According to the 2019 LES MILLS Global Consumer Fitness Survey, Millennials and Gen Z are the overwhelming majority in the fitness market, representing 80% of all gym goers. This generational shift has become even more prevalent after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jarrod Saracco, the COO of World Gym, said Gen Z — those born between 1997 to 2012 — in particular has been showing up at his facilities.
“There is a paradigm shift happening,” said Saracco. “We have been hard at work putting together new gym models, programs and messaging to continue to grow this segment.”
Specific programs and equipment Gen Z members flock to varies from gym to gym. At World Gym however, Saracco said this population is specifically drawn to strength training, glute training and HIIT. “Now, they have to be executed properly in order to attract and maintain these gym goers, but if done correctly, there is an opportunity to significantly impact your fitness business,” he explained.
Kay Aplin, the CEO of Family Fitness, noted a key differentiator of Gen Z is they are congregators.
“They run in small packs,” said Aplin. “It’s usually two to three girls and maybe three or four guys. Most of them do not wear earbuds which I find so interesting. That’s because the gym is their social fun. They’re all standing around one area. It takes three or four of them to lift. You’ve got two spotters, somebody on the bench and somebody else standing over there. I think it’s about camaraderie with the Gen Zers.”
Saracco agreed for this generation the gym is more of a “cool” spot to hangout at.
“To them, the gym is cool whereas 10 or 15 years ago you couldn’t even use the word ‘gym,’” said Saracco. “It had to be ‘health and fitness center’ or ‘health and wellness.’ There’s nothing wrong with using those phrases, but this generation likes ‘hitting the gym’ and they spend money on themselves. Is it more of a vanity play now with social media and such? Sure. But my bet is this generation outlives any before it since health and fitness are such big priorities for them. It doesn’t matter whatever motivates a person to get into the gym and work on their health as long as they are doing it.”
When considering how to cater to Gen Z in your facility, social media is something to keep in mind. According to SproutSocial, 65% of Gen Z consumers have increased their use of social media in the last year, and 45% expect it to continue to increase over the next three years.
Aplin said she has noticed many younger members walking around taking photos before and after their workouts and even filming themselves for social media content. Additionally, she noted many Gen Z members will gravitate toward spacious, attractive areas in the club to take these photos and videos.
It’s also important to keep in mind social media is where a majority of Gen Z research and purchase items. Forbes reported 97% of Gen Z consumers say they now use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration; 65% say they use social media to find entertaining content; and 61% of them are specifically interested in watching more video content.
Overall, Gen Z is flocking to gyms and health clubs across the country. This generation is different from those who came before them and may require you to rethink your marketing strategies, programs offered and fitness floor layout. While their needs may be different, Saracco said pivoting your business model to cater to new market trends is no stranger to the industry and should be considered for this generation.
“My philosophy has always been when you’re through changing, you’re through,” said Saracco. “We need to look at trends, consumer buying habits and psychoanalysis to figure out how to best position ourselves to help our communities and grow our businesses. If you’re not doing that, then you may not be doing much of anything much longer.”