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Tue Sep 30 17:51:16 SAST 2014

Fitness industry bulks up on New Year's resolutions

RENÉ VOLLGRAAFF | 15 January, 2011 23:060 Comments
NEW RESOLVE: The gym at Planet Fitness in Rosebank, Johannesburg

Many New Year's resolutions include plans to live more healthily, exercise more or lose a few kilograms.

But more often than not the only thing that loses weight is one's wallet as January's enthusiasm to exercise fades by March.

And the fitness industry knows this.

Big sporting equipment retailers are running sales offering huge discounts on merchandise and gymnasiums, big and small, to make full use of the resolve to shape up.

"We would be crazy not to," says Manny Rivera, CEO of health club group Planet Fitness.

"There is no doubt that it is the best time (to attract members). People are in that state of mind; they want to make a life change because they are not feeling good or maybe they were embarrassed on the beach."

According to Elmarie Terblanche, chairman of the department of sport science at Stellenbosch University, gyms can experience an increase in membership of up to 30% in January.

Barry Geldenhuis, owner of House of Fitness, a small private gym in Melville, Johannesburg, said sales spike by up to 50% in January and February and start tapering in March.

Rivera did not quote numbers, but said January was as important to the fitness industry as December was to retailers.

"It is the most important time for any health club around the world," he said.

But those who join gyms do not necessarily visit them regularly.

Terblanche said the problem of people joining a gym and shortly thereafter not visiting it again was acute.

"It is very easy to make good resolutions while lying next to the pool with a beer in one hand, but few people realise that it takes hard work to get fit," she said. "And if they do not see results soon, they just give up."

Gym groups are cautious about providing figures on how regularly members who join in the beginning of the year actually visit the gym during the rest of the year.

According to Rivera, approximately 70% of Planet Fitness members visit the gym at least once or twice a week.

And for Virgin Active's membership of more than 500000, the average gym attendance is five to seven times a month, said managing director Ross Faragher-Thomas.

"There is a definite trend for people to join in January and February and then eventually just peter out," said Geldenhuis.

"But those same people might come back in September without joining again if they still have their memberships."

Rivera said it was a fallacy that gyms liked to sign people up and never see them again.

"We can't exist as a brand or a business on that kind of premise," he said.

Huenu Solsona, director of Adventure Boot Camp, an outdoor training programme for women, said whereas January and February were important sales months for its four-week programmes, September and October were its busiest months, with the prospect of summer holidays.

Suppliers of exercise equipment also benefit from resolutions to exercise.

Tony Payne, sales and marketing director of PentaSystems, a distributor of TechoGym equipment, said although sales varied throughout the year, there were increases in home gym equipment sales which could be attributed to New Year's resolutions. The end-of-year rush to get fit for the beach also contributed to higher sales, he said.

In Europe, the opposite holds - with home exercise equipment selling better in winter months and dropping in the summer months, Payne said.

"The European winters are cold and people who want to train can not go outdoors to do their normal activities, so they opt for more convenient training at home."

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