Members: group exercise aids retention rates
Wed, July 9, 2014 at 15:34
Brad Spiegel in Active Management, Dakotah, Faron McNeal, Group Exercise, IHRSA Member Retention Report, Justin Tamsett, Retention, Tad Dunsworth, Woodside Health and Tennis

Group exercise is huge. Anyone who has stepped in a club in the past couple years can see that. 

Now that there is a good sample size to see what the effects of more classes, more variety, and specialized classes in a group format are, club owners and manager are starting to realize the importance.

Any good club manager is sure to check out his or her clubs’ group exercise participation, percentage of members who take part, and what are the retention rates of those who enroll in classes. 

Last week IHRSA provided its members with some new numbers to check out, in IHRSA Member Retention Report, Volume 2, Number 2. And the facts show clubs exactly what they have been seeing inside their own walls - 88% of group exercise members retained their membership compared to 82% of gym-only members. The risk of cancelling was 56% higher in gym-only members compared to group exercisers.

“The results are nothing surprising, really,” said Justin Tamsett, managing director of Active Management in Australia, a health industry consultancy that offers services like business coach, health club design, and staff training. “It is great to have a report that provides evidence what we anecdotally knew. It is great that IHRSA has provided stats and numbers (to support) what we have known. At the end of day you can’t pay the mortgage with anecdotes.”

“All of my clients and all of the people I work with – and these are clubs of varying (memberships) size, square footage, regions – have shown that those with stronger group exercise are better with retention.”


In July CBI

Faron McNeal, personal training director at Woodside Health and Tennis Club in Westwood, Kans., can attest to what the report states.

“Group exercise has helped us increase our business,” he said. “I know if meet with members a couple times a week (during consultations) we can get them into a spin class or something else.”

The popularity is certainly there for at Woodside. McNeal said the clubs has almost 115 classes to choose from. That is a 15% increase from last year’s100 offerings.

At Dakotah Sport and Fitness in Prior Lake, Minn., there are almost 100 classes to pick from. Tad Dunsworth, director at the club that sits on an Indian reservation and sees numerous workers and players from nearby casinos, said he still sees about 17% of members taking part in classes.

“Once people join and start to get involved, usage numbers are dramatically higher from when they first started,” Dunsworth explained. “The average length for these members is 5 to 6 years, hence our low attrition rate (and high retention rate).”

So most clubs are cognizant of the positive effect on membership. The question for those who haven’t caught on is, “Why?”

Dunsworth, Tamsett and McNeal all agree that, like other areas in a gym, it is the social aspect of working out in a group – whether it is with friends and acquaintances or not – drives people. And, as the IHRSA Member Retention Report shows, it keeps them around, too.

So, like in other areas of a club, making members feel like they are part of a community or at a home away from home is imperative. Gym-goers are no different than anyone in society: they are likely to do what friends or the crowd is doing.

“Group exercise is very much social, and people who go, do so for the social aspect,” Dunsworth said. 

“I think we can say fairly safely (group exercise) has the the social interaction. We are so isolated with work, social media, trials and tribulation with families, and extra time with work. But when we get a chance to be with people with similar interests … we love social interaction. It’s human nature.”

The quarterly IHRSA Member Retention Report, which examines a different aspect of retention each quarter, is available for free to IHRSA members. Non-members can purchase the report for $29.95 at



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