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TALKBACK Everyone’s talking about . . .

Group exercise gyms T

he great thing about group exercise studios is that they require very little kit: it’s a simple formula and

inexpensive to roll out. Added to this, group exercise has a universal appeal thanks to the camaraderie it builds, with members who do group exercise also more likely to remain with a health club than a gym-only exerciser. No surprise, then, that operators are starting to investigate the potential of standalone group exercise studios. Fitness First Middle East is one of the

big players to cash in on this trend with a new group exercise-only concept, The Studio by Fitness First. According

to group operations and marketing director Mark Botha, the appeal for Fitness First is that these 4,000sq ft facilities can be opened up quickly and slotted into areas where the demographics make a full gym inviable. So are group exercise-only facilities

set to become a lasting trend, or will they just be a passing fad? Will the likes of Zumba lose their allure, or will the popularity of these studios in fact ensure there is constant innovation in group exercise programming? Could this even be the key to pushing

up the industry’s market penetration, as people who are put off the idea of a full gym membership might commit

to taking part in a group exercise class once or twice a week? Or will traditional gyms lose members who joined primarily for the exercise classes? The trend may even encourage gyms

to revise their own internal group exercise model, charging booking fees to reserve a place in busy classes for example – as at New York cycling club SoulCycle – or even creating a boutique, added-fee area within the club. Will we start to see some of the big

names going into towns which would be too small for a full gym, but which could support a studio, or will it be entrepreneurs who drive the trend? We ask the experts for their thoughts.


Phillip Mills Les Mills International • CEO


nlike budget gyms, the growth of the micro gym has not negatively

impacted traditional clubs. That these clubs have grown without eating into traditional membership rates suggests that either a new breed of consumer is being welcomed into the fitness industry, or those with gym memberships are also adding a micro gym experience.

Group exercise has always been one of the most powerful

ways to tap into the touch-points of community, motivation, convenience, time and results, and micro gyms have focused on this. Some of the new-style micros like Crossfit are even attracting young men and others to whom club stereotypes may not appeal. And they are happy to pay a premium. But in the long term, I feel our industry may follow other

sectors: people generally prefer to shop at a supermarket, with access to a host of products, rather than selecting individual items at small local stores. Traditional clubs should see this as an opportunity to profit from their group training – for example, by creating boutique spaces and charging members who want to reserve a place in high-demand sessions. SoulCycle charges US$30 a class and an extra US$30 to reserve a place.


Doyle Armstrong Indoor Cycling Group • Product specialist


roup exercise facilities are here to stay – especially in London,

where we are seeing more studios springing up which focus on one type of activity, like cycling or yoga. No-one has yet done the full works, with a mix of group exercise options, but I think they will in the future, especially outside of the London area.

For this concept to work, the quality of instruction is of

prime importance, with great instructors supported by CPD. Rather than necessarily increase market penetration, I think group exercise studios will probably attract existing gym members who only use the classes at their club. The good thing is that these people tend to be frequent attendees. In terms of the impact this trend will have on the industry,

I think it will make operators look at how they provide group exercise and encourage them to invest in this area, especially in the education of their instructors. For many clubs, the current quality of class delivery needs to be addressed. I don’t think chains will react by launching studio brands –

I don’t think it’s a scaleable business model, so I think the trend will be driven by independents rather than chains.

Read Health Club Management online at ” February 2013 © Cybertrek 2013

Standalone group exercise studios – offering dance classes, yoga or cycling – aren’t new, but the rate at which they are popping up seems to be getting faster. So is this a lasting trend or a passing fad?

Kath Hudson • Journalist • Health Club Management

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