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Generation Z and the elderly up next for US health clubs as memberships reach all-time high

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More than 66 million people used gyms in the US in 2016 but a new report shows opportunities remain for club operators to increase activity among sedentary Americans.

Health club memberships in the US reached an all-time high last year, attracting more than 57 million (an increase of 3.6 per cent on 2015) according to the 2017 International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) Health Club Consumer Report. Nearly one out of five Americans aged six and older belonged to a gym and 9.3 million non-members exercised at clubs.

Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products, said: “In all, 22 per cent of Americans use a health club to pursue fitness and wellness goals.”

The annual publication, based on a nationwide sample of more than 24,000 interviews, provides demographics and health, sports and fitness participation data on health club consumers in the US.

Although nearly one in five Americans uses a health club, opportunities remain for gym operators to help increase activity among sedentary people. According to Physical Activity Council research, more than a quarter of Americans (27 per cent) do not engage in any sport or physical activity.

The 132-page IHRSA report found that operators needed to engage the youngest and oldest market segments.

It said: “Although membership from the under-18 and 55-plus age groups has grown over the past five years, in comparison to members between the ages of 18–54, consumers from the youngest and oldest segments are underrepresented in terms of health club membership.

“In 2016, the health club industry underserved the post-millennial (Generation Z), boomer and silent (born between 1925 and 1942) generations.”

Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager, said: “The report provides insights and applications on how clubs can engage older generations as well as other segments. For example, club operators who aim to target older generations should not only offer relevant exercise programmes, but also provide stellar in-person customer service and foster ongoing interactions with club staff.”

Although the penetration rate in the US was 19.3 per cent last year, 12 states had higher rates, with Connecticut ranking first (26.4 per cent), followed by Massachusetts (24.5 per cent) and Illinois (23.2 per cent). Kentucky (13.4 per cent), Tennessee (13 per cent) and Indiana (12.1 per cent) had the lowest penetration rates.

The IHRSA said that states that fell below the overall penetration rate present opportunities for club owners and developers.

The full report is available here

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More than 66 million people used gyms in the US last year but a new report shows club operators could do more for Generation Z and the elderly.
The report found that operators needed to engage with older people / Shutterstock

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