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Health Club Management

Health Club Management


IHRSA update: New research on US health club consumers

The newest research on US health club consumers paints an encouraging picture of the market. IHRSA’s Kristen Walsh outlines the opportunities identified and how they outweigh the potential challenges

By Kristen Walsh, IHRSA | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 11
US health 
club memberships 
rose from 
55.3 million 
in 2015 to 
57.3 million 
in 2016 / shutterstock
US health club memberships rose from 55.3 million in 2015 to 57.3 million in 2016 / shutterstock
The sector now involves more clubs, more countries, more members and more business models than ever, yet it is still expanding

In 2016, 57.3 million US people belonged to a health club – up from 55.3 million in 2015, and yielding a new penetration rate of 19.3 per cent, up from 18.8 per cent. In all, 44 per cent of members used their club at least 100 times during the year and 22.1 per cent belonged to more than one facility. All are record-breaking figures revealed by The 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report.

The new report acknowledges that challenges lie ahead, but these have more to do with intensified competition and determining how best to continue growing, than with a declining market or an absence of opportunities. The sector now involves more clubs, more countries, more members and more business models than ever, yet it is still expanding.

Two major research organisations – IBIS World, and Research and Markets – have both charted the rising curve, with the latter estimating that the global industry will enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.14 per cent between this year and 2022.

The trend is being driven not only by corporate ambitions and entrepreneurial aspirations, but also by shifting societal conditions that produce problematic physical and psychological effects. There are more people in general and there are more people who need the services of health clubs. And while the fitness-services market grows ever larger, the increase in the number of clubs and suppliers within the sector means that the slices of available ‘pie’ grow thinner.

Based on more than 24,000 interviews conducted in 2016 and early 2017, the 132-page 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report provides a wealth of detailed information on current market opportunities, US membership trends, member demographics and attendance patterns, membership fees, personal and small-group training users, and many other topics. For the first time, the report also contains a special section on core consumers.

“This year’s report is loaded with insights on how clubs can profit from current consumer tendencies and preferences,” says Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products. Indeed, the intimate portrait it paints of the contemporary club consumer serves as a well-informed game plan for those contemplating and crafting the industry’s future.

Insight from the report

How club operators, developers and suppliers can apply the consumer research findings

1. Opportunities abound within the youth market. The under-18 group is underrepresented among health club members, relative to the overall US population. Club operators are well positioned to provide offerings to complement the unique exercise goals and needs of the youth market.

2. Don't overlook the Gen X market. The percentage of members between the ages of 35 and 54 has remained steady over the past five years, encompassing 33 per cent of the total share of membership. Attract and retain Gen X consumers with programmes that appeal to them and their children.

3. Appeal to older age groups by catering to their unique health goals. The over-54 group is tied with the under-18 segment as the fastest growing age bracket. However, like the under-18 population, this older segment is underrepresented relative to the overall US population. It’s important to consider the unique characteristics of this age cohort.

4. Maximise Millennial market potential. Rather than placing the emphasis solely on facilities and amenities, consider how all aspects of your club, including staff, can work together to create the customised training and experience the Millennial consumer is looking for.

5. Bridge the income gap with affordable and inclusive options. Health club consumer research findings reveal opportunities to serve lower income consumers: affordably priced clubs, small group training (SGT) and community programmes can all help to boost the likelihood of lower income households joining clubs.

6. Personal training and SGT can benefit clubs, developers and suppliers. Operators: use PTs that serve your target market’s needs. Developers: position your company as a training specialist for a specific niche. Suppliers: The IHRSA Health Club Equipment Report shows that over 80 per cent of clubs use equipment in training programmes.

7. Embrace multi-club users. In 2016, more than 12 million health club members belonged to more than one facility, representing 22 per cent of total memberships. Savvy club operators can embrace this phenomenon as an indicator of consumers' willingness to invest significantly in their health and fitness.

8. Equipment manufacturers must look beyond the sale of traditional kit and traditional clients to prosper in the future. Build upon equipment technology to facilitate social engagement. Envision your business not as an equipment manufacturer, but as a fitness experience and digital entertainment provider.

Operators should find new ways to appeal to the older market / shutterstock
Operators should find new ways to appeal to the older market / shutterstock

Get the report

The 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report is available at:
The price is US $99.95 for IHRSA members, and US $199.95 for


IHRSA is the global trade association which represents 10,000 health and fitness facilities and suppliers. Locate an IHRSA club at www.healthclubs.com

Learn how IHRSA can help your business at www.ihrsa.org

A round up of the 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report reveals promising growth opportunities in the US market
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