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02 Aug 2021

Half of lapsed US gym members plan to rejoin
BY Tom Walker

Two thirds (63 per cent) of active women are currently utilising free online workouts

Two thirds (63 per cent) of active women are currently utilising free online workouts
photo: Shutterstock/Rido

Nearly half (49 per cent) of health club members in the US who've cancelled their membership since the pandemic began are eager to rejoin their clubs within the next six to 12 months.

This is one of the key findings of the The Next Fitness Consumer report, compiled by ClubIntel, the IHRSA Foundation and ABC Fitness Solutions, which unveils current beliefs and motivators of the fitness consumer.

Conducted in June 2021, the study surveyed 2,113 consumers who were either currently physically active, or were not active but were interested in being so. Those with no interest in being physically active were not included in the study, which was administered in collaboration with research panel Dynata.

In-person health club usage was down by 8 per cent in June 2021, while studios were down 5 per cent.

Meanwhile, the use of free online workouts was up 15 per cent and other digital exercise programmes 8 per cent, while the use of at-home fitness equipment was up 13 per cent.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents said they had purchased at-home equipment at some point – with 10 per cent spending more than US$1,000.

Providing personalised health and fitness services that mix both in-club and online elements were identified as being crucial for health clubs operators when it comes to thriving in a pandemic-disrupted 'new reality'.

The reasons for re-joining were given as the range of equipment (53 per cent), amenities (45 per cent), the variety of workouts available (40 per cent) and the routine of going to the gym (38 per cent).

More than a third (35 per cent) also said they'd re-joined a club or studio, as it provides them with a more motivating environment to exercise in.

This, according to the study authors, shows that clubs and studios still have a huge role to play in people's fitness regimes – but that digital is here to stay.

"The insights presented in this report will inform how we, as operators within the health and fitness industry, must deliver a personalised and curated member experience with our offerings, programming and communications," reads the report's summary of key findings.

"We're an industry that has witnessed first-hand the magnitude of interruption a health crisis can inflict with unexpected closures, the cancellations of clients and members, re-imaging, re-branding, re-opening and significant changes in consumer behaviour and attitudes."

The report also shows that, when asked to list the reasons for not joining a gym, nearly half (44 per cent) said they were not confident the COVID-19 pandemic was sufficiently under control in their area – the US has had huge regional variations when it comes to pandemic response.

A further 28 per cent said their work/life balance had changed, so visiting a gym was no longer convenient and a quarter (25 per cent) said they've adopted an alternative option for fitness and no longer need a club.

A total of 14 per cent said they had not re-joined because their preferred club had closed permanently.

While the way people access fitness has changed, their favourite workouts – encouragingly for clubs – have not changed radically.

The five most popular exercise methods among active US consumers – cardio equipment training, flexibility/stretching, free-weight training, equipment-based exercise classes and health/wellness coaching – are available in the vast majority of facilities.

"The exercise preferences of active consumers attest to the gyms and studios as the go-to hubs of fitness and wellness," the report states.

According to the study, the pandemic has also affected US female fitness consumers differently from males, with men more likely to have already returned to brick and mortar clubs and women more likely to engage in digital and at-home fitness.

The study shows that less than half of women (47 per cent) have returned to health clubs, while the figure for men is 53 per cent.

Two thirds (63 per cent) of active women in the US are currently utilising free online workouts, while nearly the same proportion (59 per cent) use premium digital fitness content. More than half (55 per cent) also use at-home fitness equipment

For men, the "digital take up" is slightly lower, with 41 per cent using premium digital content and less utilising free content (37 per cent).

The study also showed that Americans with household incomes of at least US$150,000 a year are more likely to be active (78 per cent) than those from households with an income of less than US$50,000 (59 per cent).

To download and read the full The Next Fitness Consumer report, click here.



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