BMC3 is proud to partner with Steven Renata and Les Mills. Les Mills is a strategic partner of BMC3.
RELAXED APPROACH BEST TO BOOST NEW MEMBER RETENTION
Fitness professionals are duty-bound to impart their passion for exercise and get the results the clients are paying good money for – even if that client has a natural aversion to exercise or a totally sedentary lifestyle before walking into your premise.
But sometimes gym staff are a little too great at firing clients up with visions of running marathons or rocking a hot bod. They don’t ensure newbies understand that they need to take it slowly, build fitness gradually, and experience a wide range of options to better understand their own tolerances.
Consequently, what often happens is that clients leap into a couple of advanced classes without proper guidance and end up, at best, not being able to walk again for a week – or at worst, injuring themselves badly.
By the time they are able to walk without wincing again, the momentum is gone – sometimes for good. And a club membership that might have paid dividends for years is lost.
Research recently undertaken by Pennsylvania State University has shown that total ‘coach potatoes’ can become gym enthusiasts after 30 weeks using group fitness alone. But it is how the participants were acclimatised to fitness that provides the most valuable learning to clubs looking to boost retention.
Twenty-five sedentary people were studied as they embarked on a 30-week fitness programme that saw them start extremely slowly in their fitness quest by ‘dipping their toes’ in a range of group fitness programmes across a club’s schedule.
Participants were urged – for the first six weeks – to only complete 20 minutes of each class in the beginning, or to leave whenever they wanted to. They were encouraged to gradually build themselves up to a full complement of classes after that initial six week ‘managed acclimatisation’.
Most importantly, they were able to keep eating exactly what they wanted.
The physical results of the study were certainly exciting enough to confirm that an hour a day, six days out of seven, of any type of heart-rate raising exercise makes a dramatic difference to health. There was a six per cent decrease in body fat across the group of 25 (some of whom, it should be remembered, where still eating fulsomely throughout); LDL cholesterol readings dropped by 10 per cent, trunk fat and triglycerides took a dive and pelvic bone density and cardiovascular fitness all increased dramatically.
But what is perhaps more interesting is that attendance in the study clocked in at almost 99 per cent over the thirty weeks – and most of the study subjects continue with group fitness to this day.
Slowly acclimatising new clients to fitness is appropriate for any type of exercise undertaken within the gym. But it was group fitness that was critical to the success of the Pennsylvania study participants.
Group fitness offers a environment that both men and women find appealing. Clients can mix and match classes to alleviate boredom and keep them challenged, whatever their level of fitness. And most importantly, group fitness provides a sense of community that people frequently cite as a reason for club loyalty. Group fitness is an obvious first place to start for those who may be daunted by the gym environment, which was why it was chosen as the entre to fitness by the university researchers.
Gym staff must also be more involved in getting newbies on board according to the study – over and above handing over a group fitness schedule and telling clients to ‘take it easy’. The research found that if a fitness professional guided the new client through the schedule, perhaps even attending the first class with a member and reminding he or she to leave when they’d had enough, the member was far more likely to be still with that club down the track.
Most clubs are constantly revisiting ways to retain their members – what researchers call ‘compliance’ – and according to the Pennsylvania study, the answer is an initially easy-going schedule, lots of different group fitness classes to choose from, and plenty of club guidance.
The result? Happy and engaged members that will keep coming back for more.
Steven Renata is a founding partner of Les Mills International and current CEO of West Coast Arm of the US business. He resides in San Francisco with his wife Susan and daughter Grace.
For more information he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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