It is amazing what can happen in a few short years. Two years ago, the Canadian fitness industry was in a crippling state of uncertainty. Now, as we look with unbridled optimism at 2024, one thing is certain: January is poised to be one of the biggest membership drives the fitness industry has ever seen.
Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of Fitness Industry Council represented Canada at the Fitness Industry Suppliers Association (FISA) East Coast conference in Miami at the beginning of November, where fitness owners, operators and suppliers met for three days to discuss the future of fitness clubs. “The energy was contagious,” says Hardy. “Everyone was talking about a reset: it’s time to begin anew and work together to improve the health of humanity. It is an exciting time to be in the fitness industry.”
Fitness clubs need to be prepared for the influx of new members, look at ways to retain newbies, and get on top of the trends that are poised to fuel the fitness industry in Canada and globally.
Here’s a snapshot of what you are going to see inside the fitness industry in 2024 and what to focus on:
1. Dwell Time (GenZ)
A critical focus area is understanding how long younger members, particularly GenZ, stay in the gym. This metric is essential for tailoring gym experiences to this demographic. Know your numbers, understand your clients, how they act in the gym, when they come, as well as the percentage of each demographic that enters your facility. Generation Z will look at your club as their social spot, so think about creating experiences that bring their fitness and social goals together.
According to Murphy Research reports presented at FISA, GEN Z are the fastest growing demographic in gyms, but millennials are the big spenders. Gym owners have a nuanced approach to the different generations using the gym, understand their life stages and interconnected fitness preferences. Don’t forget the active aging market – boomers and seniors! They will be loyal to you if you have trainers who specialize in active aging. “We need to attract a broader demographic of members to succeed in business,” says Hardy.
Generation Z are highly tuned into climate change, carbon footprints and the impact our fitness facilities have on the environment. Expect to see a growing awareness of environmental issues inside the fitness industry, sustainable activewear, and more recycled materials and cleaner products. Gone are the days of paper promotions and brochures – digital copies, QR codes and eco-friendly ways to market your gym will put you ahead of your competitors.
We get members to join us in January – but do they stay? At FISA, a hot topic was retention and knowing how to retain members. “Most gym owners at FISA said the principal reason people join their gym was friend referral. Help your core supporters bring their close circle to you. Make sure they feel great in your facility, and help create organic growth,” says Hardy.
Dr. Paul Bedford, known globally as the Retention GURU, presented research that underscores the significance of regular visits in ensuring member retention, with a focus on the initial 12 weeks being particularly telling. Dr Bedford will present to FIC members in February 2024, an important presentation you don’t want to miss!
4. Strength is the new KING
Strength training is, inarguably, one of the biggest trends happening now and it is only growing. “At FISA, experts from large chains to municipalities, YMCAs and big franchisors spoke of swapping out cardio equipment for more strength training equipment,” says Hardy. “The benefits of strength training are now being globally recognized – from longevity to weight loss to overall improved health. Our members want more options for ways to flex!”
ACSM’s Recognition: The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has identified strength training as the number two fitness trend (2023), indicating a significant shift in workout preferences.
5. Tech Takes Over
Technology continues to play a pivotal role in the fitness industry all across the world. The fitness wearable market alone is expected to exceed 33 billion dollars by 2033. But it is more than tracking your workouts: technology is built into fitness equipment, offering immersive and engaging experiences for the end-user. Fitness equipment with embedded technology can also lower operating costs. New applications emerge on the marketplace daily, and technology is able to offer real-time feedback. While club owners are using AI to write blogs and newsletters, the AI coach isn’t a far-off reality, either. The biggest takeaway: “Be ready for all of it,” says Hardy. “Don’t be afraid of the technology – there are many incredible technological advancements for the fitness industry to leverage.”
Recovery is getting the attention it deserves in 2024 – and it isn’t just for athletes anymore. From the rising popularity of cold plunges and ice baths, to infrared technology, percussion massagers, electronic foam rollers, massage chairs and more – there are a plethora of options to help your members embrace recovery. “We are beginning to see ‘recovery zones’ created in fitness facilities,” says Hardy. “And our members want more knowledge and understanding about how recovery will make them healthier and extend their lives.” Expect to see more buzz and demand for yoga and mobility in 2024 and beyond.
“Specialization was a big word at FISA,’” says Hardy. “If your members like to run – they will want to run more and seek running clubs, classes or anything running related. If they want to come in and row, or bike, or lift weights, then they will seek a greater variety of options to do so, and this extends to specialized classes. Functional fitness is still important, but more and more we see people wanting to get more from one aspect of their fitness journey.”
AI and technology in 2024: The role of AI and technology in fitness programming and information dissemination is gaining traction. To ensure our industry is up to speed with the latest advancements, FIC is seeking the best AI experts to present to its members in 2024 – stay tuned!
FIC Attended FISA to promote the Canadian fitness industry in Canada and to meet with new suppliers. As a member of FIC, you are entitled to significant discounts with suppliers and partners. Click here to join FIC.
Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.