Gym memberships are increasing.
It is an annual event as the year closes out and resolutions are made to lose that extra weight.
However, this year there is a twist.
The push to join a gym began earlier than normal. The retail foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai notes there was an 18% increase in gym visits in the U.S. from March to August this year compared to pre-Covid 2019.
Planet Fitness has done well locally and nationally. In an August news release, Planet Fitness’ Chief Executive Officer Chris Rondeau said, “During the second quarter, our join trend returned to pre-pandemic seasonality with the addition of about 300,000 net new members.”
Bret Woodfall, assistant manager of the Daytona Beach Planet Fitness said the news applies to them, “We have been showing a growth at a higher level than we’ve anticipated.”
What’s behind the trend?
“It’s suddenly cool to be fit,” said Chase Prieto, general manager of LA Fitness in Port Orange. “A lot of people are seeing the real benefits of it. But at the same time, the people who aren’t really seeing the benefits of it are still joining because it’s the cool thing to do.”
He credits social media for helping to create this trend.
Social media’s influence on gym going has become a big enough factor that Gymage in South Beach designed their facility for content creators. They encourage selfies, bringing your own tripod and offer a website link for creators to reserve a shooting day.
Another motivating factor to sign up at a gym is better health for the sake of family.
Mr. Woodfall related a conversation with a Planet Fitness member who saw a commercial of a grandparent lifting his grandchild so the child could put a star on the top of the Christmas tree. The gym-goer “talked about that and how he wants to be in shape for his grandkids so he can play with them properly. You see a lot of family driven motivation like that.”
Long-time gym members can’t help but notice the foot traffic in the early months of a new year and how it attenuates as winter turns to spring. The talk among regulars is this annual phenomenon is good for business. Collect an annual gym membership, have the member stop showing up; there isn’t any wear and tear on the equipment, yet the gym profits through the membership dues.
Stressing Planet Fitness memberships can be canceled anytime, Mr. Woodall said, “Most gyms are probably thrilled” a member would stop coming after a few months. “From most gym’s point of view, the (best) way to earn profit is to get money for nothing,” he said.
It isn’t necessarily laziness that stops people from following through on their New Year’s resolutions.
Mr. Prieto said people stop going to the gym because life gets in the way.
“They fall off over the next couple months (in the new year) just because they came in, did it, and then life starts hitting like it always does,” he said. “They just kind of fall off and then before they know it, they’re just not using it.”
At one point in his life, Mr. Prieto was overweight and not working out. He offered his insight on how to stay motivated. “What worked for me was instead of saying a whole big thing, like this year, I’m going to work out. I’m going to have a summer beach bod by summertime, all that kind of stuff. Instead of having that, I started with the mentality of I got to make sure I go every day.”
He drew the analogy of going to the gym as you go to work. “Start a healthy habit before you just go after a healthy idea,” Mr. Prieto suggested.
Agreeing many people who make New Year’s fitness resolutions are gone by March, Mr. Woodfall said, “It could have a lot to do with the gym they go to.”
He explained the person has to be excited to be there. If “it’s not a welcoming environment you’re going to be less engaged and you’re going to be less likely to go on a day-to-day basis. So, I think a lot of it falls on the gym, and the gym staff, (that) they go to.”
The year-long enthusiasm for going to the gym has waned recently. Placer.ai reported that across the country, there was a dip in fitness club usage for September. But history tells us that will change. “Pretty much the New Year always hits because everyone sees it as a time to reset,” Mr. Prieto said.