The 2023 predictions and January statistics are in. “The fitness sector has roared back,” reports Bloomberg. “Right now, gyms can hope for a lasting commitment to healthy living rather than a post-holiday fitness fad", according to the author, Andrea Felsted.
Compared to January 2022, this year is already off to a stellar start. Gym visits were up roughly 32% for the first two weeks of January 2023, versus the same timeframe last year, according to the most recent data from Placer.ai. In sum: people are returning to clubs in a major way.
As an industry, we saw massive attrition during the pandemic and suffered losses on many levels. Concurrently, at-home workouts became all the rage — and there was concern that this would change the industry forever.
Now, we’re seeing Pelotons used as “clothing racks” and being sold on the secondhand market. About three quarters (72%) of gym goers had already begun to return to their club by the end of 2022 (more than double the amount from late 2021!). These numbers are in line with a mid-pandemic survey run by Orangetheory and Kelton Global, which reported that 70% of fitness consumers were missing the gym. There’s just something irreplaceable about the in-person fitness experience. And after years of isolation and virtual life, the craving for real-world interaction beyond the home is strong.
If you were concerned about clients not returning to clubs, you can safely release that fear. Members are returning to clubs in droves. And if you see any attrition, consider they might be ‘ghosts,’ or “sleepers,” as Bloomberg reports — individuals with memberships who didn’t actually use the facilities they were paying for (meaning, those who are coming back to the gym are committed members).
If anything, the pandemic actually reminded everyone of the importance of protecting our health, which in turn, will protect the health and fitness industry in all facets. Research by PwC found that exercise was toward the bottom of the list of spending that consumers planned to cut. European gym David Lloyd (with 130 clubs across nine countries in the EU) found that 70% of people joining its clubs recently were doing so for mental health and wellbeing.
The world at large has discovered how integral physical fitness is to mental wellbeing — in-person fitness plays a significant role due to the added benefits of socialization and community.
In many of your own words, it comes down to community. In response to Ravi Sharma's LinkedIn question: “What have you seen as the motivating factor that is bringing people back to your facility?” Rich DeStasio, President of The Fitness Performance Group and Senior Director of Club Operations at YouFit Gyms, says members missed community connection and group programming options — something that is “extremely hard to replicate,” without going to a club.
Expanding on the concept of community, Hugh Hanley, Head of Personal Training at Puregym, adds “being around like minded people” as a major motivating factor. Comparing it to how we approach meal time, he says, “We have been eating in our houses for years but we go to restaurants for the experiences” — the same can be said for gyms and health clubs.
Additionally, Hanley echoes the statistics pointing to a renewed and strengthened focus on our health as a collective. “The [heightened] awareness on health and wellness brings in a new array of people who want to be part of a community and achieve a healthy life.”
Adrian Heffernan, VP Customer Experience at Les Mills US, agrees, positing that there’s "lots of insight to suggest that consumers are valuing their health and well-being now more than ever and prepared to spend money on it. This is great for our industry.”
“I think people missed the camaraderie, community, accountability and human interaction,” says Milica McDowell, PT, MSPT, DPT, C-EP. “There's always the potential for the unexpected when you are in person, and that's something you just can't get over Zoom.” Amen to that.
This newsletter was brought to you by Kathie Davis, Peter Davis, Ravi Sharma, Dominique Astorino, and the Inspire360 team.
The industry is changing rapidly and we are here to help you sift through all the noise and get to the good stuff. Every month, we'll bring you trending topics and the inside scoop that we believe is paramount for fitness professionals to know.
Peter & Kathie Davis