5 Reasons Health Club Members Quit (and How to Make Them Stay)

Our member retention expert breaks down several research studies to explain why members leave—and how to make them stick around.

It’s easy to blame member attrition on outside sources—maybe a boutique studio just opened up nearby, or perhaps your most popular group exercise instructor left. But, while those are legitimate obstacles, there are several factors causing members to leave your club that are well within your control.

In this article, we dig into five reasons your members are quitting, and offer strategies to make them stay.

Reason 1: You’re Not Offering (or Successfully Marketing) Group Fitness

Health club members who participate in group exercise are more likely to retain their membership than those who only use gym equipment, according to a The Retention People (TRP) study.

For the study, researchers analyzed survey results from 10,000 UK health and fitness members and followed up with them at regular intervals to measure changes to their habits and membership behavior. They found that 48% percent of members reported just one activity as the usual reason for a club visit, 32% reported two and, 20% reported three or more.

As of January 31, 2014, 88% of group exercise members retained their membership compared to 82% of gym-only members. And the risk of cancelling was 56% higher in gym-only members compared to group exercisers (27.6 cancellations per thousand per month versus 17.7).

Action Point 1

Think about the barriers that stop members attending group exercise and overcome them. Remember—the uninitiated look into a group exercise studio and see a room full of lycra clad people all completing complicated moves in perfect harmony. Also, think about what would make group fitness classes more engaging for young males, who are the most likely to be gym-only members.

Reason 2: Your Members Are Not Using the Health Club

According to the IHRSA Trend Report, based on an omnibus study of 1,000 Americans ages 16 and older, 23% of former health club members indicated leaving because they did not use the health club.

Action Point 2

Think of ways to encourage and maybe even incentivize ongoing utilization of the club. Relevant club programs for members and a club rewards system for frequent usage may help keep members, but sometimes it starts as easy as staff interactions/communications, which leads us to the next reason…

Reason 3: Your Members Aren’t Receiving Ongoing Interactions Encouraging Them with Their Fitness Goals

Health club members who were at risk of cancelling and received a “successful commitment interaction,” which led to a commitment to utilize the health club at a future date, were 45% less likely to cancel in the subsequent month compared to similar members who received no interaction, according to the IHRSA Member Retention Report (Volume 3, Issue 3): Focus on Member Interaction.

Action Point 3

Identify any members at risk of cancelling prior to their next visit and be sure staff make a special effort to interact with these members and encourage them to use the gym again soon.

“Identify any members at risk of cancelling prior to their next visit and be sure staff make a special effort to interact with these members and encourage them to use the gym again soon.”

Reason 4: It May Be Too Expensive for Some of Your Former Members

The IHRSA Trend Report also found that 38% of respondents indicated it’s “too expensive” as a reason for leaving the health club.

Action Point 4

While periodic membership sales and limited-time promotions may help address this group, ongoing support / passage of PHIT / WHIP bills may help address the issue of cost.

Reason 5: You’re Not Turning Your Detractors into Promoters

Based on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) tool, promoters are consumers likely to recommend your business to family, friends & colleagues; detractors are not likely and may even discourage others to do business with your club.

What differentiates promoters from detractors? Promoters use club frequently, make progress with goals, take advantage of club upgrades, and receive ongoing communication from health clubs.

Action Point 5

Communicate regularly with members, facilitate progress with goals, and commit to ongoing upkeep and reinvestment in club facilities—these steps will help convert detractors to promoters.

Author avatar

Melissa Rodriguez

Melissa Rodriguez is a Market Research Advisor for IHRSA. When she's not analyzing data and statistics, Melissa enjoys spending time with family, watching superhero series, poring over NBA and NFL box scores, and reading a good book.