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While growth has been sluggish in the health and fitness club market over the past five years, it seems 2016 could mark a return to the gym floor. Indeed, new research from Mintel reveals that the number of Brits using private health and fitness clubs is forecast to grow by 20% in the next five years to reach 6.5 million by 2020. While today, an estimated 5.4 million Brits use health and fitness clubs, this is up by a puny 1% from attendance numbers in 2011 which stood at 5.33 million.

With an expected sprint in attendance numbers over the next few years, the overall market is forecast to gain more than a few pounds. The value of the private health and fitness club market is forecast to surpass £3 billion in 2018, up from an estimated £2.9 billion in 2016.

Today, one in eight (12%) Brits use health and fitness clubs and it seems that current members are not afraid to feel the the burn. Over half (52%) of current users of health and fitness clubs visit three or more days a week, while 35% visit one to two days a week. With just 11% saying they don’t visit weekly, it seems the vast majority of those with membership are getting their money’s worth. What’s more, Mintel research indicates that a number of Brits are preparing to flex their muscles and sign-up for membership, as over one quarter (27%) say they would consider using a health and fitness club in the future.

The value of the private health and fitness club market is forecast to surpass £3 billion in 2018

David Walmsley, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

“We’re expecting continuing growth in the number of health and fitness clubs across the UK to make these venues more accessible to more people over the next five years, particularly as the rate of expansion is fastest at the low-cost end of the market. Affordability looks to be a big factor in attracting more young people into the market and is putting these clubs in more direct competition with public leisure centres.”

Indeed, while the low-cost segment of the market is encouraging growth, cost-reduction leads in incentives for new members. Over two thirds (69%) of those who are not currently a member of a private health and fitness club, but might consider joining in the future, say they’d be encouraged to join if they could use existing loyalty scheme points or vouchers to pay for membership. Additionally, 44% say they’d be encouraged to join if they received money back if they didn’t achieve the fitness goals agreed when they joined the club.

And when it comes to fitness goals, Mintel research reveals that 100% of current users of private health and fitness clubs have set goals for themselves. While over half (54%) have joined their club to improve general fitness and health, 44% have done so to lose weight or tone up. It seems it’s not just physical goals consumers are hoping to reach through health and fitness club membership however, as one in four (26%) say they are looking to relax or de-stress and 14% are looking to meet people and socialise.

Currently health and fitness clubs are achieving high levels of satisfaction among users in terms of the progress they are making towards their exercise goals, with 84% of current members either completely or mostly satisfied. Even among those who have stopped visiting clubs, the majority say they were satisfied with the goals they achieved while at the club. Over half (58%) of lapsed-users of private health and fitness clubs say they were either completely or mostly satisfied with the progress they made during their membership.

“It’s interesting that satisfaction rates are comparatively high even among those who have stopped using health and fitness clubs. This suggests it is more than just a lack of results that can turn consumers off membership, with price and experience potentially just as important. We’re seeing more innovation around contract terms as one means of tackling the price issue, while new technologies that enable more immersive fitness activities, performance tracking and gamification have the potential to create more stimulating experiences.” David comments.

Finally, Mintel research reveals that swimmers are dipping a toe in many waters when using the gym facilities. Of health and fitness club members who have had a swim session in the pool, half (51%) have also used wellness facilities, 35% have had a meal or drink in the gym’s bar or restaurant and one quarter (25%) have had a health or fitness assessment. In comparison, just 30% of gym users have used the wellness facilities, while 28% have had a meal and 18% have had a health or fitness assessment.

“Users of club swimming facilities are generally more likely than average to take part in all other activities and show significantly higher levels of interest in wellness facilities and health or fitness assessments. With these customers also leading levels of usage of club bars and restaurants, the implication is that the pool is an important source of traffic for non-sport and exercise amenities. Operators could therefore benefit from targeting these visitors with incentives to share trial offers with their friends and colleagues, or even to act as buddies to inexperienced new members.” David concludes.

Press review copies of Mintel’s Health and Fitness Clubs UK 2016 report and interviews with Senior Leisure Analyst David Walmsley are available on request from the press office.