Gym memberships fell from 17.4 million to 16.2 million members in 2007 when the economic recession began, according to The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
“Yeah, we’ve definitely noticed a difference,” said Nick Hurtung, a manager at L.A. Fitness in Tempe, Ariz. Hurtung said customers are choosing the cheaper membership package, which ranges from $24.99 to $34.99 per month.
Hurtung added that lately, business has gotten “slightly” better.
Mike King, the sales manager at Lifetime Fitness, also in Tempe, said that those members who did not work out on a regular basis cancelled their membership when the recession hit.
“They consider it luxury rather than necessity,” King said.
Both L.A. Fitness and Lifetime Fitness offered discounts to attracted new members during the economy, including student discounts and waived initiation fees.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association tracks attendance for the country’s large, corporate gyms, but these numbers do not account for small, local fitness centers.
Angela Schlett, director and owner of Sole Fitness, said that no one at her gym has cancelled their membership because of the economy.
“For some, this is the only positive thing in their life,” Schlett said. “They can’t afford not to come.”
Sole Fitness offers one-on-one personal training, nutrition consulting and rehabilitation therapy. Many clients have been with the gym for years.
Schlett and other trainers at Sole created buddy training groups of three to five people for those clients struggling financially that could no longer afford to pay for a personal trainer. These sessions run for about $20 per person.
Affordability is not the only benefit of a small gym over a large one. Denis Troggio, a client of Sole for over 3 years, said he appreciates the gym’s “personal touch.”
“I like the philosophy they use in their training,” Troggio said. “They know what they’re doing.”
Schlett agreed that Sole is more personal than their corporate competitors.
“Big gyms are number based.” Schlett said. “You’re not going to get individualized attention.”