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What is the best way to increase participation and revenue from group exercise classes?

Mark Stevens, Phillip Mills, Fred Hoffman and Bryan O'Rourke discuss the best ways to increase participation and revenue with group exercise classes in this week's Ask an Industry Leader

Q"What is the best way to increase participation and revenue from group exercise classes?

A: “Increasing participation ultimately comes down to having great instructors, teaching cutting edge classes (that are creative and always fresh) that build relationships with their participants who then spread the word and bring their friends.  Our most heavily attended classes are offered at times that are convenient, have formats that are “available” to a large population (not too much choreography or difficult movements) and are taught by instructors who “sell themselves” and have great relationships with the members.  Utilizing this format has grown our participation to over 68% of membership using some form of group exercise.  

As far as revenue….that’s a little tougher.  We do not charge for classes and without charging for classes or programs, a suggestion to build revenue would be to sell items that can be used for the classes….boxing gloves, dance shoes, etc.  Additionally, small group classes; boot camps, TRX, Power Plate, Indo-row and others are a potentially great source of income for the group exercise department.  Also, any “trendy” clothing, accessories or equipment that advertise a specific class.  Members want to “connect” with their program.   If an instructor wears a really great tank top to kickboxing class that said a creative slogan or tag line about boxing, or perhaps a cycling phrase on jerseys for the cycling instructors, something motivational for the boot camp instructors.  Members will want to support and be a part of the success.  This also helps create a brand awareness and word of mouth referral amongst members and the public for your classes and programs. 

Mark Stevens
Regional Director
Houstonian Health Clubs & Spas


A: To increase GX attendance I recommend you start by setting yourself a weekly attendance goal. Most clubs have weekly GX attendance of 300-400 visits per week, but great GX clubs have 3000-4000. So set yourself some goals, implement a plan to get there and measure your progress against that plan every month.

Some of the main elements of the plan will be: 

  1. Work with your teachers to set attendance goals for each of their classes and publish a scorecard of class sizes with reward and/or recognition for the biggest classes, most improved etc.
  2. Support your teachers with a great training and development plan.
  3. Also support them by promoting their individual classes to members, and by promoting a regular series of new classes.
  4. The latter can be popular branded classes like Zumba or BODYPUMP,  or can be new classes your teachers create. Just remember to focus on what people want. 75% of all GX participation comes from five genres: strength, cycling, dance, mind body and martial arts.
  5. Try recruiting and developing some potential rockstar teachers. A single great teacher will attract and retain hundreds of members to a club over time.
  6. Design a great GX studio. Good GX is one of the most motivating activities in a club, but most studios are about as exciting as hospital rooms.

Once you start to have full classes the revenue will come in terms of increased membership, referrals and retention. This will have a far greater effect on your profitability than any ancillary revenue source.

Phillip Mills
Les Mills International 


A: I wish I could suggest ‘the best way’ to increase participation and revenue from group exercise classes, but I truly believe that numerous factors contribute to successfully accomplishing this. Regardless of where classes are being held, be it in a health club or a community center, all of the following should be carefully considered:

- The classes must appeal to a wide audience, which includes men and women of all ages and generations with different fitness and skill levels, and goals. Although some class offerings may target specific audiences and age groups, too many of those will exclude the people who are your true ‘bread and butter’. The more that classes are accessible to all, the more participation will occur. Get to know your members, as well as their needs and expectations to assist you in program development!

 - The classes should offer consistency in content and format. This does not mean that every class should be pre-choreographed, but for example, if several different classes on the schedule are called ‘Body Sculpt’, participants should expect to find a similar class design, regardless of the time slot or who is teaching. Instructors should be encouraged to express their individual style and personality, but continuity in programming is the rule!

 - Management: take care of your instructors! Communicate with all staff to understand their needs, what is or isn’t working, and how programming can be improved. Create your ‘team’ by being all-inclusive, and foster those relationships. Remember that happy employees make happy members!

 Fred Hoffman, M.Ed.
International Education Development Director




A: Retaining members is the biggest opportunity for clubs to enhance their revenues and profitability long term. Many studies show that health clubs experience the highest levels of retention with group exercise participants. Quality group exercise classes offer personal interaction, motivation, and results for members. However, many clubs have challenges leveraging the group fitness opportunity. Here are a few basic tips to Increase participation and revenue in your club via group exercise. 

Quality Instructors  

You need terrific, trained and motivated instructors to create a great member experience. Its crucial that you evaluate your instructors, consistently look to recruit new talent and make certain your staff is receiving on-going education. Offering choreographed branded program formats that provide routine training, updated program content and a pool of quality instructors can help you enhance the success of your programs overall by raising instructor quality and therefore the quality of the member experience.

Set Targets And Manage Performance 

Have you calculated what your class capacity is for each studio ? Do you regularly measure class attendance by instructor, program and time of day to evaluate performance ? Do you set goals ? By measuring and managing expectations and outcomes you can create a schedule that is optimal for your membership while insuring your instructors have clear expectations in order to keep classes on the schedule. Offering the right group fitness programs at the right time of day is also critical. Be aware of check-in patterns, membership demographics, and the latest trends to stay current with your offerings.

Word Of Mouth Marketing 

How are you differentiating your club ? With the growth of lost cost gyms, group fitness provides a great point of difference and the most active membership group using social media today are your group fitness members and instructors. Delivering a quality group fitness offering will impact word of mouth that can drive membership sales and enable you to separate your club from the competition.

Bryan O'Rourke
Principal & Chief Executive
Integerus, LLC






This post is a part of our weekly Ask an Industry Leader series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.

Reader Comments (2)

Great piece. Particularly agree with the audience/ participant engagement. Phillip's comment on environment is also valid. Most gyms are established in ready-built venues, rather than custom built. But looking for the right place straight up is important as is engaging with your instructors and members on what they need to make a great GX space. To be honest there are a few no-brainers when it comes to a GX room:

- Size and orientation (incl stage location)
- Airflow and light
- Music volume

I'm currently teaching in a place where the owners had the chance to create a custom built GX space. Architects designed a lovely looking general purpose room, but with no engagement or consultation with GX leaders...we have a very low ceiling room with low hanging dome lighting, incorrect stage orientation, odd shaped room due to inappropriate storage locations, poor airflow and above all, all extremely low music volume due to proximity of the room on this large property to local houses. Members have revolted and there is significant unrest in the gym. Numbers for the high energy classes such a BodyAttack, BodyStep and freestyle dance have dropped. The previous room was older, but a high roofed open space, with good music volume etc.

When it comes to GX space, getting the basics right through planning and engagement with users will bring a better outcome.
January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacquiR (Melbourne)
Great information, very useful. We are currently looking on how to increase our GX numbers in the studios. The footfall into the club is excellent but we are struggling to get them into the classes. We have a great timetable with a variety of classes from high impact to relaxation. We need to look at ways to encourage new members into the studio.
July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPink Princess

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