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Why every club can boost member retention with group exercise - Blog.

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Why every club can boost member retention with group exercise

Look around the fitness industry right now and perhaps the biggest story of all is the boom in group training. People are moving, spinning, stepping, punching, lifting and rowing in large groups, usually accompanied by suitably-thumping music.

So for the latest in our series of articles on trends set to grow in 2016, the focus is on large group training. There’s a lot to look at, so let’s get started…


Group fitness really took off in the 1980s of course, with THE huge growth of aerobics. People loved the blend of cardio exercise and dance moves, and the fact that the workouts were low-impact. This was something that addressed concern about the high-impact nature of some aerobics classes run through the 1970s, where injuries had been common.

In 1989 step exercise came onto the scene, which was another form of aerobics that hit the right spot with people around the world. Step is of course still huge and offers a lot to participants. However, it is perhaps in need of some new moves to keep it fresh and relevant. That’s why Escape Fitness is giving it a new lease of life with our new STEP and RISER platform system.

Nowadays of course, the word ‘aerobics’ is seldom used to describe group exercise as a whole. That’s because many group workouts are no longer aerobic in nature. Instead, there is incredible variety with strength, movement, flexibility, balance, plyometrics, HIIT and many more styles incorporated into group sessions.

Another change that is clear when attending group workouts is that it’s no longer seen as a format mainly for women, which was perhaps the case back in the 80s and 90s. Group exercise is huge now because it’s inclusive: men and women of all ages and fitness levels can find a group format that’s right for them.


Why every club can boost member retention with group exercise


Back in 2008, the magazine of the ASCM (American College of Sports Medicine) said: “Group exercise has changed considerably over the past 40 years and will continue to grow to meet the ever-changing needs of the consumer.” That’s exactly what’s happened, and in fact the changes in the last few years have been enormous.

Just take a look at the group formats out there today. Some of the branded workouts are Zumba, U-Jam, Orange Theory, Amenzone, UFC Fit, Mile High Run Club, Flywheel Sports, Barry’s Bootcamp, CityRow, Surf Set, AquAllure, Hiitgirl YogaBOMB, Girls With Guns, Ballet BeFit and Twentyfour at Virgin Active.

Innovation is clearly playing a big part in the current group exercise boom. Across the brands listed above there are many different takes on the group format, and we’ve just scratched the circuit with this list.

For hundreds of thousands of people around the world, exercise is no longer about turning up at the gym and working out alone. They want the experience to be social and fun - and they want to achieve a lot in less time than the traditional ‘hit the treadmill with my iPod’ workout approach.



As far back as 1995, research by the University of Southern California showed that a strong social aspect to gym participation had a positive effect on exercise frequency. In short, people who work out with other people tend to be more motivated to keep coming back to the gym.

More recently, in 2011 an Athletic Business article quoted industry consultant Casey Conrad as saying: “Clubs that have a strong group exercise component have a much higher retention rate than those that don't.” The same article reported on improvements in retention and revenue that one large health club chain had achieved by offering a number of group programmes.

Bringing things even more up to date, a 2015 survey of 10,000 gym members found that ‘group exercise users retain their memberships longer than gym-only members’ and that ‘the risk of cancelling [membership] was 56 percent higher in gym-only members compared to group exercise participants’.

Why every club can boost member retention with group exercise



Perhaps the most telling statistic from the England survey was that long-term members are more likely to participate in group exercise than new members. The pattern is that new members tend to stick to traditional gym equipment (CV machines, fixed resistance machines) and, worryingly, 50 percent of members leave within six months. But those people who remain as members are then more likely to move on to group workouts.

One conclusion to draw is that clubs must get new members into group workouts as soon as possible. That way, clubs are almost certain to boost retention levels and attendance figures. And that also means they stand a better chance of generating positive word of mouth and social media coverage for their club.

Why every club can boost member retention with group exercise



Even those personal trainers who excel on a one-to-one basis with clients can be less confident when running group workouts. It takes a different skill set to manage lots of people with different fitness levels (and attention spans), all working out together in a fast and furious session.

Last month, Escape’s Tommy Matthews shared some techniques for being a master group trainer. Check out his article for tips on everything from preparing for sessions to communicating effectively during workoutS.



The business potential of group exercise is huge for gyms, and the potential for achieving results while having fun is huge for participants. That’s why new and innovative formats for group exercise will keep on coming.

One feature that is bound to grow fast in 2016 is the use of wearables in group workouts. MYZONE are a good example of how effective this can be. Participants wear monitors that send data on their heart rate and calories burned for display on a large screen.

Still on the subject of technology, large group training has started to go virtual and this will surely continue. Companies like Live Streaming Fitness are running live classes online and it’s a format that many people will like if they want a social experience, but can’t get to a gym.

But perhaps the biggest trend of all in the group fitness space will be the sheer variety of what comes to the marketplace. People will have more and more choice about how they work out together. That means choice in terms of format, group size, location, training style and intensity level.

These are exciting times for everyone in our industry embracing the demand for group fitness and working hard to meet that demand. In a way, it’s almost as though the industry is starting over. No style of exercise – or combination of styles – is off limits and the possibilities are endless.

Why every club can boost member retention with group exercise



Escape Fitness is fully committed to helping our customers to make the most of the opportunities that group exercise can offer. We have a huge range of functional fitness products that work effectively as the basis for group workouts. Get in touch if you want to talk about how Escape can help you deliver even better training experiences to your members or clients. Email us at sales@escapefitness.com, or call one of the numbers below;

 UK: +44 (0)1733 313 535

USA: +1 614.706.4462

Germany: +49 (0)2921 590 10 70

And watch out for news about our fantastic new group programming, which is just around the corner…