The Real Issues Facing the Fitness Industry

« Blog | Written by ezfacility | | (4) Comments

Sometimes, when I’m brainstorming posts for this blog, I look around on Google to get a sense of what people are thinking and talking about. Today, I was struck by what came up when I Googled “Fitness Industry Issues.” I was looking for topics of discussion, ideas, or observations, but almost the entire first page of results linked to long rants and complaints: “The Fitness Industry is Corrupt”, “The #1 Problem in the Fitness Industry”, “Things That Bug Me About the Fitness Industry.” Or, my personal favorite, “The Fitness Industry Is Dead.”

On the heels of a report by the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) that outlines the ways in which the fitness industry has grown recently, these headlines feel jarring. According to IHRSA, industry revenue reached $21.4 billion in 2011, with memberships totaling 51.4 million. Those numbers represent increases: 5 percent over 2010 in revenue and 2.4 percent over 2010 in memberships.

While the total number of health clubs saw only a marginal increase — 29,890 in 2010 compared with 29,960 in 2011 — dynamic changes at existing clubs have been underway over the past couple years, with more and more facilities devoting more and more time and space to functional fitness and to niche classes designed to fit specific needs of specific groups. Does that sound to you like an industry that’s dead? I didn’t think so. Of course, like any industry, it has its rough spots. So what are the rants and complaints? Here’s a brief synopsis:

1) Lack of Strict Regulation

Anyone can become a trainer, and even when a trainer is certified, “even highly regarded certification agencies are severely lacking in content and requirements.” In general, there’s very little integrity, research, continuing education, or professionalism.

2) Motivation Gets Lost Quick

#1 problem in the fitness industry is that people are not sufficiently motivated to workout, so overall enrollment in fitness programs remains low, and obesity levels remain high. Gyms and health clubs have not figured out yet how to make working out fun.

3) And Then The Generally Annoying Things…

Here are some of the generally annoying things in the fitness industry: (a) We’re too obsessed with achieving six-pack abs, (b) manufacturers spend to much time and energy trying to reinvent old equipment, and (c) too many personal trainers let clients dictate the course of their program. 4) The fitness industry is dead because fitness today is about achieving a certain look or weight instead of about performance. Honestly, I don’t get it. Certainly, some of the criticisms are worth considering, and it would be useful to start a productive dialog within the industry about those criticisms — perhaps a new industry conference devoted to dissecting the real problems and finding solutions.
But, in my opinion, most of these complaints are simply opinions based on anecdote rather than fact. The recent increases in revenue and membership speak for themselves, and the constant production of new classes that quickly become nationwide fads suggests a level of innovation in the field that is matched by the technology industry. Moreover, even if it can stand some improvement, why knock a field that is doing so much good for so many people, especially when we live in a nation where more than one-third of the population suffers from what is now officially considered the disease of obesity? I’m not saying don’t examine the problems; do, and then fix them.
But let’s avoid pointless rants and focus on the very good work that so many facilities accomplish. What are your thoughts? What are the real issues facing the fitness industry?

4 thoughts on “The Real Issues Facing the Fitness Industry

  1. Fitness problems
    Mate, you are missing the point of all of those complaints… Yes the revenue is increasing in the fitness industry, but Obesity rates and people reaching their goals are not.. The revenue from the fitness industry comes from ‘quick fix’ products that are being sold which dont work… Pretty basic, rhe industy is failing.

  2. problem identification
    i need the city fitness problem identified, i am making the report so i need your some suggestion from your side for fitness industry

  3. You Flat Out Missed the Point
    Sir: You are far off the mark. In the U.S. 90 million people pay to attend gyms, health clubs, or fitness studios, amounting to an estimated $46 billion dollars annually. Yet 40% of these folks quit within 90 days of first attending or joining. So what? There’s still 6 of 10 people left, right? Not at all. Of the remaining 6, 4 of them don’t even attend 5 times per month. That’s barely more than once per week on average. At best, this 2 out of 10 number represents low utilization. At worst, it’s an 80% failure rate! This results in a membership base that is highly vulnerable to quitting, and quitters must be replaced at a significant marketing cost. The gym biz is growing because many of the big box gyms in the U.S. (Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness) charge $20 per month of less on an autopay basis. Impulse buyers flock to sign up with healthy and positive aspiration in mind…especially in Janurary. Reality soon sets in, resulting in the death of aspiration that results in non-attendance. While the members don’t attend, their money still does via the autopay. Why don’t members simply cancel? Psychology studies deem this the “maybe tomorrow” syndrome, whereby members look at their bill at month-end, see the low priced monthly charge and say….”Damn, I only went twice this month. Oh well, maybe…when the kids start school again / when work slows down / when my left eyelash is less sore / when the dog DOESN’T eat my homework.” In other words, “maybe tomorrow”, but tomorrow never comes. Big box gyms have deviously figured out that the emotional elasticity price point of “maybe tomorrow” is $20 or less, and they sell it hard. Their objective is to get your money to show up for a long, long time (a long LTV / lifetime value), even if YOU don’t. It’s shameful that companies line their pockets with this knowledge. Rather than address the challenge of human motivation at its core, big box fitness companies exploit it to line their corporate pockets.
    The fundamental issue is that the fitness vertical attempts to address the critical challenge of non-attendance (which leads to lack of engagement, which leads to customer churn) with inadequate band-aid, superficial fixes like new classes du jour, clean towels, front desk smiles, worthless frequent-flyer rewards type programs, etc. Beneath the surface is what this industry stuck in the 60s has never been innovative enough to address: human motivation at its core. Any gym and any class and any activity works to get and keep people healthy, but you must get people to do one simple thing:
    Actually. Show. Up.
    Anything short of that is just placing a band-aid on cancer. Anything less is just futile.

    1. Very interesting construction Patrick, although I am two years late in reading this. Thank you for the enlightening perspective and facts.

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