Can Charity Gyms Compete? \ Nonprofit Insights |

Can Charity Gyms Compete?

Today, like any other day, I hit my local gym for my training session. Going to the gym anchors my day and is as routine as eating and sleeping. It’s my daily dose of cardio, body stretches, and focused weight training.

Preventing health risks, building strength, endurance, and reducing stress are among the main reasons people workout or do sports, as reported by Ipsos in 2017. In the Ipsos study, conducted on behalf of Goodlife Fitness, “two in ten (18%) Canadians said they would purchase a gym membership to achieve their goals; while more than half (53%) of Canadians said that improving their overall quality of life would be a top motivator in pursuing a health and wellness resolution” in 2018.

In comparing motivation to a recent StatsCan (2019) report of the Physical activity, self reported, adult, by age group participation rates in 2018 dropped in every age category compared to the previous year. As Canadians age, the percentage of individuals involved in 150 minutes of physical activity per week drop off significantly after age 65. Within the 18-34 age bracket only 64% self reported activity and 37% of those aged 50 to 64. Clearly, there is a need for more Canadians to get active.

As reported by Statista (Sport and Fitness), the Canadian Fitness Club industry annual revenue is about $3 billion which includes 6,325 business who employee 54,731 people. This significant contribution to both the Canadian economy and health of our communities is expected to grow.

Backed by IBISWorld reporting, “The Gym, Health and Fitness Clubs industry in Canada has strengthened over the last five years to 2019 as a result of consumer trends and the proliferation of public health campaigns. With the adult obesity rate expected to rise over the five years to 2019, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has increasingly stressed the merits of fitness regimens and healthy lifestyle choices…”

53% of Canadians said that improving their overall quality of life would be a top motivator in pursuing a health and wellness resolution. – Ipsos, 2017

Organizations, like the YMCA, universities and government municipalities operating in this fitness space are uniquely positioned to impact the health and wellness of individuals, strengthen communities, and extend their Missions.

I am suggesting 3 areas where charities (nonprofits) could better compete against for-profit fitness clubs to gain market share and improve the health and well-being of more Canadians.

  • Adopt a competitive service diversification strategy. In December 2018, CanFitPro published the Top 10 Trends for 2019, highlighting the growth in functional fitness, recovery programs and older adult training. Given the age-diverse client base that charitable fitness organizations serve, promoting these specific programs could provide a competitive advantage over the franchised private clubs and centres to retain clients to pursue multiple programs over their lifetime.
  • Deliver Service Quality. Invest in clean facilities, equipment, and the installation of new amenities to keep step with the competitive value-ads of the private clubs. As it is said, it cost less to retain a member than it does to recruit one. By ensuring service quality is consistently high and well delivered charities demonstrate their commitment to health.
  • Appoint Personal Health Advisors. Charity organizations could develop their current specialized fitness trainers into multi-faceted health advisors. Employing a service strategy of advisor teams who are cross-certified to support clients with tailored personal portfolios of combined functional fitness, body weight training, healthy eating programs, fitness festival events, and the like provide a value-add apart from the latest fitness fad or singular certified trainer at the boutique fitness clubs. Advisors attuned to an individual’s evolving fitness goals could guide them on a life-long pathway to sustainable healthy lifestyles.

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