Woman doing single arm row in the gym.

Different levels mean different devils; Make monitoring activity your masterstroke.

Throughout many of my blogs so far, I’ve focused very much on ‘retention’ and the idea that you should build warm relationships with your members to deliver the most meaningful personal experiences possible, at each and every stage of their unique journey. I’ve put the spotlight on ‘retention’ because myself, and eFitness truly believe that adopting a culture centred around your members is the best way to run a Health Club, both financially and emotionally.

So far, I’ve proposed that Small Group Training can enhance your members’ fitness experience, I’ve also advocated the use of a loyalty reward program to cultivate feelings of appreciation, and I’ve also suggested utilising a member-friendly, human approach on social media will pay dividends in shaping that retention focused culture.

However, if there was just ONE statistic, ONE piece of insight, or ONE strand of behavioural data to look at to predict your retention, then it is the ‘activity level’ of your members.

If your members are working out in your facility frequently, with no drop off, then they are more likely to stay. Photo by John Arano

Traditionally Health Clubs determined retention by measuring the number of leavers versus the number of joiners to mathematically produce a ‘retention rate’ percentage.  To exemplify this, if Gym A had 1,000 members and 200 of them left at the end of the month, their retention rate would lie at 80%. Today, this formula provides us with a reasonable overview of our members as a whole at a given moment in time. I don’t advise that you cease to analyse this ‘retention rate’, but I highly recommend you to be more intuitive, pro-active and personalised in your retention efforts.

Chess, retention, retention rate, fitness operator, attendance frequency, churn
It’s chess, not checkers. Use your business intelligence to start monitoring your retention rate properly. Photo by JESHOOTS

Through more advanced business intelligence, you can clearly identify how many members are at ‘risk’ of leaving your Health Club. It is through in-depth analysis of member visitor behaviour and activity levels which can allow you to make a judgment as to how many members are on the verge of cancelling their membership.

There are three key ways to analyse your members’ activity levels;

  • Attendance Frequency
  • Dips in Attendance
  • Absence in Attendance

Attendance Frequency

To demonstrate how attendance frequency levels matter, let’s look at two examples;

Sarah, aged 25 has been a member of your gym for 12 weeks, she attends the gym once per week on average and hasn’t adhered to any particular training programme or regime. One week she attends a YOGA class, the next week she’ll use the cross-trainer for 20 minutes, followed by a series of resistance machines and the week after she might be spotted on the Powerplate after performing several bodyweight exercises. Jill pays £21.99 per month for your gym’s services.

Rose, is also aged 25 and like Sarah, has been a member of your gym for the same amount of time- 12 weeks. She has been attending the gym five times per week on average and is currently following a training programme of ‘push day’, ‘pull day’ and ‘leg day’, mixing both endurance and strength training into her weekly routine. During ‘push day’ she focuses on her chest, shoulders and triceps. During ‘pull day’ she targets her back and biceps. On ‘leg day’ she pays more attention to her quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves. She aims to do ‘leg day’ at least twice per week and completes one session with heavy weights and low reps and the other session with light weights and lots of reps. As her goal is to lose body fat, she also tries to do 20 minutes of HIIT cardio before each workout. To make up her five sessions per week, she attends Body Pump class which offers the perfect full body workout for her. Rose, just like Sarah, is on the £21.99 per month subscription plan.

Out of the two, who do you think we should be concerned about?

Female gym member, weights, back day, attendance frequency.
A person who follows a plan is a person who uses the gym regularly. These people are not as ‘at risk’ as potential others. Photo by The Lazy Artist.

It’s clear that Rose will feel very immersed with her gym membership because she is following a rigid training schedule, and has made attending the gym a part of her daily routine. Sarah, on the other hand, is not as involved as Rose and could be just as likely to see her friends after work rather than opting for her weekly (and rather tedious) 20-minute stint on the cross-trainer.

As Rose is spending more time in the gym and following a well-devised training methodology, providing her nutrition intake is not ridiculously excessive or conspicuously inadequate, she will undoubtedly achieve better results than Sarah in a much quicker time frame. Experiencing results will keep Rose motivated whereas Sarah may feel disheartened by her lack of success, so she may go back to her old ways or seek out alternative activities to help her achieve her goals.

woman confused, gym membership
It can be very easy to get downhearted if you don’t see the results in the gym. Photo by Alexander Drummer.

As Rose is in the gym 5 days a week, and no doubt looking in the mirror in the changing rooms upon every visit to see her body shape gradually changing, she will incontrovertibly feel that she is getting good value out of her membership. Sarah however, may not feel that the £21.99 she is paying is worth the money. Ultimately, it is the perceived value, not the price, that will seal a members fate.

These two examples show how attendance frequency can be so influential in forecasting future behaviours.

Dips in attendance

Again, the best way to demonstrate this is to use examples;

Richard, aged 29, has been a member of your gym for 6 months. For the last 6 months, he has consistently been attending the gym twice per week, this is not an average figure, he always attends twice per week. His goal is to increase muscle mass and reduce fat so he combines strength training with cardio when he uses the gym. It is not known what Richard does outside of the facility. Richard pays £24.99 per month.

Mark is also aged 29 and like Richard, has been a member of your gym for the same amount of time- 6 months. Up until recently, he has been training six times per week, but in the last 30 days, statistics reveal he is now only attending three times per week. His goal is also to increase muscle mass and reduce fat so he too, adopts similar training methodologies as Richard, and that is not the only similarity, he is also on the same payment plan of £24.99 per month.  

Here, we can see Richard’s attendance frequency is less than Mark’s, but Richard isn’t showing any signs of dropping out. Mark, however, has reduced his sessions in the last month from six to three. My experience tells me that Mark is at risk of leaving.

beer drinking, gym, habits
When someone stops attending the gym, just think what they might substitute that time with? Photo by Tembela

What reasons could we see for this drop in exercise activity? It may be that Mark is in the rehabilitation phase of a program and coming back from injury. Alternatively, he may be experiencing ‘burn-out’ or excessive muscle fatigue from training weeks on end. However, the reality is very few cardio or strength and conditioning programmes would advise a member to taper off in this fashion – he is cutting his sessions by half!  

It is far more likely that Mark has experienced a dip in motivation, and no longer possesses the same drive he did one month ago. We often see this sort of dip from a member after they have been on holiday – suddenly they have no goal to works towards and the 10-day excursion has also pulled them out of their habit. It’s important to take the time out to speak with the member and get them back on track.

Holidaymaker, gym, goals, attendance frequency
We all know someone who goes on holiday in really good shape, but after that they tend to reverse back to their old ways? Photo by Pixabay

It could also be that Mark has found an alternative form of training using the outdoors or a specialist provider. This would mean the member is now just using your gym three times per week for certain features, but how long before that three becomes two, two becomes one, and one becomes the termination of membership?  As a health club, you need to be your members’ number 1 form of activity to keep them, they should be building their health regime around your facility, not the other way round.

Ultimately it comes down to the value and in this case, Richard’s mindset hasn’t shifted so his perception of value won’t have changed. Conversely, Mark’s mindset has, so despite his previous affiliation with your gym, he may now feel by only attending 3 times per week, the £24.99 is not worth what it was – cue the cancellation.

Absence in attendance

Finally, you ought to look at absence in attendance too – and once again we will demonstrate this through two examples.

Steph, aged 21, has been a member of your gym for 6 months. For the last 6 months, she has been attending the health club three times per week, on average. Some weeks she attends four times, some weeks she attends twice, but we rarely ever see her miss a week. Her goal is to get toned and she largely does classes rather than Group Exercise classes on the gym floor. She loves the swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi, too. Steph pays £69.99 for such privileges.

Taylor, aged 21, is very similar to Steph. She’s on the same membership plan and has been a member of the gym for the same amount of time as Steph. Likewise, she is looking to get toned and prefers Group Exercise amount the health spa treatments to the more conventional gym floor workouts. Taylor has been attending the health club three times per week on average up until four months ago, but then we saw this figure drop to just once per week, and in the last month she hasn’t visited at all.

Now it’s pretty clear to see who is at risk here.

I won’t dwell too much on Taylor, because the reality is you will have hundreds of members who haven’t been to your facility in the last month. Why do you think this is? In the summer months, your members may go on holiday, but how many of them genuinely go on vacation for four weeks at a time?

student, fitness software, absence, frequency, retention, churn
You may be able to identify students when you see them, but your fitness software can do that for you? Photo by Anastasiya Gepp

I appreciate you have students who often relocate back to their home town, and there are those who suffer injuries who face a lengthy time away from the gym, but these members should be made aware of the relevant flexible freezing options you offer. It would be also wise if tag these cohorts within your internal CRM system so you can clearly determine possible reasons for their dips in absence.

Of course, there are further exceptions, but the reality is, the majority of those who have been ‘absent’ for four weeks have experienced a loss in motivation and that’s why they are not attending your gym any more.

Sauna, premium health club, gym membership, churn, retention, attendance, gym software
Premium health clubs often tend to charge more, so when members when stop coming they really notice the money they are not paying. Photo by Pixabay.

A loss in motivation can predict future behaviour – if a member isn’t feeling motivated enough to attend your facility, who says they will be motivated to pay for their subscription next month? It again boils down to a shift in mindset. If we revisit the examples, Steph, as expensive as it is, may still feel the £69.99 for the swimming pool and jacuzzi is worth it as her attendance patterns have remained the same. How much longer is Taylor going to stand by and watch a £69.99 Direct Debit disappearing from her bank every month? These examples alone should be a warning to all premium health club operators.

Final words

Don’t take any chances. Look after your members who are at risk and ensure you do everything to keep them before it’s too late. An extra phone call, an Instagram message, or better still – a positive conversation in the club may go along way to convincing the member to come back and stay. Decide what you believe is right to offer the member, depending on how ‘at risk’ you perceive them to be. Fundamentally, think carefully about how your future revenue may look if all your members at risk decided to cancel their membership within the next 30 days. It’s worth putting in the effort and it’s worth offering incentives to claw these members back.

email, crm, membership system, message
Sometimes a friendly email can go along way to showing a member you care. Especially if its personalised and meaningful. Photo by RawPixel


If there is still something distracting you from achieving your business goals, and it’s because you’re unable to report accurately on attendance levels, or you’re unable to utilise business intelligence to produce an accurate churn model, then eFitness may be here to help.

Want to see how eFitness helps club operators to improve their member retention? Schedule a software presentation now.

Go to www.efitness.com to book a free software demo.

Written by
Joe Hall
Joe is a content creator for eFitness Club Management Software. He holds a degree in Physical Education and Sport and Exercise Psychology, alongside an MA in Sport Business. He is a qualified Level 2 Fitness Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer and was the previously Head of Customer Engagement for a leading UK gym brand for 6 years. Nominated as an IHRSA rising star in 2018, Joe has got a lot to say on all things FITNESS!