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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UK gym memberships reach record high

The UK’s gyms and health clubs have more members than ever before, with a record 9.2 million working up a sweat last year.

That’s according to the 2016 State of the UK Fitness Industry (SOFI) Report – out today (16 May) – which shows that the fitness market remains on an upward trajectory. As in previous years, the bulk of the growth was driven by budget operators, who are harnessing the power of technology to break new ground. Low cost clubs now account for 12 per cent of the UK’s private health clubs and 32 per cent of the private market’s membership.

The buoyancy of the fitness sector was reflected in meaningful gains across all three KPIs. Market value jumped 3.2 per cent to £4.4bn, the number of gyms increased by 1.9 per cent to hit 6,435, while membership grew 5.3 per cent to reach the record high of 9.2m. Building on last year’s gains, the penetration rate took another leap forward to hit 14.3 per cent.

David Minton, director of The Leisure Database Company – the firm behind the SOFI report – told Health Club Management that smarter use of technology was a big driver of growth and predicted the uplift to continue for some time yet.

"We've seen sustained growth over the last few years and I would expect this to continue to be the case – there's certainly longevity in this curve," said Minton.

"As we heard from the Health Club Management interview with Bryan O'Rourke recently, we should expect to see major gains in the next decade, with the rise of quantified self and technology's central role in this set to be the biggest driver."

Minton added that the fitness market’s overall penetration rate is probably higher still, as SOFI doesn’t include boutique studios, outdoor operators, or on-demand home fitness use in its calculations. Minton said the team are working on a calculation for the growing boutique sector – which accounts for around one per cent of the market but has importance as a high-end proposition – but said the studios are difficult to quantify, as many don’t have members and operate purely on a PAYG basis.

The solid results were welcomed by ukactive executive director Steven Ward, who said they reflect the sector's growing momentum in the same week that physical activity is expected to play a prominent role in Sport England's new strategy – due to be published on Thursday (19 May).

"Although the growth of the budget market is undoubtedly a highlight, this is being matched by ongoing improvements in the public sector market, a boom in private investment into the big private operators which is raising the bar on quality, and a thriving mid-market," said Ward.

"This data scratches the surface of the growth of a sector which is quickly becoming one of the success stories of British industry, and will continue to thrive as it broadens its net to reach new consumers through a focus on engaging inactive populations.”

To access the 2016 State of the UK Fitness Industry (SOFI) Report, click here.

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The UK’s gyms and health clubs have more members than ever before, with a record 9.2 million working up a sweat last year.
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