What Members Say is Needed to Get them Back to Fitness Facilities

Club Intel

ClubIntel, a global leader in conducting market research related to the health/fitness industry, has released a ground-breaking study on what members say fitness facility operators need to understand if they want them back. The study explores the behaviors and experiences of health/fitness facility members pre-COVID-19 closures and during COVID-19 closures, a profile of the best predictors of those who will return, and a detailed list of the most influential requirements facilities should provide to ensure members feel physically and emotionally safe to re-enter their clubs, gyms and studios.

The study was conducted among 2,000 health/fitness facility members and users from 20 major U.S. MSA’s over a one-week period from May 11, 2020 to May 18, 2020 with research panel partner Dynata. The study was supported by Platinum sponsors Les Mills International and Life Fitness, along with general sponsor FitSpace Boutique Studios.


“This report is an invaluable guide to how operators may survive and thrive as we come out of this crisis into a new reality. In the words of marketing icon David Ogilvy, “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” As fitness facility operators, we would disregard the advice here around new facility practices and communication at our peril.”

Phillip Mills, Founder and Executive Director, Les Mills

Some of the study’s key findings include:

  • More members cancelled during closure than previously reported by the industry. 31% of members reported that they cancelled their membership/subscription since their facility closed due to COVID-19. Among Millennials, 45% said they cancelled while 12% of Boomers reported cancelling their membership.
  • Member engagement during closures was lackluster at best. Only 16% of members scored their level of delight a 5 (on a 5-point scale) with their facility during closure, the equivalent of a negative 40 NPS. However, before closure the NPS score was positive, a clear indication that many facilities did a poor job engaging their members during closure.
  • Two-thirds of members are ready to return to their former facility. 65% of U.S. health/fitness members report they are very likely/fairly likely to return, 19% are undecided, and 16% are unlikely/very unlikely to return.
  • One in five members are prepared to switch when doors reopen. 21% of U.S. health/fitness facility members reported they were very likely/fairly likely to join another facility when gyms reopen.
  • Members of Gen Z and Gen Y (Millennials) are less likely to return to their existing facility and more inclined to switch allegiances when gyms reopen. On average, only 60% of those under the age of 40 indicate they are very likely/fairly likely to return to their facility at opening, while 74% of those over the age of 56 indicate the same.
  • Membership ramp up will take time. 34% of members plan to return during the first week, 34% indicate they will return between one week and one month, and the balance report they will return anywhere from one month to more than three months after gyms reopen.
  • Women will not be an easy sell. Men are significantly more likely than women to return once their facility reopens. Men are also more likely than women to return the first week their health/fitness facility reopens.
  • What members say is important to return after re-opening may not be what many operators are considering. Members place high importance on over a dozen key variables related to the influence each has on their decision to return, some of which may be out of the operators’ control.


“At Life Fitness, our mission is to provide solutions that help people lead active and healthy lives. In times like these, we recognize that enhanced safety precautions need to be taken and proactively communicated to exercisers to instill confidence in our industry,” said Chris Clawson, CEO of Life Fitness. “As we enter the next phase of reopening, it will be incredibly important to understand the concerns of our partners and their customers around returning to fitness facilities. Research like this allows us to do just that and will help inform industry guidance and set new standards to ensure we are all providing safe and responsible solutions.”

Chris Clawson, CEO Life Fitness


ClubIntel is a brand insight, market research and strategic consulting firm focused on serving the health/fitness and private club industries. ClubIntel is an industry leader in respect to relevant research to support the needs of the health/fitness facility industry. ClubIntel’s research efforts include its annual International Fitness Industry Trend Study – What’s All the Rage, several industry-based research collaborations with IHRSA (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 Health Club Consumer Reports and 2016 State of the Mexican Health and Fitness Industry Report); the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Financial and Operational Benchmarking Reports for the Association of Fitness Studios (AFS); and the 2016 and 2017 State of the Industry Reports for the Club Spa and Fitness Association.

Stay Connected!

Subscribe to FitBizWeekly’s FREE newsletter for news, commentary, idea sharing and developments across the Canadian health and fitness industry.

By clicking on the Subscribe button you agree to be on our newsletter list. You can opt out anytime. We respect your privacy. Your information will not be shared and your email address will be stored safely.