Your health club probably has no trouble bringing in new members. You give them a tour of shutterstock_211071559your awesome facility, offer them discounts and boom! they’re ready to join.

But how long does it take for them to stop showing up one day or cancel their membership out of the blue?

According to The Retention People’s (TRP) latest research, 50% of your members will stop attending by month 6, that’s over half of your member base who will stop using your services before they have a chance of seeing any real benefit.

Unfortunately, you are going to get some ‘here one day gone the next’ members that use your facility for a while and want to get the heck out of dodge after losing 3 pounds. (Don’t you feel so used?) There is, however, something that can be done to keep all your other members coming back year after year even after they’ve reached their desired weight goal, and it

is helping  your members create an ‘Exercise Habit’ by focusing on 6 key areas – using TRP’s M-E-M-B-E-R Habit-Forming process:

M - Manage Expectations

When a member joins your facility, he/she has various expectations about the benefits of exercise and how much exercise is required to achieve these benefits causing them to have unrealistically high expectations. Research has shown that members who have these expectations that are not met undertake significantly fewer workout sessions (club visits) over 12 months compared to members who have realistic expectations that are met. In fact, research found that members with lower expectations that were exceeded had more workout sessions.

E - Exercise Self-Efficacy

The more confident your members are about the exercises they’re doing, the more likely they are to come to the gym and do them. Multiple research studies have shown that confidence predicts behavior. Members’ confidence for completing the exercises they are given comes from a number of sources:

  • Seeing people similar to them doing the exercise well promotes confidence e.g. “if they can do it then I can”. So point out people of a similar age and gender that are doing the same workout

  • Getting quick results from a certain workout. Choosing low skill exercises that people can quickly master rapidly builds confidence. Resistance training workouts for a single joint can be quickly learned and because of the way muscles develop, rapid improvements can be observed that boost confidence. High-skill exercises such as stability exercises take much longer to learn and therefore can reinforce beliefs about not getting results quick enough, leading to embarrassment and drop out

M - Monitoring & Feedback

Early meetings with members (within the first month) to take stock and measure progress against expectations shows the member that the club is genuinely interested in helping them to achieve what they came for and therefore that it represents value for money. It is also an opportunity to nip any problems in the bud before the member’s mind turns to reasons to cancel!

B - Behaviorial Choices

Members who perceive that they are actively engaged in the design of their exercise program workout more than people who perceive they have no involvement in it. An interesting study done some years ago showed people how to use a whole range of equipment and then asked them to state which they liked and which they did not. At a subsequent session they were randomized to one of two groups.

  • Group 1: Was told their workout program primarily involved exercises they had previously said they liked the most

  • Group 2: Was told their program was standard for new exercisers

After twelve weeks group 1 completed twice as many workout sessions as group 2. The intriguing thing about the study (you may already have guessed it) was that both programs were the same! Perceptions are important therefore, and the more actively engaged your members are in decisions around their own program the more they will attend.

E - Exercise Intensity

Studies of various exercise intensities have shown that high intensity exercise leads to lower adherence compared to moderate intensity. Working with members to find a level that is challenging but not overwhelming will lead to greater adherence.

R - Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement in the form of affirmations from your health club staff increases motivation, confidence and adherence. Too often the only time gym employee’s talk to members is to point out what they are doing wrong. Although this can improve safety and performance, if this is the only time members get spoken to it can quickly dent their confidence. If they frequently receive positive reinforcement, “you are getting on really well with that workout”, then confidence goes up and they start to believe they really can be a successful exerciser.


Combining all of these processes for new members will not only reduce the likelihood of early cancellation, but it will create a genuine relationship between your health club’s employees and your members. Small investments up front lead to considerable pay back later!



 Bio’s & About:

Claire Holmes is the General Manager of The Retention People (TRP) North America.  TRP is the leading provider of customer experience management software and solutions to the leisure industry who work to create raving fans of your business!

TRP and Jonas Fitness are a part of the Jonas Group, whose parent company Constellation Software Inc. trades on the Toronto stock exchange as Canada’s second largest software company.

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