An increasing overall percentage of Americans used at least one health club or studio, reaching 27 percent of the population—the highest total on record, according to recent data from IHRSA, a trade association for health clubs.
In addition, U.S. health club memberships have grown by 3.8 percent in the past two years to 66.5 million people ages six years old and older or one in five Americans, according to data from IHRSA.
And despite COVID-related challenges, overall industry participation rates reached 21.8 percent, the highest in the industry’s history.
The numbers validate the importance of the industry despite COVID’s challenges, according to IHRSA.
“It is a clear indication of the importance of the bricks and mortar component of the fitness industry that growth returned despite the lockdown of clubs, the severe governmental restrictions imposed, and the surge in digital offerings,” Liz Clark, IHRSA president and CEO, said in a media release. “It is a strong testament to the value of clubs and studios, the importance of community, the quality of in-person instruction, and the expansive offerings of the on-site experience.”
Given the number of health clubs that were mandated to close and the need for residents to be confined to their homes, a comparison of a year ago is not relevant at this point, IHRSA said.
Despite these positive numbers, the number of total visits during this period decreased from 6.7 billion in 2019 to 4.5 billion in 2021. Likewise, the average number of annual visits to clubs per individual decreased from 109 to 72.
Reasons for decreased total visits may be due to limited access to facilities, mandated governmental temporary closures, the lack of return of adults to offices, the waiting for vaccine availability, usage capacity restrictions, and the lack of full club offerings, according to IHRSA. Any conclusion on the reasons may be premature, IHRSA said, noting that next year a proper conclusion may become clearer.
The study was conducted by IHRSA as part of the Physical Activity Council. It determined that the total number of overall consumers—members and non-member—increased by 2.1 percent during COVID.