2016 International Fitness Industry Trend Report – What’s All the Rage
Stephen Tharrett and Mark Williamson

Stephen Tharrett (l) and Mark Williamson (r). Photo courtesy of Health Club Management.

ClubIntel recently published their 2nd annual international fitness industry study authored by Stephen Tharrett and Mark Williamson.  If you haven’t read the study, put it on your reading list.  There are some big surprises. You can download the 2016 International Fitness Industry Trend Report – What’s All the Rage from Club-Intel.com.

I’ve provided an overview of the study below along with study finding and my own comments and observations.


  • Survey was distributed via email to a number of media publishers and industry associations
  • 193 valid responses were collected representing over 4,000 clubs worldwide

Key technology insights

  • ClubIntel was generous in claiming that technology in the health and fitness industry “remains in its infancy.” While the authors note in their market analysis that our industry is either occupying an emerging or niche phase if we compared the authors finding that only 28% of industry players sell membership online to Geoffrey Moore’s technology life cycle, it likely that our industry has only begun to cross the chasm.  Just imagine if the airline industry had only a 28% adoption rate for online travel planning and reservation systems.

Technology Adoption Life Cycle with Geoffrey Moore’s “chasm.”

  • ClubIntel notes that social media which is currently in its growth phase and has been adopted by 50% of our industry. While encouraging, in 2016, 78% of Fortune 500 companies used Twitter down 5% from the previous year based on data collected by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research.
  • The Adoption Matrix that ClubIntel has created to evaluate industry trends is fascinating and smart. By analyzing the overall level of adoption and the rate of growth, ClubIntel can take two attributes and forecast a corresponding segment stage that trend occupies during a given period.  Check out pages 66, 67, and 68 for additional information. I’d love to see Stephen and Mark assess individual channel adoption: email marketing, content management systems, organic search optimization, graphic and text-based media buys, retargeting, native advertising, sms mobile marketing, app services or development.
ClubIntel Lifestages of Trends and Fads

ClubIntel Lifestages of Trends and Fads

Industry trends in decline

  • The most significant of the declines noted in ClubIntel’s study occurred with dance-related classes (-26%) and exotic dance-oriented group exercise classes (-13%).
  • Over the past three years, four equipment and facility offerings have experienced declines including climbing walls (-20%), therapeutic pools (-20%), stretching zones (-4%), and indoor sports facilities (-4%).
  • Of the three major trend categories in this research, technology is evolving the fastest. Despite this rapid growth, the industry’s overall level of adoption remains extremely low.  That’s a bad combination: fast growth and low adoption.

Club software management solution adoption growth spikes at 458%

This was a huge surprise.  Given the lackluster technology adoption numbers reported on by ClubIntel in a year when many were claiming this was the year of technology in the fitness industry,  I was surprised to see the top growth trend was Online/cloud-based registration or scheduling services for client/member appointments in terms of percentage change during 2013 – 2016.

Top Ten Growth Trends in Business and Technology

Top Ten Growth Trends in Business and Technology Over the Past Year. Percent change from 2015 to 2016.


And perhaps it’s a sign of future accelerated technology adoption or it’s the realization that as an industry we can no longer be technology laggards if we’re going to “speak” to millennials and grow our businesses and our industry as ClubIntel notes on page 15 during their assessment of the

This observation speaks to the industry’s slow adoption of technology as a valuable asset to enhancing the efficiency and productivity of their business. It also speaks to being unprepared or unwilling to more readily adopt the technology expectations of today’s health/fitness consumer (primarily Millennials and Generation X) whose lifestyles revolve around the use of mobile-driven technology platforms.

One finding that’s surprising

What if I were to tell you that technology trends are heavily influenced by specific fitness business models?  Makes a lot of sense, right? Now, what if I told you that personalized and convenience-driven technology trends are driven more by boutique fitness studios than by traditional health and fitness facilities?  Not convinced?  I’m not either which is why I’m going to reach out to the authors for an interview!

It’s an interesting finding but counter to my own personal experience as a spinning instructor and marketer for a club software management firm with high-volume low-price (HVLP) fitness businesses as customers.

Having worked in a boutique studio as a spinning instructor, I saw first-hand that you don’t need to invest in technology nor purchase innovative new gym equipment which is expensive and an inefficient use of floor space.  You invest in the member experience.  Granted I can appreciate why large chains may need to maximize equipment lifecycles and extended equipment warranties

Granted I can appreciate why large chains may need to maximize equipment lifecycles and extended equipment warranties but the commercial gym category and the HVLP segment specifically rely on highly automated and advanced technology solutions including RFID, remote access, virtual and fitness classes on demand, and even sensors to control lighting and even sound.

In any event, what a great study!  If your a club professional or owner, you owe it to yourself to read ClubIntel’s study.