Can Group Exercise Help Gym Membership Retention?

Gym members cancel their membership for many reasons. Sometimes, these will fall outside an owner’s control: financial difficulties or relocation....

Gym members cancel their membership for many reasons. Sometimes, these will fall outside an owner’s control: financial difficulties or relocation. Other things, like cleanliness or poor-performing classes, are entirely within a manager’s power to change. And it’s this last point that we’d like to highlight.  

Research suggests that people exercising in groups are less likely to cancel their membership than those exercising alone. So, expanding or improving your class or group offerings may help improve your retention rates.  

Research by Les Mills found that those who exercised in groups and visited a club just once a week were 20% more likely to be loyal members than those who visited three times a week and only worked out on the gym floor.  


What are the benefits of group exercise?  

There is a lot of research supporting the benefits of group exercise. One of the biggest advantages appears to be accountability. People who are physically active together are more likely to keep showing up. There may be several reasons for this. Firstly, classes happen at set times, which helps build habits. Members are more likely to treat the class as an appointment, blocking it out in their schedules or on their calendars rather than visiting the gym ad hoc as individuals might.  

It’s also harder to cancel on someone else. A person may feel guilty for being a no-show and letting the other person down. Group activities can also help form friendships in classes because people will often enjoy seeing the same people and exercising in a friendly and social environment. This is great for beginners who may otherwise feel nervous about starting an exercise regime. It’s one reason gyms should introduce class schedules to new starters during onboarding.   

There’s nothing like the energy of a class, either. Participants often enjoy the friendly competition and use other class members to push themselves harder. We learned this from taking our electricity-generating bikes to several live events, including Bloomberg Headquarters and PerformX Live.  

We also heard it in the testimonials following the first group class at Storm Cycle Studio in Berlin. One of the riders said that seeing the power they generated on-screen helped motivate them to perform better. 



Researchers at Kansas State University also found that women exercising on fitness bikes with a teammate increased their workout time and intensity by 200 per cent. This was especially true when riders were paired with someone they believed was better than them. The Kohler Effect is well-documented. It's the idea that nobody wants to be the weakest link in a group, so people work harder.  

The harder people work, the more they’ll get out of the workout. One of the biggest reasons people quit the gym is because they don’t see results fast enough. The Kohler effect could improve people’s perspective on their own fitness and performance.  

Science Focus has also written that some people are able to ‘outsource their self-regulation to the group, such that the same intensity of exercise feels less effortful in a group.’  Another interesting study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that working out in a group lowered stress by 26 per cent and improved a person’s quality of life. 

Other studies have also concluded that the idea of ‘groupness’ was a positive one and could be useful in promoting exercises that people will stick to.  

Group exercise in a class also has the benefit of a heightened atmosphere. Some gyms build classes around engaging environments. Indoor cycling classes are a great example of this where the sound and lighting systems are often designed with a nightclub vibe. This is what STORM Cycle Studio in Berlin has done, creating an atmosphere where you’re primed for a workout and a good time before you even get on the bike. STORM has also installed our electricity-generating fitness bikes with instructor-controlled resistance so riders can focus on riding without having to set their own pace.  

Group exercise also has the benefit of an instructor. This can make it easier for beginners to feel more confident and to safely execute certain movements. Instructors can be a great source of encouragement and knowledge, too. The human connection of group exercise really can’t be underestimated. 

And group exercise doesn’t only have to be in classes. Fitness challenges are a great way to encourage people to exercise together. Challenges can be tied to international events or holidays. They can be time or distance-based. Couch 2 5K is a good example of a fitness challenge based on completing a specific distance within a set time. 

There’s also the option of group exercise in teams or competitive sessions. This could be walking football or badminton or circuit training.  

Electricity-generating indoor cycling bikes in your gym is about more than just reducing energy costs but also about creating an experience that helps instructors lead classes and riders have a great session. One of the biggest reasons new members leave is because they're unmotivated or unable to reach their goals. Classes should be introduced during the onboarding process because this is a great way to help people stay motivated and committed and increase membership retention. Going to the gym must become a habit for a member and classes are a great way to help build that even in the early stages when motivation may be lacking.  

Find out how electricity-generating indoor bikes can transform your gym or studio by visiting our RE:GEN for gyms page or dropping us a message via our contact form. 



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