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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Editor’s letter: The psychology of gym-goers

Getting new members and keeping old ones are key goals of gyms worldwide, but are operators underestimating the importance of addressing the psychological needs of potential customers?

By Dr Lauretta Ihonor | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 10
Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign challenges gym clichés / Thisgirlcan / sportengland.org
Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign challenges gym clichés / Thisgirlcan / sportengland.org
Many people still find the thought of stepping onto a gym floor – filled with seasoned members and machines they don’t know how to use – intimidating

A recent discussion with an industry veteran unearthed the fact that UK gym membership penetration rates have never risen above 15 per cent. Her point? While this figure is often reported by the industry with pride, the opposite should be the case. Billions of pounds are pumped into the industry each year, yet the majority of the general population still does not engage with gyms.

So why do so many people stay away? Cost is a huge barrier to uptake – the recent rise in memberships following the growth of the budget gym sector makes this clear. Lack of time, motivation and easily accessible facilities are also commonly cited reasons. However, in this issue of Health Club Management, exercise psychologist Helen Quirk suggests there’s another highly overlooked factor at play (p10).

“At a basic level, people have three psychological needs: the need to feel competent, the need to feel autonomous and the need to feel connected,” she says.

When these needs are applied to the gym setting, it’s obvious why so few people are naturally drawn to gyms. Hands up if you feel naturally skilled at running and lifting weights (competence), exercise out of choice rather than obligation (autonomy), and feel truly aligned with the gym elite (connection).

While campaigns like Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ are doing a lot to help challenge the common viewpoint that gyms are the playpens of Lycra-wearing fitness models, many people still find the thought of stepping onto a gym floor – filled with seasoned members and machines they don’t know how to use – quite intimidating.

Many operators are already reducing the ‘connection’ barrier to gym use by continuing to challenge gym-goer stereotypes. They’re also making gym environments more welcoming by employing friendly hosts to interact with customers on arrival and while on the gym floor. And as we discuss on page 34, helping people who are out of shape feel fitter before joining a gym may give them the confidence boost they need to feel like they belong there – addressing both the ‘competence’ and ‘connection’ barriers.

But what can be done about the ‘autonomy’ barrier? Making fitness more fun is an obvious solution, one that companies like Zumba and Soulcycle have turned into an art. However, as Quirk points out, “somewhere along the line from childhood to adulthood, physical activity loses its enjoyment”. Perhaps then, it’s time to focus more on affordable, fun and convenient fitness ideas for the average teenager. If we can keep exercise enjoyable for them, they’re more likely to mature into adults who don’t think twice about spending their spare time in a health club.

Dr Lauretta Ihonor, editor

[email protected]

@laurettaihonor

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
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Addressing three key psychological needs may boost gym penetration rates, says Lauretta Ihonor
Dr Lauretta Ihonor, editor,penetration rates, gym membership
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features

Editor’s letter: The psychology of gym-goers

Getting new members and keeping old ones are key goals of gyms worldwide, but are operators underestimating the importance of addressing the psychological needs of potential customers?

By Dr Lauretta Ihonor | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 10
Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign challenges gym clichés / Thisgirlcan / sportengland.org
Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign challenges gym clichés / Thisgirlcan / sportengland.org
Many people still find the thought of stepping onto a gym floor – filled with seasoned members and machines they don’t know how to use – intimidating

A recent discussion with an industry veteran unearthed the fact that UK gym membership penetration rates have never risen above 15 per cent. Her point? While this figure is often reported by the industry with pride, the opposite should be the case. Billions of pounds are pumped into the industry each year, yet the majority of the general population still does not engage with gyms.

So why do so many people stay away? Cost is a huge barrier to uptake – the recent rise in memberships following the growth of the budget gym sector makes this clear. Lack of time, motivation and easily accessible facilities are also commonly cited reasons. However, in this issue of Health Club Management, exercise psychologist Helen Quirk suggests there’s another highly overlooked factor at play (p10).

“At a basic level, people have three psychological needs: the need to feel competent, the need to feel autonomous and the need to feel connected,” she says.

When these needs are applied to the gym setting, it’s obvious why so few people are naturally drawn to gyms. Hands up if you feel naturally skilled at running and lifting weights (competence), exercise out of choice rather than obligation (autonomy), and feel truly aligned with the gym elite (connection).

While campaigns like Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ are doing a lot to help challenge the common viewpoint that gyms are the playpens of Lycra-wearing fitness models, many people still find the thought of stepping onto a gym floor – filled with seasoned members and machines they don’t know how to use – quite intimidating.

Many operators are already reducing the ‘connection’ barrier to gym use by continuing to challenge gym-goer stereotypes. They’re also making gym environments more welcoming by employing friendly hosts to interact with customers on arrival and while on the gym floor. And as we discuss on page 34, helping people who are out of shape feel fitter before joining a gym may give them the confidence boost they need to feel like they belong there – addressing both the ‘competence’ and ‘connection’ barriers.

But what can be done about the ‘autonomy’ barrier? Making fitness more fun is an obvious solution, one that companies like Zumba and Soulcycle have turned into an art. However, as Quirk points out, “somewhere along the line from childhood to adulthood, physical activity loses its enjoyment”. Perhaps then, it’s time to focus more on affordable, fun and convenient fitness ideas for the average teenager. If we can keep exercise enjoyable for them, they’re more likely to mature into adults who don’t think twice about spending their spare time in a health club.

Dr Lauretta Ihonor, editor

[email protected]

@laurettaihonor

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/866229_275038.jpg
Addressing three key psychological needs may boost gym penetration rates, says Lauretta Ihonor
Dr Lauretta Ihonor, editor,penetration rates, gym membership
Latest News
A new high-end workspace, designed for the use of personal trainers, coaches and other health ...
Latest News
VAT reform, adjustments in business rates and a fitness-led high street regeneration push could see ...
Latest News
Peloton has completed the merging of its commercial operations with Precor, the equipment brand it ...
Latest News
Half of UK adults aren't happy with their physical fitness levels, according to a study ...
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Temporary measures brought in to support businesses in the UK from insolvency during the pandemic ...
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Nadine Dorries has replaced Oliver Dowden as the Secretary of State for Digital, Media, Culture ...
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During the pandemic, a digital transformation took off faster than anyone could have predicted with meetings in person cancelled and millions working from home.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Power Plate teams up with Myzone for a new exercise experience
Power Plate has teamed up with Myzone to provide its community with new class experiences and the opportunity to offer rewards based on effort, every time they move.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Being active helps Parkwood Leisure customers save the NHS £16m
Parkwood Leisure, one of the UK’s leading public leisure facilities operators, helped prevent more than 7,000 cases of stroke, dementia, depression and type 2 diabetes in 2019, saving the NHS £16 million, a new social value report has shown.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active bolsters Everyone on Demand and enters second year with five new partnerships
Everyone Active has signed a number of new deals which will see the operator strengthen its digital product offering, Everyone on Demand.
Company profiles
Company profile: Les Mills UK
For over 50 years Les Mills has been leading the way in fitness to inspire ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Pulse Fitness
With an award-winning portfolio of over 450 pieces of cutting-edge, premium fitness equipment, Pulse Fitness ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Uniforms
Service Sport: Uniforms
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Fitness equipment
Precor: Fitness equipment
Exercise equipment
Pendex Fisio S.L.: Exercise equipment
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Newport, Shropshire
Lilleshall Sports Academy
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
13-14 Oct 2021
Online,
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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