What Makes Health Club Weight Loss Programs Successful?

It’s never too early for club operators to start planning for the post-New Year influx of people ready to get healthy and lose weight as part of their resolutions.

According to a recent Nielson survey, respondents indicated that their top two New Year’s resolutions were to:

  1. “Stay fit and healthy” (37% of respondents)
  2. “Lose weight” (32% of respondents)

The question for clubs often becomes: how do you get these new (or re-committed) members to keep coming back and reach their goals?

Research has consistently demonstrated that people who exercise in a group setting are more likely to maintain the results than those who go it alone. People who exercise as part of a program or intervention also do better than those simply advised to exercise but provided no additional support. This means that the members who participate in club programs or utilize your experts—such as personal trainers and nutritionists—are more likely to succeed.

IHRSA interviewed five clubs running successful weight loss programs for the Best Practice E-book: Weight Loss. While the clubs came from all over the United States, a few common practices emerged among all the interviewees.

1. Instilling Healthy Habits

Most of the clubs interviewed identified helping members adopt a healthy lifestyle as the primary focus. Even when competition was included, the priority was good health rather than rapid weight loss, and clubs helped members find a healthy balance of both.

2. Professional Guidance

To help their members achieve their weight loss goals, most clubs brought in a health professional in addition to their trainers and staff, such as a registered dietitian or physician.

3. Listening to Member Feedback

Finding the right dynamic and timing for a weight loss program isn’t easy and may take few tries, but successful clubs adjusted to meet their members’ needs. The needs of members varied depending on the club. For example, one club found that their members thrived in groups, while another club’s members preferred a more individual setting.

Author avatar

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.