Where An­gels Fear to Tread­mill


Newsweek - - NEWS -

For years, health clubs have prof­ited off our best in­ten­tions to lose weight and get fit in the new year. Come Jan­uary, throngs of fit­ness-phobes try to make good on their res­o­lu­tions by plunk­ing down checks for health club mem­ber­ships. Most gyms of­fer some sort of “new year, new you” deal to en­cour­age even the most seden­tary to step on a tread­mill.

There are 54 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S.— ap­prox­i­mately 17 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion—who are mem­bers of some type of gym or fit­ness cen­ter. A dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of them join shortly af­ter the guilt of a glut­tonous De­cem­ber sets in. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted by the In­ter­na­tional Health, Rac­quet & Sportsclub As­so­ci­a­tion (IHRSA), 12 per­cent of all gym mem­ber­ships are sold in the month of Jan­uary.

Fit­ness club man­agers, staff and train­ers enjoy the surge in prof­its and the chal­lenge of han­dling new clients, but for ex­ist­ing mem­bers who stick to their healthy habit year-round, an ex­cess of un­toned bod­ies at the gym is a pain in the glutes.

“When clubs are more crowded, peo­ple get testier,” says Mered­ith Pop­pler, a spokes­woman for IHRSA. “Some mem­bers get ter­ri­to­rial; they want their par­tic­u­lar locker or par­tic­u­lar spot on the ex­er­cise floor. You see the same thing in church when peo­ple show up on Christ­mas and aren’t there the rest of the year.”

Thank­fully for com­mit­ted gym rats, the new­com­ers tend to fall off as early as mid-fe­bru­ary, says Pop­pler. Gym dropout is com­mon; in 2014, clubs held on to only 7 out of ev­ery 10 mem­bers. But a huge num­ber of peo­ple who fail to stick with their res­o­lu­tion con­tinue to pay fees, on av­er­age about $69 per month.

“At­ten­dance picks up in the spring,” says Pop­pler. “Peo­ple think, Oh God, I should start get­ting ready to wear a bathing suit.” By the height of sum­mer, new busi­ness is in the dol­drums, with just 6.9 per­cent of new mem­ber­ships pur­chased in July, ac­cord­ing to IHRSA.

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