How to Retain Gym Members

Why retain gym members? Retaining current members is easier and more cost-effective than finding new ones. According to the IHRSA,...

Why retain gym members?

Retaining current members is easier and more cost-effective than finding new ones. According to the IHRSA, increasing retention rates by 5% increases profit from between 25 and 95%. And it’s not just about keeping bums in saddles. Having a base of long-term members means you’re doing something right. People are returning, which makes positive reviews and referrals more likely. It also means the business has a more stable funding base.

Why do gym members leave?

Xplor data surveyed 370,000 people who cancelled a gym membership between January 2017 and April 2023. It found that most people terminated their membership for one of five reasons.

  • They didn't make enough use of it
  • They didn't have enough time
  • They weren't interested in using it anymore
  • They'd since moved to another area
  • The facilities were unhygienic

Gym owners who know why their members are leaving can make changes that may improve their retention rate. For example, lacking interest may mean it's time to revamp class schedules, introduce new workouts or upgrade equipment. Even when a member is relocating to another area, there’s an opportunity to part on good terms, leaving the door open for a return in the future or for ex-members to recommend the gym to people they know who still live in that area. According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over other types of advertising, so it's good practice to build a reputation that members will continue to praise even when they're no longer active members themselves. If members are leaving because of cleanliness, then that’s something that can (and must be) quickly and easily fixed.


How to keep members

Whenever someone cancels their membership, feel free to ask why. You can shape your future decisions and planning around their responses.



63% of new members stop attending a gym within three months.

Building relationships with new members and integrating them into the community is essential, especially if they're new to fitness. Gyms can be intimidating, so providing new members with a straightforward, helpful, engaging onboarding process is vital.

I'm very happy with my gym, but their onboarding process was disjointed. I signed up online and didn't receive any follow-up emails or advice. I had to ask a friend who was already a member about how to get into the building (QR code via an app). They also advised me to book an induction through the app, which I wouldn't have known otherwise. A welcome email flow or even links to relevant information via a member's portal would have been helpful and integrated me into the community sooner. Once I had established how to get in and what to do, the induction with an instructor was helpful and reassuring, so there’s no reason why that level of attention can’t be applied the second someone signs up, whether online or in person.

Be sure to mention classes during the onboarding process. According to the IHRSA, members who engage in group fitness classes are 56% less likely to cancel their membership and more likely to renew than members who rely on machines, free weights, and individual workouts alone.


Watch the numbers

You will need to track memberships and how these numbers change throughout the year, especially if they correspond to any changes you’ve made to the business. Xplorgym examined its data and found that members typically cancel five months after their last visit. With this knowledge, a gym could target these members, exploring ways of encouraging them to engage with the gym and continue their membership.  Looking for patterns can help you understand what’s working well and what’s not. You can crunch the numbers yourself or use gym management software to calculate them. It’s beneficial not just to see who is coming in and when but how long they’re staying and when the gym’s peak periods are. The more data you have, the easier it is to spot any problem areas or understand what’s working well and why.


Exercise as an experience

Josh Liberator writes, 'to attract and retain members in a world teeming with workout options, operators will need to leverage space, technology and wellness services in innovative and engaging ways.'

This can mean adopting technology and creating classes and experiences beyond regular workouts. Les Mills has an immersive cycling experience 'inspired by cinema, live concert experiences and interactive gaming'. What's critical here is that it 'increases satisfaction and decreases the rate of perceived exertion for new exercisers.' The Les Mills cycle class means riding through Ancient Greece or up glaciers with an immersive and intense soundtrack.

My gym has technology in its treadmills that has massively increased my enjoyment of running indoors. I can now follow trainers as they run and talk me through stunning global locations, including mountain ranges, beaches, and cities. The incline and speed change automatically, depending on the terrain, topography, or trainer. Does it make the physical act of running easier? No. But does it stop me from looking at the timer and keep me running even when I feel it is beginning to burn in my legs? Yes. Hardcore attendees may be less enamoured by scenery or the automatic speed and incline option. Still, it could make a real difference to anyone who needs help with motivation or who finds running and riding monotonous.

Not every gym can install expensive systems, but the takeaway is that many people want to have fun exercising, especially if they struggle to maintain a routine with more traditional forms of workout. This is already popular in the home entertainment world. Luxury London points out the success of the Wii Fit craze or Just Dance, where people move around for fun rather than exercise. Zumba has done a lot in the last two decades to provide a fun and engaging workout for a demographic you might otherwise not have seen in the gym.

Challenges or group activities can help, too. Classes that are different or unusual may help keep members engaged. The RE:GEN Studio isn’t just an electricity-generating fitness bike but also has many interactive features to make sessions fun and engaging, encouraging riders to keep cycling hard right up to the end of the session.

Green lit studio with RE:GEN Studio bikes

Build a community

Gyms are almost ready-built communities: like-minded people paying to gather to exercise. Good gyms will often have a sense of community, integrating new members quickly and efficiently and making them feel valued as individuals and then as part of the collective. Community is also built around shared passions. It can also be built around a niche— a cross-fit gym or a female-led studio. Communities can be built around shared morals and values. Sustainable gyms are gaining popularity as people seek to align their beliefs and lifestyles. This doesn't have to mean going all-in on sustainability. It can mean switching to eco-friendlier products, improving energy efficiency, installing energy-saving or energy-generating equipment or banning single-use plastics. Offering holistic treatments or workouts can build community, too. Gyms could also build communities around the social aspects of team workouts or classes or even holding events like charity fundraisers or physically demanding challenges.


Ensure equipment is modern and clean

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people have become more aware of hygiene. In the introduction, we mentioned that a lack of cleanliness was one of the main reasons people cancelled their memberships. Hygiene is entirely in the control of the gym owner and employees and should be kept at a high standard.  If this is why you’re losing members, then improving your cleaning processes should be a matter of high priority.


Use marketing to build a brand

Communicating with your members is vital. Social media can help you hit a wider audience, but having an email flow for new members and later transitioning them into a main membership email is a good option. Share big news. Advertise events or changes to opening hours, etc. You can encourage members to tag and share posts, too. Helpful articles about fitness and nutrition that will benefit the readership can also help establish your gym as a thought leader.  Marketing isn't just about attracting new members; it can help build a sense of community that makes existing members feel connected to the brand and valued.


Create a good customer experience

It doesn't matter what industry you're in; excellent customer service is a powerful tool. Staff should be polite, friendly, and eager to encourage and help with problems or issues. Building relationships with members, even just saying hello with a smile or offering advice, could be the difference between a member maintaining their membership or moving elsewhere.

If you’re looking for a way to provide a unique equipment experience for your gym members, we’d love to tell you more about the electricity-generating RE:GEN Studio.


Girl in grey gym wear cycling on a green-lit RE:GEN 

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