More than 12% of gym members join in January, compared to an average of 8.3% per month for the full year, according to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)1. However, studies show that seven in ten people who join the gym in January quit by May2, and when it comes to membership attrition within health clubs, that’s just the beginning

Just 51.9% of members maintain their membership for 12 months, with an attrition rate of 55.1% per 1,000 per month. Beyond the year mark, after 24 months 24.4% of members will still be there, 14.1% survive to 36 months, and only 10.4% maintain membership to 48 months3.

Add in that there are now 7,038 fitness facilities in the UK, up from 6,728 the previous year, and 275 new fitness facilities having opened in the past 12 months, up from 272 in 2017, according to the 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report4, and the challenge becomes ever obvious.

With one in every seven people a member of a gym in the UK, total membership approaching ten million, and market value now standing at just under £5bn, the competition has never been greater. What can health clubs do to attract, and retain, new members?

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  1. To lose weight
  2. To keep fit generally
  3. To get fit for a holiday
  4. To take care of my health
  5. Because I feel like I should
  6. To stay slim
  7. To improve my mood
  8. To challenge myself
  9. For fun
  10. To give myself some me-time


Health clubs have long profited from New Year resolutions to get fit. According to Gold’s Gym, its traffic jumps 40% between December and January5. Ensuring those good intentions continue year-round has long been the challenge facing gyms up and down the country.

A poll of 2,000 Britain’s found those who start exercising as a way of simply boosting their mood, stick with their plan the longest – seven weeks and six days on average. The study, by Vitabotics, also revealed 62% of adults are more likely to stick with a diet or fitness regime if they have some sort of goal in mind. However, simply trying to stay slim is most likely to result in people quitting early, with those exercising for this reason only lasting around five weeks before throwing in the towel6.

Either way, with one in four wanting to make a permanent change to their lifestyle, there is a huge appetite. What can health clubs do in order to retain as many members as possible? Building a strategy that appeals based on an individual’s fitness goals is a good place to start.


The truth is, club members value communication from staff members. The IHRSA’s Member Retention Report7 reveals that almost 90% of respondents to its survey of more than 13,000 health club members said so. It also reveals that every two interactions fitness staff have with a member in a given month results in one extra visit the following month.

Every additional visit by a member in a given month, in turn, reduces the risk of that member cancelling in the subsequent month by 33%. However, at any given time, one of the highest risk groups for membership dropouts are those who have not attended for more than a week, but have attended within the past two weeks. With such a small window of opportunity to contact this individual, an effective communications strategy could be the game-changer.

“Every two interactions fitness staff have with a member in a given month results in one extra visit the following month ”

How? The report also revealed that email is a more effective means of communication than phone calls, across all membership groups. By segmenting databases, health clubs can identify who, why, and how often people are visiting, and send them targeted messages to ensure they are kept engaged and motivated, ensuring long-lasting loyalty.


Beyond that, the question many health clubs are asking is, how do we continue to draw in new members throughout the year, and keep our current members, coming back? Those not using efficient marketing are likely to be forgettable among current members, and not interesting enough for prospective members to try out. It’s what you do when they’re not in the gym that really pays dividends. When trying to attract new members, identifying target market – and the goals of said market – is essential. Are they stay-at home mums, or students? Are they trying to lose weight, gain muscle, improve their mood, or is it another reason? And, crucially, why should they choose this health club over its many other competitors?

Among existing members, health clubs should also be segmenting their databases. Much like a health club membership itself, data has no value unless it is used effectively. How well it is exercised and applied determines the value return from having it. And, just like the treadmill, the data won’t deliver significant benefits to a health club from one-time use. In an ever-competitive industry, the way health clubs’ market themselves has never been more important. Whether trying to retain existing members, or appeal to potential new members, it is crucial to engage and nurture those existing members to ensure loyalty, and those potential members to the point of purchase. It’s a proven strategy we call Swarm.

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If you’d like to discuss the benefits of building a core marketing strategy, feel free to get in touch with the GoldSand Digital marketing team, by clicking here.