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7 ways to increase gym member retention

How has gym membership retention changed due to Covid-19?

During this pandemic, this question may have arisen in your mind alongside the thoughts of many gym owners. Many gym members moved from the traditional ways of working out due to the closure of gyms and studios. Instead fitness fanatics began to work out from hope, using a range of digital products to replicate the in studio experience.

For example, Strava, a popular running and cycling app, saw its users increase to 73 million, and existing users increase their app usage by 13%. Similarly, another popular app, ClassPass, which previously let users book physical classes online, reported that 81% of their users had worked out using digital options. 

These kinds of numbers show that digital fitness became hugely popular during the pandemic. Now, as countries around the world begin to open up, brick and mortar facilities have been welcoming back new and current members to the gym. 

Retention has always been a challenge for gym owners and it’s been made more difficult with the new factors in play that Covid-19 has brought. In this article we will look at what gym member retention is, why gyms have struggled with retention and how you can increase gym member retention with a solid gym member retention strategy.

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What is gym member retention? 

Gym member retention is more or less the number of members a gym can keep over a certain period, such as a month, six months, or a year. When it comes to gym member retention, not all gyms in the fitness industry are the same; their retention can vary. As recent as 2019, the retention rate of fitness studios stood at 75.9%

One of the key metrics gym owners need to keep on top of is member retention. The temptation is to focus on constant acquisition and growth and let retention take care of itself. However this would be like the impossible task of trying to fill a sieve with sand – there will always be something coming out of the bottom. 

Why is gym membership retention important? 

As a gym owner, you may already realize the value of gym member retention, but if you don’t, it’s something you need to focus on as it can generate up to 80% of your revenue, as demonstrated in a study done by Helen Watts in 2012

Now, as mentioned earlier, it’s important than ever to retain your gym members as they’re likely going to be your source of income. Trust us, it’s going to be much harder shifting your focus and exhausting your efforts trying to persuade others to ditch their fitness classes on their digital devices and come to the gym. 

Plus, if you concentrate on existing members, it’s more likely you’re going to save money in the long term, and after all, this could be a wise decision if your profits have suffered from the pandemic. For instance, you don’t need to worry about the costs of advertising to target new customers, new member discounts, and the expenses of free trials. These costs are not included when you focus on client retention, allowing you to save and generate profits more easily. 

Most importantly, gym membership retention can help with the growth of your business. If you’re focusing on the consistency of your existing members, it’s more than likely you’re going to develop stronger and meaningful relationships between them and your employees. As soon as a member feels like they have a greater sense of belonging in your fitness business and will want to use your service more. 

Plus, if they’re happy, they will vocalize their thoughts and experiences to others spreading the positivity about your fitness club via word of mouth. This form of advertising could be a gamechanger in times like these, causing people to switch from existing digital devices to in-person fitness. 

Reasons why gyms struggle with retention 

To understand why member retention rates are an important topic, we need to explore common areas where gyms lack retention. But to do this, we need to split this up into the pre-pandemic and existing pandemic, as some reasons slightly differ.


Before COVID-19 hit struck, the common reasons gyms struggled with retention were:

  • Unrealistic goals: Many gym-goers often get too caught up and set out goals that are not realistic or achievable in a short time frame. Sometimes it can take months of hard work to get there, and without the proper training program, it can cause them to fail and be miserable. Then their unhappiness can cause them to leave the gym due to them not seeing results.
  • Lack of accountability: If club members are unable to track their results, then they could drop out. An example of this is how 73% of people who set fitness goals as a New Years Resolution give up. This is often because there is a lack of software to help track progress and hold you accountable.
  • Little engagement: Irrespective of what industry you’re in, you need customer engagement to survive. A gym membership might have declined due to a lack of a relationship between you and your members. If members don’t feel valued or part of something, they may have declined.


During the Covid-19 pandemic and after, membership might have declined due to the same reasons as above and new ones, which are: 

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  • Hygiene: Gym members might be scared of contracting Covid-19  in the presence of other people. There might be customers who question the sanitization and social distancing measures implemented and choose for their own safety to workout from home. 
  • Finances: A lot of people’s salaries have taken a hit from lockdown. A report conducted by Statista shows that in August 2021, a survey conducted asking Americans about their finances, showed that 13% who had an income of less than $50,000 had personally lost their job due to the pandemic, and an additional 14% had a family member who lost a job. 

You may have members who have been in this category and choose to cancel active gym memberships so they can save money and apply it to other areas of their life. Plus, there are a range of other alternatives out there which are free, like Youtube and many apps helping people workout from home.

7 ways to increase gym membership retention

Now you have an idea of what gym membership retention is and why it might have slipped prior to and during COVID-19, let’s look at ways to retain or increase your rate.

1. Switch to the technical side 

As there is still a pandemic occurring, you can’t just neglect hygiene! Your gym member’s hygiene and wellbeing should be a priority at all times. Because of this, you might want to make the switch to digital and cut out any contact methods. For example, you might want to refuse to take their money and opt for credit cards or digital payments. Plus, if there is any transaction, you could email customers their receipt. 

You could also add self check-in machines where members check themselves in. Similarly, you could host online classes that are integrated with the membership plan. Doing this can allow you to come across forward-thinking and be considerate about the wellness of your clients.

2. Have regular hygiene schedules

Today everyone is health-conscious, and you have to protect your members and your employees. While you don’t want membership rates to decline, you don’t want employees to go off sick either. For this reason, you should undergo proper sanitization methods and ensure thorough cleaning takes place multiple times a day. In every part of your gym you clean, you should display an audit so members can see when the gym was last cleaned and know that you have good practices in place.

3. Build a community

As humans, we thrive in tribes; it dates back to our primitive days. The same with gyms; we tend to feel like we’re doing better and happier if we’re part of a community. Because of this, you will want to think of ways you can strengthen the bond between your members. You might wish to run competitions, challenges or add more group classes. You may even wish to offer group training which enables people to train with others at cheaper rates.

4. Add goals and display member progress

Remember earlier when we said members like to see results? Well, one way of keeping them from dropping out is by displaying metrics. You could look at ways for the software you have in the gym to be used for monitoring their progress. 

Try and find ways where your members can log their weight and measurements and update them to look at where they’ve come on their journey so far. Plus, it can help you motivate clients to hit their goals.

5. Personalize their gym experience

It’s important that you treat each client as human and not just another number. If they get the sense you’re just there to make a profit and not care about their wellbeing, they may lose respect for your gym. 

Take time to try and gather as much information as possible from members and use it to communicate with them. For instance, you could send them personalized happy birthday emails. 

You could also send more videos to motivate them towards realistic goals. Sending videos and personalizing messages can have a positive effect; in fact, brands who give personalized messages have an 8x improvement on click through rates. Who knows, upon doing this, you could have existing clients wanting to upgrade their membership or invest more into your gym services!

6. Request for regular feedback and reviews

Getting feedback and reviews for your gym is a win-win situation. First of all, you’re receiving constructive criticism and praise on the areas you could improve upon and what you’ve done well. 

Therefore this can allow you to change your business model to suit client’s needs, plus it allows them to be heard. It also allows you to fix important points before customers drop out and saves your retention. Plus, reviews can also help boost your company’s online presence and enable it to rank better on search engines and social media. 

7. Use social media 

Because of the pandemic, you might have some members who have their membership but are actively in attendance. If you become active on social media by posting stories, videos, captions, and more, it might encourage people to come. Similarly, if you showcase your sanitization methods on social media, it may invoke confidence in your clients and make them want to come back to the gym. 

In summary

Gym membership is incredibly important to allow you to sustain an income and allow members to feel more valued. If you can do well with your membership retention, members will likely feel happy and want to spread positive comments about your business, encouraging others to use your services. 

However, increasing gym retention isn’t always the same as the olden days; you never know when a pandemic like COVID-19 might hit or something else disastrous that could shake up your business. That is why it’s always important to take a step back and look at membership feedback to see how you can maintain your clients and survive as a gym 

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