The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support

Search IHRSA Blog

Welcome to the IHRSA Blog

The Online Home of news.

Blog Home |  Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Entries in UK (8)


How Xercise4Less Became the Market Force It Is Today

Six years ago, when the Yorkshire Post, based in Leeds, England, reported on the expansion of the U.K. health club chain, Xercise4Less, the story’s headline dubbed it, “The People’s Gym.” That moniker stuck and, in essence, pinpointed the chain’s identity, its ethos, and its mission: to make the club’s extensive exercise facilities accessible and affordable for all.

At that time, Jon Wright, the company’s founder and a former Leeds rugby player who worked in fitness sales after finishing college, had already opened four clubs in the north of England, but spoke of something different—his passion to “make fitness accessible for the many, not the few.” Since then, the company has championed that message, which reads a bit like political manifesto.

Continue reading "How Xercise4Less Became the Market Force It Is Today."

Click to read more ...


U.K. Independent Clubs Need Laser Focus to Compete with Low-cost Gyms

The United States and the United Kingdom have a lot in common, from our shared language to our shared love of caffeinated beverages (be they coffee or tea). However, while we have a number of similarities, we also have many differences—especially when it comes to the health and fitness market.

Ask any American health club owner what poses the biggest threat to independent clubs and they will likely tell you the same thing: boutique fitness studios.

But if you ask a U.K. club owner the same question, chances are you’ll get a different answer: low-cost gyms.

The U.K. health club industry earns more revenue than any other country in Europe, according to the 2017 IHRSA Global Report. (Click to enlarge)

Continue reading "U.K. Independent Clubs Need Laser Focus to Compete with Low-cost Gyms."

Click to read more ...


This Week in the Fitness Industry: 12,000+ Mexican Health Clubs Serve 4.1M Consumers

12,000+ Health Clubs Serve 4.1 Million Consumers in Mexico
The just-released IHRSA State of the Mexican Health and Fitness Industry Report found that 12,376 Mexican fitness facilities generate an estimated U.S. $1.8 billion in revenue from 4.1 million members.

The report, which was sponsored by Movement, and compiled in collaboration with Club Intel with support from Mercado Fitness, was based on a survey of 239 club operators representing 1,434 facility locations. The findings indicate that more than four million Mexicans are members of health clubs, with a market penetration rate in Mexico of 3.2%.

“To put that into perspective, the penetration rate is 18.5% in the United States for health club membership and more than 20% for health club utilization—so there is tremendous growth potential for the industry in Mexico,” said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products, previewed the report’s findings during the 3rd annual IHRSA Mercado Fitness Mexico City Conference & Trade Show, which took place in Mexico City on October 26 & 27, 2016.

Learn more about The IHRSA State of the Mexican Health and Fitness Industry Report, which is available in English and Spanish.

Britain Fights Obesity Crisis with ‘Daily Mile’ School Program
Britain is attempting to improve its obesity crisis with a voluntary “daily mile” program that encourages primary school students to run, jog, or walk a mile during the school day. The initiative has caught on, according to The Washington Post, and every day tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the U.K. participate in the daily mile, in addition to their regular physical education classes. Students don’t change their clothing, compete with one another, or know when the teacher will tell them when it’s time to rush outside. A 9-year-old boy told The Post that the daily mile “makes me feel like I’m proud of myself” and means that “during lessons, I can concentrate a bit more.”

Pokémon Go Players' Fitness Gains Overstated, Short-lived
When Pokémon Go madness swept the world this summer the game was touted as a way to get children—and gamer adults—more active as they walked around their communities lost in augmented reality. And while there was some proof that the game encouraged users to move more than they normally did, new research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that the results were overstated and short-lived, TechCrunch reports. According to researchers, a group of Pokémon players showed an average of 955 extra steps per day during the week after the game came out, while a control group remained near the baseline. Unfortunately, “that thousand-step gain was cut in half by week four, however, and by week six was all but wiped out.”

IHRSA Announces Nominees for Board of Directors
IHRSA has announced four nominees for the IHRSA Board of Directors. They are:

  • Bryan O’Rourke, Owner of Gold’s Gym, Houston, TX and CEO, Integerus, LLC
  • Alan Leach, Regional Manager, West Wood Clubs, Ireland
  • Carrie Kepple, Club Manager, Les Mills, New Market, New Zealand
  • Brad Wilkins, Senior Vice President, Operations and Chief Operating Officer, Cooper Aerobics and Cooper Wellness Strategies, Dallas, TX

All four will stand for election at the annual meeting on Friday, March 10 during the IHRSA 2017 International Convention & Trade Show in Los Angeles. Read our full press release on the board nominees. 


UK Consumer Spending on Club Memberships Soars 

The following is an excerpt from The 2016 IHRSA Global Report: The State of the Health Club Industry.

Consumer spending on club memberships is soaring in the U.K., according to two new studies. Cardlytics, an Atlanta–based firm that monitors consumer spending via credit cards, debit cards, and direct debits, reports that the overall figure jumped 44% over the past year.

The strong growth, Cardlytics suggests, is due, in large part, to the dramatic increase in the number of budget facilities, which consumers can join without signing contracts. 

(Click to enlarge)

Budget Brands Drive Growth in the UK 

The popularity of the budget brands—e.g., Pure Gym, EasyGym, Anytime Fitness, DW Sports, etc.—produced a 66% increase in monthly purchases when May/June 2014 was compared with the same period in 2015. However, mid-market and high-end club players, such as Virgin Active and Holmes Place, also reported spending increases—of 22% and 14%, respectively. 

A new study by the Mintel Group, Ltd., an international, London-based marketing research firm, also acknowledged the boom in the budget sector, suggesting that the recent recession in the U.K. was also a contributing factor. 

“Nearly four-fifths of U.K. adults have set themselves at least one health or fitness goal, yet only 12% currently use a gym,” Mintel reported. “However, the indications for the private health and fitness club sector remain promising, with the continued rise of budget gyms helping to break down the barriers associated with more established clubs—i.e., cost, location, and the commitment of entering long-term contracts.” 

The UK’s Thriving Health Club Market 

In November, The Gym Group, based in London, went public, making the business the only listed club operator in the U.K. Founder and CEO John Treharne rang the bell on the London Stock Exchange as the shares began trading under the ticker GYM. Founded in 2008, The Gym Group now operates 66 clubs, which are open 24/7, and serve some 363,000 members across the U.K. With $136 million in gross proceeds from the offering, the chain plans to open between 15 and 20 locations per year. 

Pure Gym, a six-year-old, budget club company based in the U.K., has acquired 43 more-traditional fitness facilities from a competitor, LA Fitness, in a deal estimated to be worth $125 million. Pure Gym notes that the transaction will increase the availability of affordable fitness centers to people across Great Britain, particularly in London and the South East.“ 

With the addition of (these) sites, Pure Gym will continue to innovate with new facilities, technologies, and services for our existing and prospective members,” said Humphrey Cobbold, the CEO of the chain. Pure Gym currently operates 98 gyms, open 24 hours a day, which serve more than 520,000 members across the country. The company also has announced plans to add approximately 30 new sites to its portfolio this year. 

“This transaction will give users of LA Fitness access to high-quality fitness centers through a network of existing and new gyms,” noted LA Fitness CEO Martin Long. “I’m confident that our facilities and members will benefit from Pure Gym’s investment and attractive proposition.” 

Learn more about the 2016 IHRSA Global Report, including how to download a free preview.


24 New UK Gyms to Open in January

To get a sense of how the UK health club market is expanding in January, London-based consulting firm LeisureDB broke down the details in an infographic. 

Click the image to view LeisureDB's blog post.


New Report Analyzes UK Fitness Industry

Ray Algar, a UK fitness analyst and industry veteran, has published a new report that looks at the state of the industry in that country.

The second annual "Review of the UK Health and Fitness Industry and Outlook for 2015" has the following predictions, among others.

  • middle sector clubs, where most of the major brands lie like Virgin Active and David Lloyd, will reinvent themselves
  • low-cost offerings will grab even a bigger share, from 23% to 30%
  • consumers will have more options

Algar is managing director of Oxygen Consulting, a Brighton, UK, company that provides strategic business insight for organizations connected to the global health and fitness industry.

For more on the report, visit the Oxygen Consulting blog. The report can be purchased at the Oxygen Consulting Knowledge Store.

Check out Algar in the February CBI magazine (click on the cover image).


Fitness Industry Pair Look to Crowdfunding for Startup

Crowdfunding - funding a project or venture by raising contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet -  has paid off for two companies in the fitness sector.

1Rebel, a U.K. health club startup, had raised close to $1.7 million from investors within two weeks of its listing in early July on, and, as of Aug. 12, had raised about $2.3 million from 265 people, exceeding its goal of approximately $1.9 million. In return, 1Rebel had offered its investors 31.5% of the company’s equity.

With 13 days of its offering still to go on the site, 1Rebel was 121% funded. The largest single investment was for $966,690.

The brainchild of James Balfour, the son of Mike Balfour, the founder of the U.K.’s Fitness First, and Giles Dean, a leisure startup specialist, 1Rebel plans to launch a chain of boutique fitness studios focused solely on high-intensity training.

The first studio is scheduled to open this month in central London. Members will be able to book classes online and via an app on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.


This week for Anytime Fitness: UK conference, 2,500th location, and 100th franchise in UK

Anytime Fitness opens its 2,500th club, in Madrid, Spain. Pictured, from left, Robert Jones, the Consejero Commercial de la Embajada de Estados Unidos (US Embassy representative); Rod Hill, the director of Anytime Fitness Iberia; and Chuck Runyon, CEO and co-founder of Anytime Fitness.A lot is happening for Anytime Fitness in Europe this week.

On Tuesday, May 27, in Madrid, Spain, Anytime opened its 2,500th location. A representative from the U.S. Embassy in Spain attended the ribbon cutting. And, the very next day, the 100th franchise sold in the UK, in Oxfordshire, was announced.

All of this is happening while the Hastings, Minn.-based company is hosting the 3rd Annual Anytime Fitness UK Conference.

Check out a story this week in a Spanish newspaper about the company's upcoming plans in Spain.