Sweating Your Assets

What is the purpose of the White Paper? Sweating Your Assets: The value of group exercise highlights the growth of the activity and demonstrates how it has moved inactive people into a regular physical activity habit. It also notes that group fitness is widely undervalued as a gateway to activity, not just by the public but also by the fitness industry. Whilst group exercise continues to get the nation active, there are still great swathes of the UK that are classed as inactive. Releasing our first white paper is the start of waking people up to the benefits of group exercise, not just to the individual participants but to the public in general.

Why is group exercise so under-valued? Despite the merits of group exercise and the growing number of people participating, more needs to be done to promote the value of group exercise to wider society. And operators have a key role to play.

Group exercise is often an afterthought in leisure centre membership promotions, where the marketing line ‘free classes included’ often undervalues the activity. Many operators are under pressure to reduce costs and offer cheaper services. Cuts to local authority budgets, the rise of the budget chains and

growing competition for leisure spend mean the fitness market place is hugely competitive. However, group exercise can strengthen a gym’s membership retention. A 2013 study by The Retention People found that people who attend group exercise classes are 26 per cent less likely to cancel their gym membership. This is one of the reasons why operators must do more to promote the value of group exercise to their local communities to create healthier, more active people.

With the increasing prevalence of social prescribing, leisure facilities can welcome more new customers through their doors. As an alternative solution for medical rehabilitation, these new participants have a genuine interest in attending exercise classes on a regular basis. Investment in group exercise and its workforce is key to promoting positive activity changes in society. Instructors are the second biggest influencer on group exercise attendance and the face of the activity. However, many instructors have not had a pay rise in over 10 years. Investing in instructor pay, continued professional development and understanding the value that group exercise brings to their business are all ways that operators can raise the profile of group exercise for the good of the nation.

More must be done to promote the value of group fitness, says EMD UK, the national governing body for group exercise, after publishing its first white paper.

How can operators make more of group exercise?

Challenge the norms - how many operators offer a ‘studio only’ membership? Gym only and swim only are common and we know that circa 30 to 50 per cent of most club members do group exercise, so the market is out there. Charging for personal training as a premium service is usual practice and this model can be replicated in the studio. High occupancy or specialist classes can be charged for and a mixed economy approach to timetabling can be applied – ranging from virtual/on demand, gym floor classes through to premium classes taught by the best instructors.

Knock down walls - according to research by Les Mills (Group fit: Raise revenue, reward instructors 2019) bigger studios are more profitable per square metre. It also showed that group exercise was more profitable per square metre than the cardio or weights areas in the gym. Bigger studios drive higher revenue. Group exercise zones or rooms with a specialist focus can target more specific demographics whilst keeping the excitement and competitive edge to the offering.

Think wider than the studio - group fitness can take place in many spaces from the gym floor and squash courts to sports halls and 17

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