percent from 2015. "Another 9.3 million non-members exercised at clubs. In all, 22 percent of Americans use a health club to pursue fitness and wellness goals," according to Ablondi.

The report suggests that, when it comes to people leading more active lives and pursuing their fitness goals, health clubs play an active role. Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA's senior research manager, tells us that nearly one out of four health club members are 55 and older, and membership among baby boomers and those born between 1925 and 1942 has increased by 5 percent since 2012. "The report provides insights and applications on how clubs can engage older generations, as well as other segments. For example, club operators who aim to target older generations should not only offer relevant exercise programs, but also provide stellar in-person customer service and foster ongoing interactions with club staff," Rodriguez said.

The report aims to assist club operators in not only taking advantage of demographic trends, but in reaching underrepresented groups as well. Although health clubs are used by one out of five Americans, 27 percent of Americans do not partake in physical activity. And 2016 had higher rates of participation by youths compared to previous years, making that market more desirable to clubs as well.

The 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report is broken up into eight chapters, which cover the following subjects: Overview of Health Club Participation; Health Club Member Attendance & Tenure; Health Club Member Fees; and Health Club Member Demographics, which examines how age, gender, income, ethnicity and education influence the health club industry. Other chapters include Health Club Member Activity Participation; Personal & Small Group Training Users; and How to Apply Consumer Research. And a new chapter this year is titled Special Report: Core Consumers, which looks at multi-club members and those who use clubs at least 100 days per year. Also new this year is an appendix titled Ten Key Findings & Infographic Insights, which summarizes key data points of the report.

The publication is available for purchase through the IHRSA, whose mission is to grow, promote and protect the health and fitness industry.

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