Health club advertising generally highlights a twenty-five-year-old in spandex. Watch for that advertising imagery to change as a growing number of clubs observe that the fastest growing membership is with people who look like us. New models are going to be mature looking and wear loose-fitting clothing.
International Health, Racquet and Sports club Association (IHRSA) reports that since 1987, health club members age 55+ increased by 70%. Harvey Lauer, president of American Sports Data (ASD), who, along with IHRSA, conducted a health club membership study, stated, “The age 55+ growth is a result of increased interest in physical fitness, and not just due to the population change.”
Awareness of the importance of physical fitness has increased as an abundance of research has been conducted in the past decade. Today, there are few of us who do not have a basic understanding of the health benefits of regular exercise. Large percentage of sedentary people report that they are planning start an exercise program.
Of health club members, the mature adult is most likely to be the frequent visitor. Forty-five percent of us use our club 100 or more days per year. The younger markets are more likely to view club membership as recreational and social in nature, and therefore optional.
It has been estimated that as many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States, approximately 12% of the total, are attributable to a lack of regular activity. Information like this, and the commitment that we are making to our health and fitness, demonstrates that we view exercise to be a necessity rather than a luxury.
The industry is repositioning itself so as to be perceived by consumers as the normative institutional setting for health promotion activities and programs. Physician offices and hospitals are perceived as facilities to diagnose and treat injury and illness.
Paul Ritchie, Director of the Northwest Athletic Club Association (NACA), sees an older demographic shift in his clubs. “Our programming is becoming more diverse to meet the changing needs of the population. Weight management classes, fitness testing and consultation, and wellness/health education classes are becoming as prominent as cardiovascular equipment and cycling machines,” Ritchie stated.
During the course of speaking with health clubs, management emphasized to Over 50 and Fit their awareness that many mature adults have never been in a health club. In the quest to make our visits a relaxing experience, many have instituted new member integration programs, such as Easy Start at many NACA clubs. If you have any fear of going to a club, recent changes and staff personnel committed to your needs should alleviate your concerns.