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Improve Member Retention Through Diverse Group Exercise Programming

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Health clubs have experienced growing membership numbers over the past 20 years. In most club environments, daily attendance is highly influenced by fitness class offerings throughout the day. Although many regular class attendees are fit and healthy, two major shifts in our demographic hints at ways clubs can better serve existing members and capture a larger market share.

The first demographic shift is an increase in the number of older club members. According to the 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, almost one in four club members are 55 and older, and about 25 percent of all members 65 and older participate in group fitness classes. This is a higher percentage of group fitness class attendance than for those aged 35 to 64.

Developing an appropriate fitness class for those in advanced age groups must take into account their unique needs and capabilities. While this age group often has ample leisure time, they often contend with more health conditions and physical limitations. As a result, they often seek lower-impact, lower-intensity options. Clubs that improve their selection of classes can improve senior attendance and fill the club during daytime hours that are often less populated.

A second demographic shift involves a drop in the average level of fitness, particularly in developed nations. Compared to previous generations, we have less labor-intensive jobs, spend more time sitting and watch more television. Members who are seeking an active lifestyle, but are currently sedentary, often have few options in terms of class programming.

Instead, classes often cater to the most fit club members. While these fitness savants can help motivate and inspire less-fit peers, social cohesion is bolstered by similarities in fitness levels among attendees. Classes that are too challenging increase injury risk and can deter individuals from regular exercise.

Well-rounded group fitness offerings communicate that your club welcomes people of all ages across the entire spectrum of fitness levels. This fosters a sense of belonging that is crucial for member satisfaction and retention. The social environment of fitness classes gives members the opportunity to connect with a health-focused peer group.

They improve exercise adherence because they promote accountability among peers. This reduces the amount of exercise ambition needed to form a habit of regular exercise, and further supports member retention.

A growing need for social interaction opportunities supports a need for diversified class offerings, as a way to counter feelings of loneliness and isolation. Group fitness classes that cater to varying fitness levels can offer an important social outlet.

This approach ensures members can be empowered to exercise in safe yet challenging classes and experience the full range of exercise benefits. Diverse programming is an all-encompassing solution to support each member’s individual health goals and create a space for a community to thrive.

Karlie Intlekofer, Ph.D., is a global wellness researcher for Matrix Fitness and Johnson Health Tech. She can be reached at 1-608-839-3618 or Karlie.Intlekofer@JohnsonFit.com.

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