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Proceed with caution when dealing with sedentary, first-timers

What is the best way to get the sedentary into a club? That is the million dollar - and million members? - question.

While methods and programs may vary, one thing this week's Best Practices contributors can agree on is that you have to be accomodating and not scare them. 

Q: What have you tried in order to attract sedentary people into your health club? What has worked, and what hasn't?

Inactive people present the greatest opportunity for health clubs, including ours. The people who need our help the most are the ones who aren’t currently doing any physical activity at all. Our membership consultants go out into the community, handing out three-day passes to people they meet in coffee shops, etc. Some of these people have never considered going to a health club. For those that come into the club, we greet them and make them feel welcomed and nurtured. We remove the intimidation factor. Each person that comes in and comes back gets us that much closer to achieving our vision of a happy, healthy community.

Kathy Langlotz
Aerofit Health & Fitness
Bryan, Texas

It’s a huge challenge to motivate sedentary people to become active on a regular basis. Our best success in this regard has come through our extensive programming for people with arthritis. We offer at least 18 different group aquatics classes each week, as well as some land classes for people with arthritis. These are included in the price of club membership, and non-members can participate as well. We offer a nice referral bonus to our members, which brings in many new people. In addition, our relationship with the Arthritis Foundation leads to excellent exposure for our club, including in that organization’s newsletter.

Jeff Linn
Executive Director
The Weymouth Club
Weymouth, Mass.


We’re in the fifth season of our popular 10-week weight-loss program, called “Lose Dat.” Each trainer has about a dozen people on their color-coded team. As with The Biggest Loser, you’ll see the green team or the blue team exercising together outside, and in all areas of the club. Participants develop bonds with their trainers and each another, and they’re accountable to one another. We market the program with powerful success stories. Participants brag about their weight-loss on Facebook, which is great exposure for our club! We also throw a finale party, where participants bring their friends and relatives to celebrate their achievements.

Sandy Franco
Franco’s Athletic Club
Mandeville, La.


Club Operators: To be profiled in this column, please contact Kristen Walsh, IHRSA associate publisher, at

IHRSA has answered hundreds of questions and inquiries in the weekly column, Best Practices. Check them out here.

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