Keep Members Engaged with Fitness Challenges

Fitness challenges can help build a sense of community. They can also encourage high-risk members to re-engage with your gym,...

Fitness challenges can help build a sense of community. They can also encourage high-risk members to re-engage with your gym, improving retention and overall satisfaction.

But this isn't just about your long-term members.

According to the IHRSA, most gyms lose 50% of their new members within six months. There are many reasons why this can happen. It may be that those starting their fitness journey feel disillusioned by a failure to make sufficient progress. New members may be setting unrealistic goals or overwhelmed by different class and equipment options. New members might be unmotivated or unprepared for exercising in a gym or health club setting.

Fitness challenges can be a fun way to help new members integrate into your community as part of an onboarding process. Challenges have a specific target. They can be a structured yet enjoyable means of pursuing a health or fitness goal. Challenges can boost member motivation, engagement, and attendance as more people exercise for mental and physical health benefits (rather than just for aesthetic reasons).

What is a fitness challenge?

It's an attainable but challenging goal members pursue within a specific timeframe. It doesn't always have to be exercise-related. Gyms might also choose to set challenges related to well-being or nutrition. They can also be attendance-based or target participation—taking a set number of classes or activities, for example.

Whatever the theme or goal, challenges must have clear instructions and an end goal. There should also be sufficient support from instructors and staff to ensure everyone can finish what they started successfully and safely.

Fitness challenges provide something of a 'north star' for beginners or anyone lacking the motivation to attend the gym regularly. Specific goals cut through the white noise that members may face, especially when struggling to find their identity in the gym.

Motivation is a significant barrier for people trying to be more consistent in their fitness regimen. Health Club Management recently reported on a study that found that a specific goal was the key to consistency and motivation. It writes that 'the move to encourage gym members to engage with the challenge appears to be a smart one'. The article lists several big gym brands, including Virgin Active and the Gym Group, who've moved into the more extreme end of endurance events.

However, using goals to aid motivation is helpful in smaller challenges, too.

Tracking participation is not only a means of recording attendance but also great for accountability, especially if members have a rapport with one another. Members are more likely to show up for each other than just for themselves. Individual challenges can also benefit from creating a community built around the activity—social media tags, groups, forums, meet-ups, etc. It's one reason why we've built software displaying both personalised and class metrics into the software for our electricity-generating fitness bikes. We want individual riders to pursue their personal goals while connecting with others as part of something bigger.

Challenges can be based on a specific movement, exercise, sport, event, or timeframe. For example, several 30-day challenges became popular during the pandemic for at-home workouts, including the plank challenge. It could be walking a specific distance over 30 days. This might be step-centric: 10,000 steps a day. It could be route-centric: walk the Great Wall of China on a treadmill. Couch to 5K has been successful at introducing complete beginners to jogging. Meditation and yoga challenges might resonate with your audience. Something more physically demanding might be just the ticket for someone else. If you have a broader membership base, there's no reason you can't run different challenges tailored to other types of people.

Participation or attendance challenges can be a valuable means of encouraging people to try new activities or to give people the confidence to set a more rigorous routine. recommends that new members are encouraged to sign up when they first join. Members can also monitor their progress using fitness trackers or smartwatches. You could also provide rewards or incentives for completing a challenge.

Some gyms choose to tie in with a local or national charity. Raising sponsorship for a good cause could be a great rallying call for new and experienced members. Gamification and software can also make challenges more fun and engaging. This can be combined with performance and progress tracking with smart wearable devices.



What are examples of fitness challenges?


  • Plank challenge
  • Calorie burn
  • Squat challenge
  • Cross-Fit
  • Personal best improvement
  • Most gym visits
  • Running challenges
  • Walking challenges
  • 10,000 steps a day
  • 100 sit-ups
  • Dry January
  • Charity walks and runs
  • Couch to 5K
  • 10K training
  • Yoga
  • Clean energy generation (if you have RE:GEN bikes)
  • Healthy habits
  • Meditation
  • 30-day abs challenge
  • Hydration challenge
  • Flexibility challenge


Be creative with the challenges, which can help with referrals and marketing. Using your imagination can help. We've seen walking and running challenges that have tapped into popular culture, like walking between Winterfell and Kingslanding, Hobbiton to Mordor or Walking the Great Wall of China.

Everyone Active has some excellent examples of fitness challenges on their webpage. For January, they gave a selection of challenges for their members, including Swim the Loch Ness Challenge and Cycle the London Underground.


How to encourage gym members to take up a fitness challenge?

  • Fitness challenges should be measurable. This means there should be a target number or time that participants can track their progress against. The objective must be clear, and so should the time people have to complete it. Clear instructions are vital. Keep it simple.

  • It should be challenging enough that people will sign up but realistic enough that they'll be motivated to continue.

  • Take into account the membership base you have and tailor challenges to your audience. Although, there's nothing wrong with inviting members to try something completely different.

  • Promote it in advance so that people are aware of it. Leverage social media and email subscription lists and target existing classes where you think there is some crossover. Don't be afraid to use paid ads, too. Marketing will help spread the message to existing members and set you on the radar of future potential members.

  • Could you collect feedback afterwards to see what people liked and disliked about the challenge? Is there anything that you could do differently next time? If people dropped out before the end, why? If people were surprised to find they'd completed it, why? What would make the next challenge better?

  • Make challenges easy to sign up for

  • You could offer a prize. Push Press suggests that participants could be given a free month at the gym.

Interested in finding out how electricity-generating fitness bikes can transform your gym? Find out more about the RE:GEN Studio.


Five people in gym wear standing behind a RE:GEN bike in a green lit studio

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


Solutions for every setting