3 Ways Youth Are Shaping the Health Club Market

Here are three ways the youth market is driving the future of the fitness industry, according to the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report.

  • Melissa Rodriguez
  • September 28, 2017
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The Atlantic Club

In 2016, health club membership grew by 3.6% from 2015, while the total number of users, including members and non-members, rose by 3.1%, according to IHRSA’s recently released 2017 Health Club Consumer Report.

While growth always bodes well for the industry, of particular importance are the unique trends among demographic segments observed in the report each year. In 2016, the youth/Generation Z market accounted for 15% of total health club members. Although this market share may seem low, the under-18 age group has reached significant milestones over the past few years, shaping the health club market today.

1. The under-18 group, along with older adults, represents the fastest growing groups among age segments.

In 2012, the under 18-age group accounted for 10% of total membership; in 2016, this number grew to 15%. Only the 55+ age group achieved the same growth over the same time period.

Over the past 35 years, youth participation in health club membership has skyrocketed by more than 300%. It’s clear the youth movement is here to stay, and clubs play a critical role in engaging kids and teens in regular physical activity. IHRSA’s Best Practice e-book, Active Kids in the School and Community (free for members) highlights seven clubs that are running successful programs and initiatives to get children moving in their communities.

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Source: 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report

2. The youth market was more likely to utilize a studio than a multipurpose or fitness-only facility in 2016.

In previous years, consumers under the age of 18 were more likely to belong to a full-service fitness center. That trend changed in 2016 as the youngest cohort had increased levels of participation in studios. For example, roughly one out of five personal/small group training studio members were under the age of 18, while only 16% of multipurpose members were kids and teens, and only 9% of fitness-only members came from the youth segment.

It’s likely the increased participation in studios is driven by the popular club activities among Generation Z. High intensity cardio, dance/choreographed exercise, kickboxing, and cross-training activities ranked in the top five for youngsters, all of which are typical studio offerings. Operators of full-service health clubs can utilize this data and consider the specific goals and needs of the youth market in efforts to provide offerings to complement exercise goals and develop healthy activity habits for life.

3. Targeting the youth may help increase club membership and usage among their parents.

Seeing the increased participation rates kids had in studios, it’s possible the parents of the youngest consumers utilized studios to improve the activity levels and/or athletic fitness/performance of their children in 2016. Full-service club operators are in a great position to attract kids and their parents, most likely Gen X’ers, to use their clubs with family-friendly programming and attractions.

Although the fitness goals and needs of their children vary from their own, Gen X and their family often has more time in the summer to engage in physical activity. If you are a multipurpose club with sports facilities, consider hosting sports tournaments with teams formed by family members. If you are a fitness-only facility, consider offering a summer fitness challenge aimed at increasing and incentivizing family fitness.

All in all, youth are changing the health club market—and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Savvy club operators who adapt and take advantage of new opportunities stand to profit in the years ahead.

Learn more about IHRSA’s 2017 Health Club Consumer Report, which provides a comprehensive analysis of member growth, behavior, club activity participation, and demographics.

Author avatar

Melissa Rodriguez

As IHRSA's Senior Research Manager, Melissa Rodriguez oversees research initiatives for the health club consumer, club operations, and international markets. The best part of her job is helping members better understand how IHRSA research can help them improve and expand their business. When she's not analyzing data and statistics, Melissa enjoys spending time with family, watching superhero series, poring over NBA and NFL box scores, and reading a good book.