3 Ways Gyms Can Help Members Maintain Their Weight Loss Success

Not only are gyms the perfect place for people who want to lose weight, they’re also in an ideal position to their help members keep it off.

Losing weight is a long and challenging feat, with a relatively low success rate. While statistics vary, one study indicated that roughly 35%-40% of people who lose modest or moderate amounts of weight—less than 10% of body weight—regain it over two years. Only 20% of people successfully lose 10% of their body weight and keep it off longer than one year.

Often the high levels of motivation present at the start of a weight loss journey wane over time. Especially if a person used an intensive diet or exercise regimen to achieve their weight loss. In addition, many people may experience backsliding, which is when a few diversions on a diet or exercise plan slowly become a return to previous bad habits.

The good news is losing weight and keeping it off is not impossible. Take the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) as proof. The registry is a database of over 10,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept that weight off for at least one year. Some registry participants have lost up to 300 pounds and kept weight off for as long as 66 years. Data from the registry also indicate that people who keep the weight off for at least two years lower their odds of regaining it by 50%.

While there are common themes when it comes to how people lose weight and keep it off, there is more than one effective strategy for doing so. For example, NWCR research found that 90% of people report exercising an average of one hour a day and 75% continue to weigh themselves weekly. Yet a 2015 study of over 3,000 people on the registry found no difference in weight maintenance success between low and high physical activity groups, and that some people needed stricter diet and higher levels of exercise, while some did not.

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Much like weight loss, the effective strategy differs person to person, but your gym can help provide the support members need as they transition out of one of your—or another—weight loss programs. Here are three ways you can help your members keep the weight off they lose at your gym.

1. Keep Checking In

According to the data, 75% of people in the NWCR report weighing themselves once a week. While clubs don’t need to conduct weekly weigh-ins, accountability can be a crucial factor in whether or not a person maintains the habits that will sustain the healthy weight they have achieved. If someone has graduated from a weight loss program, consider checking in via email or social media group to see how they are progressing at regular intervals following the program. Empower staff to provide encouragement and motivation when they interact with members.

2. Provide Ongoing Support

What yielded results for the duration of a short-term—six to eight weeks—weight loss program might not keep working over the longer term. As people lose weight, their metabolism often slows down, a result of reduced muscle and body mass, in some cases to a greater extent than would be expected based on their new size, which can lead to plateau’s and weight regain.

Additionally, strategies that worked for losing weight might start to feel burdensome and harder to follow over time. For example, someone might get sick of eating the same selection of foods or doing the same workout routine. Promoting and encouraging members to take advantage of ongoing resources like new group exercise classes, periodic meetings of weight loss program graduates, or dietitian services can help people continue to adjust their strategies to achieve weight maintenance.

“While clubs don’t need to conduct weekly weigh-ins, accountability can be a crucial factor in whether or not a person maintains the habits that will sustain the healthy weight they have achieved.”

3. Up the Challenge

Given the importance of physical activity in weight maintenance, and the difficulty many people face in staying motivated over the long term, adding club-wide challenges at regular intervals can keep people engaged and coming back to the club. Many clubs use wearable technology to run fitness challenges focused on accumulating intensity minutes. Challenges can also be run based on group exercise attendance, club visits, or miles accumulated walking or running.

Losing weight is a goal many people—gym-goers and non-gym-goers alike—share, but it’s a long journey with plenty of ups and downs. Capitalizing on the tools your club has on hand can increase the odds that your members will achieve their goals for the long haul.

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Alexandra Black Larcom @ihrsagetactive

Alexandra Black Larcom, MPH, RD, LDN, is the Senior Manager of Health Promotion & Health Policy for IHRSA. She spends her days working on resources and projects that help IHRSA clubs offer effective health programs in their communities, and convincing lawmakers that policies promoting exercise are an excellent idea. Outside the office you'll most likely find Alex at the gym, running on the Charles River, or, in the fall, by a TV cheering on the Florida Gators.