Health Club Business Strong, IHRSA Release, Comments by Larry Eder


The way the first running boom SHOULD have started was from health clubs. People with core fitness, some strength work, adding running to their regimen. Not merely guys running as many miles as possible (remember the 1970s?) for as long as possible, before many were chronically injured. Health Clubs are a great way to get started on the road to personal fitness.

The health club industry advocate is IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, which announced strong revenue growth and a one percent increase in overall health club openings. We have provided their entire release below.

What was also fascinating was that 76 percent of those surveyed stayed with their clubs and averaged 89-90 days a year of working out! Again, as we discussed with the SGMA release, dedicated enthusiasts stay with their activity, and in tough times, working out keeps the stress level tolerable and the suggestion of some control of one's destiny.

An example of growth in tough times is Anytime Fitness. Anytime Fitness, one of the fastest growing health club franchises, will hit 1000 franchisees this year. They are a low cost, probably in a lower cost mall in your town club, where one is trained, then has an electronic card to get into the club and workout at ones' leisure.

Where footwear companies should see the opportunities is trying sampling in these clubs. As publisher of GetActive! Magazine, Jay Ablondi has told us, IHRSA members are all about giving their members more value and services. Any footwear company or apparel company who has interest in reaching out and testing the value of health club members as a key consumer, feel free to send me an email. We will put you in touch with Jay Ablondi and his team, who will help you find the markets and clubs that you need for your sampling opportunity.

(For the sake of full disclosure, Get Active ! Magazine is represented by the Running Network LLC. It is geared to active health club users, 63 percent women readers, and is available digitally and in print. It is 50,000 paid circ and is a quarterly magazine. Click here to download the Winter 09 Sample issue:

Where the running industry should take heart is that the health club business is the perfect place to find sports runners, runners who do not know they are runners, twice a week runners, or, in english, health enthusiasts who can see running as a way to improve their well rounded fitness training.

2008 U.S. Health Club Revenues Total $19.1 billion, up 3%

Number of Health Clubs Totaled 30,022, up 1%

BOSTON, MA -March 31, 2009 - The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) announced today that industry revenues reached $19.1 billion in 2008, an increase of three percent over 2007. IHRSA reports that the number of health clubs increased by one percent in 2008, totaling 30,022 facilities in the United States.

Additionally, the results of IHRSA’s annual health club membership survey indicate that health club memberships in the Unites States totaled 45.5 million in 2008. IHRSA reports that membership decreased from 2007 to 2008 by 2.4 percent, with a survey margin of error of 4% making the decrease in membership statistically insignificant (see research methods below for more information), although it is evident that membership growth has stalled.

Industry revenues increased by three percent in 2008 due in part to a nearly four percent increase in nondues related revenues. “This increase in nondues related services, i.e. lessons, classes, or personal training sessions, is indicative of members recognizing the value of their health club experience and paying additional dollars for a personal health-related return,“ said Katie Rollauer, IHRSA’s Senior Manager of Research. Industry revenues are estimated annually by the association and take into account the total number of members, club total revenues, and average membership and nondues fees.

Nearly 22%, or over 10 million, of the 45.5 million health club members are new, having joined a health club for the first time. “The ability of fitness clubs to attract new members helps position the industry for success through the current challenging economic times,” indicated Rollauer.

“Although growth in the total number of facilities has slowed since 2006, the ability of the industry to continue to introduce new locations and facilities indicates there are markets increasing capacity and consumer demand focused on convenience and value,“ continued Rollauer. InfoUSA, Inc. provides data related to the total number of club units and using the Industry’s SIC code of 7991.

IHRSA reports that health club members regularly attended their clubs with an average 89 visits per year. Average attendance has remained steady over the past three years at 89-90 visits per member, which the association believes bodes well for the future growth of the industry. “Consistent health club attendance is typically associated with good member retention,” said Rollauer. “Regular attendance highlights the importance of health and fitness to the health club member, which means that members are willing to continue to invest in their health in spite of decreases in discretionary income.” The attrition rate for consumers participating in this study was a low 24% indicating that 76% of health club members remained at their clubs.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. The association’s membership includes over 9,750 clubs in 75 countries, along with over 740 industry suppliers.


Addendum: Consumer Research Methodology:

For nearly two decades, IHRSA had been sponsoring an annual mail survey to gauge health club participation among adult Americans. In 2009, the organization moved to a faster paced data collection process. Specifically, IHRSA has joined a research partnership with five other physical activity oriented associations in order to conduct an annual online consumer tracking study about health club membership and participation. The participating associations include: Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), Outdoor Indoor Foundation (OIF), Snowsports Industries America (SIA), National Golf Foundation (NGF), and Tennis Industry Association (TIA)/United States Tennis Association (USTA).

The research will be fielded each January and preliminary results will be used during the annual IHRSA conference normally held in March. Final results will be available through in May 2009.

IHRSA will be working with Sports Marketing Surveys (, a full service market research firm with over 20 years of experience, to field an online survey among 15,000 individual interviews and 25,000 households, both capture Americans who are 6 years and older. Sample will be drawn from an online panel and sampling quotas will be used to ensure the sample closely represents US Census data. If needed, the final sample will be weighted to accurately represent the US adult population.

The online sample enables IHRSA to boost the sample size from 25,000 (mail panel) to 41,500 (online panel). This provides a high degree of statistical accuracy. All surveys are subject to some level of standard error—that is, the degree to which the results might differ from those obtained by a complete census of every person in the U.S. A sport with a participation rate of 5% has a confidence interval of plus or minus 0.21 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. This translates to plus or minus 4% of participants. Small sports, especially those with less than 1 million participants, can be expected to fluctuate from year to year.

The survey lasted on average 8 minutes but this depends on the number of activities each respondent takes part in. For each activity there is a main “loop” of closed questions covering frequency, first time participation and main venue. In addition there are a number of questions monitoring time usage.

Online vs. Mail Surveys

Over the past decade, online surveys have become an accepted methodology for many research projects. Compared to mail surveys, online surveys provide equally valuable information within a shorter time period, at a much lower cost and generally with a higher response rate. Additionally, with such a large number of Americans online today, Internet-based survey panels closely represent the total US population (based on Census data). Because potential respondents can participate at their leisure and take their time in responding to survey questions, response rates tend to be higher and the information provided more accurate and honest. Online surveys also help eliminate respondent bias that is inherent to mail surveys. The very nature of mail surveys allows respondents to self-select based on interest in the topic, which often leads to inflated numbers. This is particularly true of long (e.g. 100 question) surveys. Online research reduces this bias by not informing respondents about the main topic of the survey until they have already committed to responding, including being on a select panel for this purpose.

Two drawbacks of online research are the inability to verify respondent identity and the creation of professional survey takers. However, Sports Marketing Surveys works with a well-respected panel company (Synovate) that closely manages its panel to avoid both potential issues. Panelists are re-screened quarterly to ensure eligibility; cross-checks are made to data previously submitted to verify identities and profiles. Online checking during the survey process eliminates “fast-trackers” who complete the survey too quickly and “straight-liners” who enter the same answers on scale questions.

For more information, please check or

Special thanks to Jay Ablondi, publisher of Get Active! Magazine.

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