Demand for fitness showed strong growth before and during pandemic-induced closures. Record numbers for health club usage heading into 2020 showed the high priority placed by many on health and fitness. While club access was unavailable for weeks, if not months in many areas, consumers invested in home fitness.
This is according to The 2020 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, which is sponsored by ClubReady and discusses health club member growth and trends over the past decade, along with the impact of the pandemic on fitness consumers.
Some of the key findings from the report include:
Health club membership and usage trends indicate sustainable growth over the long term.
Over the decade, the average annual growth rate for health club members and total users amounted to 2.5% and 2.7%, respectively. Also, net membership growth for the industry totaled 2% in 2018 and 3% in 2019.
Although characteristic of a mature industry, modest increases indicate sustainable growth over the long term. The IHRSA Health Club Business Handbook, written by former IHRSA executive director John McCarthy, details the resilience of the health club industry over past recessions. While not recession-proof, the industry has historically been resilient during downturns, a characteristic that will be tested as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The growth of popular equipment and activities has been impacted by the rise of dedicated boutique studios and specialized programming at traditional facilities.
Treadmills, free weights, and resistance machines remain the most popular pieces of equipment among members. From 2018 to 2019, the cardio equipment that posted the greatest growth were treadmills (+7%), group cycles (+6.9%), and rowers (+5.5%). Rowers and group cycles were often featured at niche facilities - either boutique studios or studio-like boxes within traditional health clubs.
Along with treadmills and free weights, the growth in rower and cycle utilization mirrors the increasing popularity of high-intensity and metabolic training workouts over the decade, all of which were featured at dedicated studios. HIIT closed out the decade as the most popular conditioning activity at health clubs, while yoga remained the number one mind-body discipline. Boutique studios and luxury clubs provided such activities in a class-based format as did affordable gyms that offered membership plans to trade up to group exercise and team training.