Why Members Stay or Quit

As we well know, the journey of member retention ensues the moment a new member joins the gym. As is the case with joining, there's also a psychology behind the reasons why members decide to stay with their club or leave it altogether. Understanding this psychology is essential if we want to retain a greater percentage of our members.

In 2014, the IHRSA's Global Report's polls revealed very telling statistics as to why members quit their gyms.

  • 40% felt they could not afford their membership.
  • 30% felt they weren't going to the gym enough to justify their membership.
  • 20% moved so that the location of their gym was less than convenient.
  • 19% found alternative places to exercise for little or no cost.
  • 17% felt the gym was too crowded.
  • 11% had to quit due to extenuating circumstances such as an injury, illness, surgery, etc. 
  • 9% of members felt they didn't fit in.
  • 8% lost their job and could no longer afford a membership.
  • 7 % simply didn't enjoy exercising.
  • 5% said they didn't fulfill their health and fitness goals.
  • 4% were intimidated by their gym.
  • 4% felt a lack of guidance.
  • 3% became more interested in exercising somewhere besides the gym.
  • 2% met their fitness goals and were ready to move on.
  • 2% didn't know any one at their gym.
  • 1% cited "other" reasons.

The 2014 Global Report also spoke to reasons why people never join a club to begin. These were:

  • 54% felt the membership was too expensive.
  • 27% said they could exercise somewhere else at no cost.
  • 18% thought they didn't have time to go to the gym.
  • 18% said they simply didn't exercise in the first place.
  • 17% felt they would feel uncomfortable at the gym or out of place.
  • 13% said they took part in fitness activities outside of the gym arena.
  • 12% said there were no gyms within a reasonable distance from their home or work.
  • 10% felt it would be overly crowded.
  • 9% said they didn't know anybody
  • 9% felt they wouldn't know what to do once they arrived at the gym.
  • 9% had extenuating circumstances that kept them from joining like an injury, illness, surgery, etc. 
  • 8% felt much too out of shape to even step foot in the gym setting.
  • 3% doubted there would be any guidance once they joined.
  • 3% didn't have faith in their own abilities to stay safe at the gym and thought they might hurt themselves.

From this study we can see that in order to retain members, the gym has a responsibility for providing a place that supports and motivates their members as well as playing a strong role in the social aspect of a club. We also want to provide excellent value so that members feel the cost is justified. 

For a gym to obtain and retain more members, it needs to commit to focusing on the following factors:

  • Keep the gym's message targeted to its particular market. (A gym marketing to baby boomers will send a different message than one marketing to young professionals.)
  • Keep your club's pricing in line with the experience it provides. (If you provide great value to your members, the cost of membership can and should reflect that.)
  • Because your club's members want to be seen and heard, make sure the staff is attentive and driven to serve their members needs.
  • Create club programs that satisfy your members, that are engaging and motivating in nature.
  • As soon as a member joins, make sure the staff is attentive in their introductions with themselves and other members. First impressions are paramount!
  • Come up with gym activities and programs driven by members, engaging members to take ownership in and responsibility for various programs.
  • Give recognition of member achievements when they are made.
  • Make sure the club has enough equipment to serve members so that the gym doesn't feel too crowded.
  • Convenience is key. Assure convenience in club hours, location, etc.
  • Keep lines of communication between members and staff open and engaged at all times.
  • Create an atmosphere that isn't intimidating. Women especially need to feel supported and comfortable at the club.

We hope this helps in gaining insight into member perceptions in order to better obtain and retain them!


  1. http://www.gojo.com/~/media/GOJO/Countries/USA/Markets/Health-Fitness/Files/Resources/IHRSA_CleanlinessGuide.pdf
  2. Fitness Management by Stephen J. Tharrett and James A. Peterson
  3. IHRSA's 2014 Global Report