2019 STATE OF THE UK FITNESS INDUSTRY REPORT - OUT NOW

 
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The 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report reveals that the UK health and fitness industry is healthier than it has ever been. It has more gyms, more members and a greater market value than ever before. Several key milestones have been achieved over the last 12 months. The total UK membership has broken the 10 million mark and the industry is now worth more than £5 billion for the first time. The elusive 15% penetration rate has not only been reached but exceeded with it now standing at 15.6%. In the UK, 1 in every 7 people is a member of a gym.

The 2019 report highlights that the industry, over the 12 month period to the end of March 2019, has seen increases of 2.9% in the number of fitness facilities, 4.7% in the number of members and 4.2% in market value. The rate of growth for members and market value is higher than last year across the public and private sectors. Has the private sector weathered the rise of the boutique studios? Has the public sector finally stabilised against the low-cost market?

Pure Gym and GLL remain the UK’s leading private and public operators (by number of gyms and members). In 2018, Pure Gym became the first operator to reach 200 clubs and this year they are joined by GLL (with 203 gyms).

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “As seen in the record-breaking figures from this report, the UK is enjoying a golden period of growth and exciting development across the fitness sector. It’s a great time to be working and reporting on the industry. As operators compete against the at-home fitness revolution, boutique studios and tech-enabled fitness, they must continue to provide more than just gyms; experiences are essential to hold customers attention. The last year has seen continued investment into ‘fitness-tainment’ and there is still plenty of opportunity for creativity and growth.”

 

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of fitness facilities in the UK is up from 7,038 to 7,239 this year.

  • Total membership grew by 4.7% to 10.4 million.

  • Total market value increased by 4.2% to £5.1 billion.

  • The UK penetration rate passed 15% for the first time.

  • 215 new fitness facilities opened in the last 12 months, down from 275 in 2018.

 

Notes

The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the UK fitness industry, involving individual contact with all sites. The reporting period is the 12 months to 31st March 2019. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report.

Balance Festival 2019

Today the team attended Balance Festival at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch. It’s the UK’s largest celebration of the wellness movement and it’s the festival’s second year running. There’s wellness talks, group exercise classes with top boutique fitness studios and so many delicious freebies to try!

We tried out three types of classes: HIIT, strength and sculpting. The first was a very sweaty class called ‘The Games’ by KXU which involved flipping tyres, pushing sleds, rowing, assault bike, weights, ball slams and much more! Next we did BLOK’s demanding strength class which pushed our muscles to their limits. To round off the day we finished with Method Movement’s Brazilian style sculpting class which focused on toning the glutes and core.

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The benefits of exercising to music

By Chay Westall

Everyone loves listening to music in the gym.

I’ve even arrived at the gym, realised I'd forgotten my earphones and then gone home to get them because the idea of completing an hour workout in silence is just too stressful. 

Have you ever been on a long car journey? Maybe traveling away with a couple of friends that you haven’t seen in a while, have loads to catch each other up on and suddenly you have arrived at the hotel and everyone goes “wow, we’ve arrived already!”

Well, this is due to your perception of time. When you have something to distract you like a conversation with friends, or your favourite music, you perceive time to go faster which brings me to the first benefit of exercising with music...DISTRACTION! No one would turn down the ability to make a 5km run feel like it takes half the time.

Not only does music distract you, it also motivates you to work harder. Listening to a song like Eye of the Tiger to 'get pumped', you can’t help but picture yourself as Rocky doing one-arm press ups, climbing the “Rocky Steps”, and sprinting through the streets of Philly. Let music boost your performance, listen to the words of Eminem's “Lose Yourself” and you’ll smash that 5k row.

 
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Finally, there are the physiological changes that music has on your body:

  • Reduces stress
  • Increases heart rate
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces feelings of fatigue

These changes all speak for themselves. So listen to music! Let it improve your mood and your performance...you won’t regret it!

Sweat by BXR

By Chay Westall

On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the LeisureDB team (plus friends of the company) headed to Anthony Joshua’s BXR gym in Marylebone to experience the new cardio class, Sweat. Utilising cutting-edge technology, this 45-minute VersaClimber session offered us a total body workout. On average, the class burns 8-9 extra calories a minute than the equivalent group cycling sessions…. meaning you could have just over 3 glasses of red wine, and not feel guilty!

 
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Just don’t think for one second that these classes are a walk in the park! It’s rightfully named the “Sweat studio”! The nightclub environment guarantees to have your muscles burning, but at least you’ll complete the class with a grin on your face as you sing and climb to the beat.

Not only can you feel the calories fall away, the engineering and design of the VersaClimber means you are exercising in a way that causes zero stress to the body, unlike running or CrossFit classes.

If you’re tired of the same old circuits or spinning classes, this unique, climbing-based class will definitely mix up your fitness routine!

Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

 
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2018 STATE OF THE UK FITNESS INDUSTRY REPORT - OUT NOW

 
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The 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report reveals that the UK health and fitness industry is continuing to strengthen. It has more gyms, more members and a greater market value than ever before. There are over 7,000 gyms in the UK for the first time, total membership is approaching 10 million and market value is just under £5 billion. The penetration rate remains at 14.9%, so 1 in every 7 people in the UK is a member of a gym.

 

The 2018 report highlights that the industry, over the twelve-month period to the end of March 2018, has seen increases of 4.6% in the number of fitness facilities, 2% in the number of members and 2.9% in market value. But the devil is in the detail as the rate of growth is lower than last year; previously the UK saw increases of over 5% in both members and market value. The report also shows distinct differences in the performance of the key metrics between the public and private sectors over the last 12 months. Can the public sector stabilise amid ever increasing competition from the growing private low-cost market? Will the private sector reach the growth rates of the previous year again or is the rise of boutique studios beginning to take effect?

 

Pure Gym and GLL have strengthened their positions as the UK’s leading private and public operators (by number of gyms and members). Pure Gym have become the first operator to reach 200 clubs and impressively passed the 1 million member mark earlier this year. GLL, with 194 gyms, are also likely to break the 200 milestone in the next year.

 

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “After being widely quoted from last year’s report about ‘the golden age of fitness’, I’m sticking to my prediction that the period up to 2020 remains the time for fitness to continue to break all barriers. It has for the past six years, after all; and as the consumer gets more personalisation, localisation, seamless booking and payment options, taking part will become easier. The next challenge will be broader consumer adoption… could we aim for 20% penetration in the UK by 2020?”

 

Summary of Key Facts

  • The number of fitness facilities in the UK is up from 6,728 to 7,038 this year.

  • Total membership grew by 2% to 9.9 million.

  • Total market value increased by 2.9% to £4.9 billion.

  • The UK penetration rate remained at 14.9%, the same as last year.

  • 275 new fitness facilities opened in the last 12 months, up from 272 in 2017.

 

Notes

The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the UK fitness industry, involving individual contact with all sites. The reporting period is the 12 months to 31st March 2018. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2018 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report.

Fitness Trends in California - Report on IHRSA 2018

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Robert F. Kennedy

Elon Musk has the same way of thinking and its revolutionised payment systems, PayPal, solar energy, SolarCity, electric cars, Tesla, and the private space industry, SpaceX. What if Elon dreamed and asked why not of the fitness industry?

I’m in California for the annual IHRSA gathering and this year around 12,000 registered for the convention and trade show from 70 different countries, including over 200 people from the UK and 95 from Japan.

California is the most populous US state with around 40 million residents and if it were a country it would be the 5th largest economy in the world. It is home to four of the world’s ten largest companies and four of the ten richest people. California is considered a global trendsetter in so many areas including technology, film, new media, wine and, of course, fitness.

The can-do attitude here is layered with dynamism, creativity and a pace of life that’s infectious. No wonder the state has six of the fifteen fittest cities in the entire country. People who live in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego value their health and love working out thus thousands of people are inventing new concepts all the time. These cities are also home to some of the most successful global fitness trends including, group cycling, Piloxing, Pound, Aeriform and ViPR to name a few.

Fitness in California is the darling of the high street. A failed yoghurt shop turns into HIIT House , a failed nail bar turns into WoLAFiT , a failed show room turns into Carrie’s Pilates Plus , a failed fashion store becomes the fashionable CruBox . New brands like Bunda, (for a better butt), RiseNation, (30 minutes of VersaClimber classes), LIT (Low Impact Training based on water rower and resistance bands), Prevail (high energy group boxing classes) are just a very few of the new I tried or thought of trying.

StretchLab, seemed a good idea at the time, one to one assisted stretching for 25 minutes, but two days later I really felt it. StretchLab is one of the portfolio of concept brands under Xpotential Fitness, founded in 2017 and backed by private equity heavyweight TPG Growth. It already has RowHouse (a low-impact rowing concept), Club Pilates (with over 360 sites, it’s the USA largest Pilates franchise) and most recently a NYC dance concept (developed by Anna Kaiser InTensive). I tried their group cycling brand CycleBar in LA’s Culver City and this brand will debut at Battersea, London, UK, around June this year. Oliver Chipp has taken the master franchise agreement for the UK and plans to open over 30 studios over the next few years.

Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated boxer, 50-0, with an estimated fortune of $1 billion and renowned for his fitness levels has opened a flagship Mayweather Boxing & Fitness studio on Wilshire in LA. Small intense classes allow you to follow Floyd’s training programme. At the end of the class I asked my instructor how long it will take to improve my shadow boxing technique, about a year came the reply. To help me I have the Mayweather app and the virtual reality in-home workout. Mayweather and his team are thinking big, 200 sites over the next two years with a franchise model that offers to rebrand existing gyms which will help scale faster.

In 1986 Angel Banos first walked into a Gold’s Gym on Venice Beach and today, with his brother, they own 11 clubs in the Greater LA area and have just agreed to expand into southern California. One of my early LA favourites was Angel’s Gold’s West Hollywood on Cole. Besides the stunning atmosphere this club keeps the studio programme on trend with pre-choreographed Barre classes from SoulBody. I just wish my body holistically flowed as well as some people around me. Body bar and ballet barre are mindfully intense movements that work deep into the muscles, no wonder the word sculpt often comes up in conversation.

Outside the main cities the fitness love-in on the high street continues. Temecula City in Southern California, just north of San Diego, has a population of just over 100,000 with a median household income of $78,356. The City sustains over 20 fitness brands plus boutique studios, all scattered throughout the shopping complex and where the ‘high-value, low-price’ EOS Fitness are just fitting out a new site to add to the mix. EOS Fitness are expanding following the acquisition in 2015 by BRS and PEM. BRS previously took Town Sports International from 22 clubs to 162 and an IPO in ten years.

At the California Science Centre I watch, again, the launch of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and the dummy driver, Starman, cruising our solar system. You can follow its progress at whereisroadster.com

What if Elon thought fitness?

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By David Minton

Source: Sasakawa Sports Foundation

The dumb-bell economy: inside the booming business of exercise

As millennials become increasingly preoccupied with their physical and mental wellbeing, has the gym become the new pub?

Jo Ellison, FEBRUARY 9, 2018


An imposing corner building south of Green Park, in Piccadilly, 12 St James’s Street occupies an area associated with London’s gentlemen of leisure. It’s the home, after all, of TS Eliot’s Bustopher Jones — the “cat about town” — who had eight different clubs and white spats. The street, rich in the grandiose architecture of wealth, is studded with members-only bolt-holes.

Twelve St James’s Street also houses an exclusive club. But unlike its neighbours its allure is not in the promise of cognacs, cigars and the company of other men but in technologies designed to “redefine your potential”. E by Equinox, which opened officially last week, is a gym commanding a £500 initiation fee, plus a £350 monthly subscription, in return for sport’s most advanced innovations. Beneath the original cornicing, nestled among vast marble colonnades, runners work out in a mezzanine area, designated the Precision Running Zone, where a suite of treadmills fitted with O2 vaporisers filter out nitrogen gas to allow the body to work harder with less stress; a Pilates studio offers the Cadillac tower, from which you can balance suspended in a state of perfect spinal alignment; and an on-site valet sits ready to launder your gym kit and hand out clean towels impregnated with the tang of eucalyptus.

The dumb-bell economy is booming. Members’ clubs and boutique gyms (those smaller outfits offering specific, signature workouts via pay-as-you-go classes) are mushrooming in every metropolitan area in which affluent folk seek a spin class. They’ve become a magnet for celebrities, too: where once the paparazzi loitered outside hotel bars until the small hours hoping for a snap of someone in a state of drunken disarray, today they stalk the morning streets searching for A-listers running into Zumba lessons, or doing ballet at the barre. Drop by Barry’s Bootcamp on Euston Road on a Saturday morning, and you may well find yourself doing an hour-long “thousand-calorie workout” alongside Victoria Beckham (who, it is said, seldom breaks a sweat).

Where once consumers looked for acquisitions to express their status, our spending habits are shifting towards more holistic expenditures. In the past 20 years, the leisure industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic, disruptive and fashionable of forces. It’s all part of a new focus on the “lifestyle experience”, a trend that has possessed consumers and found luxury brands spiking with sporty new offerings — sneakers, leggings, apps and accessories — designed to harness the burgeoning market. As Harvey Spevak, the executive chairman and managing partner of the Equinox group, likes to say: “Health is the new wealth.”

David Minton, the founder and managing director of LeisureDB, who has been tracking UK consumer habits for more than 30 years, predicts the next two years will be a “golden age” of fitness. “The industry is likely to hit several milestones in 2018,” he explains. “The number of UK gyms is on course to go over 7,000 for the first time, total membership should exceed 10m, market value is expected to reach £5bn and the penetration rate should easily surpass 15 per cent. The growth will only be limited to the imagination of those pushing the boundaries.”

Likewise in the US. According to Marketwatch, Americans spent $19bn on gym memberships last year — and a further $33bn on sports equipment. But the study’s most significant feature was the scale of millennial spending: 36 per cent of 18- to 36-year-olds paid for a gym membership — twice the percentage of people older than them.

On a Wednesday lunchtime in midwinter, Equinox’s new Piccadilly outpost reflects these statistics rather well. The turnout is fairly evenly split between men and women, and most of them appear to be under 35. Some wear the hipster uniform — hoodies, man-buns, beards — others are more tidy and corporate-looking. A young woman performs a series of hanging leg lifts — up and down, up and down — with the same core strength and grace as the gymnast Simone Biles.

“They’re Type A personalities,” explains Spevak. A Bronx-born executive whose own schedule runs to three sessions a week with a personal trainer, five weekly runs on the treadmill and, when he can, a couple of SoulCycle classes, he’s fairly Type A himself. “They want it all,” he continues. “They want to figure out a way they can feel good, look good, be active, and be with like-minded individuals as well as thrive in whatever their personal objectives are . . . That could be their career, their relationship with their spouse, getting ready for their wedding, or post-divorce. It runs the range. Everybody’s got their own objectives. But our mission is helping people maximise the potential within themselves, and nobody does a better job at that than we do.”

Part of the US-based Equinox portfolio, E by Equinox is the second of the group’s standalone gyms of its type — the first opened in Kensington in 2012 — and the most expensive. Further Equinox fitness clubs will open in Shoreditch and Bishopsgate in late 2019. According to Spevak, the club offers “full-service luxury fitness using science-based research to create an experience that satisfies a high-performance lifestyle”. He wouldn’t mind at all if I described it as the Hermès of the exercise world.

Spevak has spent 25 years working in the leisure sector. He was an early gym pioneer. At Equinox, he oversees a portfolio that also includes Blink Fitness, a more accessible gym that operates 65 clubs across the US, and SoulCycle, the cult exercise boutique they purchased in 2011, and which currently operates 84 US outposts (it will arrive in London soon). Last month, they bought a minority stake in Rumble, a boxing boutique whose unique selling points are their “teardrop-shaped, water-filled” training bags and a “premium nightclub quality sound system”. It currently has two branches in New York.

As a privately owned company, Spevak won’t disclose the numbers, but business is brisk: Equinox’s 92 clubs currently have about 350,000 global members, who spend a “blended average” of about $3,500 each year. Blink Fitness is closing in on almost 400,000 members spending about $250 a year. Spevak will spend a further $1bn “in fresh capital” on reinvestment and expansion over the next five years. “We’ve always been a high-growth company,” says Spevak. “And high growth as we see it means growing 10 to 15 per cent from a profit perspective. That’s how we’ve grown for years, and that’s how we continue to grow.”

Meanwhile, next year will see the first Equinox hotel opening in New York’s Hudson Yards, the first in a rollout of Equinox hotels earmarked for billions more in investment. The hotels will be founded on the same full-service ideal as the clubs. “Our vision for the hotels is to cater to the high-performance traveller,” says Spevak, “and we think about it as we do, historically, from a science perspective. We call it MNR — movement, nutrition and recovery — where a high-performance lifestyle and a healthy lifestyle is a three-legged stool.” The clubs will also be a key feature of the hotels, where local members will be encouraged to work out with hotel guests in order to curate a more “authentic” traveller experience. “Because, if you think about it,” says Spevak, “nobody wants to hang out in the hotel restaurant or the hotel lobby with another business traveller.”

Twenty-five years ago, it was a different story. In 1999, investors weren’t interested in building gyms. “When I went to landlords and to investors, trying to raise capital, they would say to us, ‘You’re in a fad business, I don’t believe you’re going to exist in the future,’ ” says Spevak. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of stickiness in the gym world. “It was very mom-and-pop-y,” he continues, “and the financial and real estate community just didn’t want unstable business in their space. They didn’t want something that connoted something that they didn’t feel good about.”

Sitting in St James’s, in an area unparalleled for its grand associations, it’s clear how far that attitude has shifted. In the current landscape, businesses clamber over themselves to advertise their proximity to clubs. The gym has become a landmark feature in areas looking to gentrify and regenerate. And we’re all signing up. No question, millennials have had a profound influence on this new enthusiasm for exercise. As pubs continue to close at a rate of 29 a week, according to the Campaign for Real Ale, the culture of leisure is changing. That young people today prefer to sweat pints than to sink them is a fact we must consider. A study conducted by the student letting app SPCE last year found drink featuring last on the list of student expenditures, with 18 per cent of the 2,000 people asked saying they spent nothing on alcohol at all.

Additionally, as our lives have become busier, atomised and more urban, the gym has emerged as the new place in which to gather: to be part of a community. As Minton points out, not only are millennials more likely to buy gym memberships, they’re driving the boutique business as well. The rise of the group workout, club membership and all of the attendant accessories that come with it have become part of the new language of “wellness”. Self-care is now considered a luxury indulgence, and one’s club the new status symbol.

“Today’s consumer has an insatiable appetite for healthy living, or — as we call it — high-performance living,” says Spevak. “And that is a dramatic change from 25 years ago. If you were a health nut in 1995, you probably went to the gym twice a week. Today, being a health nut means taking two classes a day. The consumer wants to be healthy and feel good and look good. And you don’t just see it in our category, you see it in beauty and skincare. You see it manifesting itself in so many different ways.”

Where you work out, who you work out with, and what you wear to work out in have become totems of fashionability. Spevak traces the first shoots of the wellness trend to 9/11, when he saw a jump in the number of people becoming focused on holistic health and taking care of themselves. The proliferation of gyms in the years after was also a product of the 2008 recession, which opened a swath of prime real estate the new leisure entrepreneurs could exploit.

 
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But more than anything, the fitness boom must be a corollary of a digital revolution in which working out has become a ubiquitous feature of our online life; our social media feeds are saturated with videos and images of people doing dance classes, or advanced yoga poses, or supping post workout smoothies. Podcasts proliferate with meditation guides, sleep guides and inspirational lectures to make us more active. The gym hashtag has become a key signifier of a tribal society seeking to identify itself as part of a gang. Could one of the weirder ironies of phone addiction, and our increasing self-absorption, be to make us more health-conscious? As if to speak to precisely that point, I observe a young gym-goer in a crop top and leggings flashing selfies as she readies to work out.

“People go to the gym because they want to identify with the people they see there,” says Spevak. It’s presumably this same instinct — to engage and be seen as being part of something — that possesses a world-famous star such as Beyoncé or Victoria Beckham, who could afford to build state-of-the-art gyms in their basement, to attend group classes in public instead. “While we believe the home experience is growing, it’s a compliment,” says Spevak. “But at home you don’t get the chance to be with your community; and your community could be your bestie, or your partner. Or just like-minded people that you want to hang out with.”

Minton agrees that a gym’s success depends on cultivating this tribal loyalty, delivering a unique experience and then selling product that marks its members out. “Some of the most interesting clubs are those that are expanding into less obvious areas,” he says. “We now have over 600 boutiques across the UK and they are growing faster than traditional gyms as they have a smaller footprint and can take pop-up spaces. One of the best examples is Boom Cycle at the Curtain hotel [in east London].” The club takes over the hotel’s nightclub during the day, “and then morphs back into a club at night”.

The experiential market is throwing a lifeline to retailers, as well. “The fashion link is growing,” adds Minton. “Fitness apparel brands like Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, Reebok, Nike all now offer free in-store workouts, which provide them with an opportunity to market their brand lifestyles more directly and forge a connection with the consumer.”

The E by Equinox tribe is a crack elite. At the bar, an alpha type with hipster hair takes a conference call with his New York office. At the club’s food bar, Munch Fit, women choose between protein smoothies with ingredients such as acai, cashew butter and whey protein. Post-valet, they are dressed in the designer wardrobe of the super-wealthy: all Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel bags — one is enveloped in a huge Balenciaga shearling throw. Such a material display of wealth seems incongruous where one’s status is more often insinuated via the tier of trainer you chose to work with and how often you like to be embalmed in a cryogenic wrap.

On a wall near the entrance sits a range of branded sportswear, T-shirts and water bottles all marked with the Equinox stamp. I wonder whether a water bottle might one day surpass the handbag as a status symbol? “The demise of retail is a permanent shift,” says Spevak. “It doesn’t mean retail’s going to go away, but it’s going to look very different. The consumer, in my opinion, will continue to buy nice things for themselves, but I think in the scheme of priorities the experience is more important than the handbag.”
In the distance, a now-familiar whirr from the mezzanine announces the start of another oxygen-rich run. Eucalyptus infuses the air. The scent of wellness is very rich indeed.

Original Article - Financial Times

The future will be all about data...

As an estimated 80 per cent of CV equipment will be able to link up to Apple’s GymKit within a few years, the future will be all about data. Rather than threaten the role of the PT on the gym floor, I think data driven equipment will have the opposite effect and people will need more help, advice and reassurance on how to interpret it most efficiently. And, just as the car industry is having to adapt to the presence of electric cars, the fitness industry will also adapt. It will be more software than equipment led. With Apple, the largest tech company in the world, moving into our space and making it a data game, people’s perceptions of exercise will change. The gym is likely to be incorporated into everyday wellness habits like walking and climbing stairs. Data will give PTs the opportunity to get more involved with their clients between sessions, give personal push notifications, see what their clients are doing when not at the gym and praise them. This innovation will also involve more people from different levels of society, as one of the reasons why lower income groups don’t engage is because they often don’t know where to start. Operators will be forced to adapt, because their clients will adapt, but they should embrace the change. 

David Minton

Original Source: Health Club Management - issue January 2018, pg. 37

 
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December: Gym Owner Monthly

UK FITNESS MARKET

The total UK fitness market has just over 6,700 gyms and an overall penetration rate of 14.9%. England, the largest and most populous country, is home to most of the UK’s gyms; it also has the highest penetration rate (15.3%). Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have penetration rates over 10%. How much growth will the industry see in 2018?

 
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Original Source: Gym Owner Monthly

How to fatten your profits as the world slims

Article in MoneyWeek by Alice Gråhns

Modern living has turned us into overweight, inactive couch potatoes. There’s an app for that, says Alice Gråhns – and an opportunity to profit for smart investors.

 
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Once upon a time, hard, regular physical exercise was part and parcel of our daily existence, rather than an optional extra we fitted in in our spare time. From ancient times until really fairly recently, our ancestors didn’t need expensive gym facilities to stay in shape. From hunter-gathers to farm labourers to industrial workers, a combination of physically demanding manual work, walking rather than driving, and a daily calorie intake restricted by necessity rather than choice, kept us active (if not always healthy). It’s little surprise that many of us struggle to keep fit in the modern era of sedentary jobs, widespread car ownership, and virtually limitless opportunities to snack.

This has created a burgeoning boom in businesses dedicated to keeping us healthy. In 2006, 13% of adults in England took part in regular fitness activities. By last year, this had risen to 16%. Today, one in every seven people in the UK is a member of a gym, and ever more are signing up. In the year to the end of March 2017, overall UK gym membership numbers grew by 5.1% (6.3% in terms of value), according to the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report by health and fitness consultancy LeisureDB. Meanwhile, the sector has grown globally from being worth $67bn in 2009 to $83bn last year. And it’s not just about going to the gym. Every aspect of the fitness industry – from sports centres to healthy foods to tracking technology and even “activewear” – is expanding rapidly. People don’t just care about what they do with their bodies, but also about what they put in them and on them.

Indeed, says David Minton, founder of LeisureDB, the industry is entering a golden age. Individuals are increasingly aware of the need to look after themselves, helped both by public health campaigns and (in the UK) the ongoing post-2012 Olympics “halo” effect. Meanwhile, fitness facilities are ever more widespread and of higher quality, customer service is improving, and gym membership is becoming more affordable, says Steven Ward, chief executive at UK Active. While the 16- to 34-year-old demographic is the key target market (young consumers generally are), the older generation is also increasingly interested in getting into shape.

Then there’s the expanding role the government sees for the industry. We wrote about the obesity epidemic a few months ago in MoneyWeek, but increasingly there’s a new public health enemy number one – inactivity. Physical inactivity is the largest cause of premature mortality globally, according to the World Health Organisation. Nearly 13 million people in the UK are classed as physically inactive, meaning they fail to rack up at least 30 minutes of physical activity per week. The fitness industry can only benefit from government efforts to tackle that. Indeed, all of those inactive adults represent a significant growth opportunity.

Big health is big business

As demand has grown, the range of options for keeping fit has widened considerably. These days, in most British cities, you’ll see a fitness centre on every other street corner – be it a low-cost gym, a boutique gym or an expensive health club with fancier facilities. Much of the industry’s growth is arising at the budget end of the market. There are now more than 500 low-cost clubs (defined as those charging less than £20 a month), accounting for 15% of the market value and more than a third of total membership. Beyond offering keen pricing, budget chains attract customers by offering 24-hour access (so you can work out around your working day) and freedom from annual contracts.

These budget gyms often appeal to first-timers who, as they become fitter, may work their way up the market, says Minton. Boutique gyms are smaller and more exclusive than low-cost gyms, and tend to focus on one specific area of fitness. Alternatively, health clubs are larger and more anonymous, but usually have the most extensive facilities, with spas and swimming pools. But whatever the entry level, the two key staples of the fitness industry are gym sessions (people working out individually) and fitness classes (exercising as a group), says Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England. Almost 4.5 million people do gym sessions regularly and 1.6 million people take fitness classes. Men generally tend to stick to weightlifting, while women typically favour group workouts, says O’Keefe. This is a trend that has become more apparent fairly recently, helped partly by the high profile of female athletes at the London Olympics in 2012.

The industry itself – not unlike the fashion business – is very good at creating and responding to demand, generating an ongoing stream of new classes to capture fickle consumers’ imaginations. A couple of years ago, Zumba was the “in” exercise. Today, CrossFit, yoga and innovative spinning (cycling on the spot) classes have taken over. Even nightclubs have joined in – they provide exercise classes during the day and put the gym equipment away for the night.

It’s about what you eat too

Interest in healthy eating is booming too. And you don’t have to be an ardent gym bunny to care about watching what you eat. For example, the UK market for organic food is now worth nearly £2.1bn, and is growing strongly – total sales of organic food grew by 7.1% last year, according to the Soil Association, while non-organic sales fell. A growing number of companies now provide healthy meal and nutrition plans delivered direct to your door.

However, above and beyond those who desire a more healthy diet, there’s a growing appetite for supplements and specialist foods aimed specifically at gym fanatics, bodybuilders, professional athletes and enthusiastic amateurs: everything from so-called “superfoods” packed with vitamins and antioxidants to protein shakes. It’s fair to say that the scientific benefits of many of these supplements are the subject of debate and others are simply soft drinks repackaged as “lifestyle” brands. Yet demand for these products is growing just as, if not more, rapidly than the market for organic food. The global sports nutrition market is already worth nearly $30bn and it’s expected to grow at an annual rate of around 8.1% for the next five years, to reach a value of $45.27bn by 2022.

The rise of “athleisure”

The growing cult of the body – with everyone from celebrities to fitness bloggers to “ordinary” people given to posting snapshots of their “rock-hard abs” on social media – has also fuelled a desire to look good in workout gear. Scruffy tracksuit bottoms won’t cut it in your high-end boutique gym, leading to a rapidly growing market for athletic products and apparel. Increasingly that trend is spilling out into the high street. Sportswear is not just for exercise. Indeed, many people who wouldn’t go to the gym if you paid them will nevertheless snap up expensive “athleisure” gear. According to GlobalData, growth in the sportswear sector is set to outpace the total UK clothing market this year, which itself is expected to grow by 2.1%.

Indeed, the fashion trend is so popular that many wonder how long its vertiginous rise can be sustained. However, investors can relax – even if UK consumers start to find new fashions, the global trend remains robust, driven partly by growth in China. In fact, global athletic wear sales are expected to increase by nearly 20% by 2021, to $355bn from $290bn currently, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley. This can be attributed to the increasing number of luxury fashion designers turning their eye to sportswear. Stella McCartney designed the Team GB kit for the 2012 Olympics, and since then both Chanel and Dior have released couture trainers, while Alexander Wang launched an athletics range for H&M. The activewear trend has, of course, also boosted sports brands such as Nike and Adidas.

A robotic nag

Another growing obsession – both in terms of physical health and the wider self-help movement – is the drive  for relentless self-improvement via the formation of healthy habits. This usually involves keeping some sort of record  of your activities, which in turn has increased demand for devices that can track what you do – and nag you gently (or not so gently) when you fail to achieve your daily targets.

The chances are that you already have such a device – or at the very least, your smartphone has the capability to act as a fitness tracker if you download the right app. Technology is disrupting most businesses on the planet and the fitness industry is no exception. Wearable devices – from phones to smartwatches to simple wristbands – mean that you can now easily track how far you’ve run, what speed you’ve been going at, and how many calories you’ve burned. And a few days after your run, you’ll get an electronic reminder that you found 7.30pm on Tuesday evening to be a convenient time for a workout –  don’t you think that now is the ideal time for another one?

This ability to track our progress and to adjust our exercise patterns accordingly has in turn fuelled even more demand for yet more data and analysis. As a result, the global wearables sector is expected to rocket in value from $23bn last year to $173bn in 2020, according to global analyst MarketsandMarkets. 

The disruption caused by technology in the fitness industry isn’t all about wearable technology. The software at the back-end of a fitness centre is just as important – whether it be a booking system, a management tool for members’ access to the facility, or an automated sales system. In the future, these customer-relationship management (CRM) systems will undergo major changes as artificial intelligence becomes increasingly popular, reckons Minton.

The goal of any fitness services provider is ultimately to make the process more seamless – the fewer hurdles there are between a customer joining the gym and following through on their good intentions to use it, the more profitable the gym is likely to be. Artificial intelligence will help to personalise membership for each customer – your gym’s software will learn what type of activity you like, and send personalised “push notifications”, informing you of upcoming classes you might enjoy and offering to book you in for a session. Just as wearables already know your preferences, so your local gym will too.

The five best stocks to buy now

If you want to invest in the growth of the fitness market, US-based Planet Fitness (NYSE: PLNT) is one of the largest and fastest-growing gym chains in the world, with around seven million members. The company’s quarterly revenue has climbed 12.1% year over year to $97.5m, but unfortunately, that rapid growth appears to be thoroughly priced in after the share price surged following the strong results – it now trades on a steep price/earnings (p/e) ratio of 45. An alternative UK-based option is the low-cost fitness chain The Gym Group (LSE: GYM). The company has 95 gyms in the UK and plans to open another 20. It’s growing fast too – it saw revenue rise by 18.8% to £42.8m in the six months to June 30 – but trades on a slightly less eye-watering forward p/e of below 30, which is just about reasonable (though still not cheap) given the growth rate. 

On the dieting side, there are several big US firms that produce diet plans and low-calorie foods, including Weight Watchers and Medifast. Ever so slightly cheaper than either of those – on a forward p/e of around 25 – is Nutrisystem (Nasdaq: NTRI). Brokers are targeting an average price of around $70 a share for the stock, compared with its current level of just below $50. Another option you may be considering is supplements provider Herbalife, given its p/e of 14. However, we’d be wary of this one – Herbalife is a consistent short-selling target, and while it has thwarted the shorts so far (notably hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman), we wouldn’t risk investing without doing detailed due diligence first.

A key brand to keep an eye on in the activewear sector is Adidas (Frankfurt: ADS). In North America, sales jumped 31% in the last quarter, topping $1bn in the region at a time when Adidas’s two biggest rivals, Nike and Under Armour, have struggled to keep sales up on their home turf. On a p/e of 28, it’s not cheap, but of the big brands it currently looks the best option. A less obvious bet is Lululemon Athletica (Nasdaq: LULU). The upmarket yoga and fitness gear company has struggled amid concerns over potential competition from Amazon and Nike, but continues to expand both internationally and in other areas, such as men’s clothing.

On the tech side, one option is Mindbody (Nasdaq: MB). This $1.5bn firm provides cloud-based business-management software and payment systems for “the wellness services industry”, and offers an app designed to help users find and book exercise classes. It doesn’t yet make a profit, so it’s risky, but revenues are growing fast.

Flame2017

Wednesday was the annual #Flame2017 event run by UKActive & what a brilliant event it was. The day was spent attending a varied range of talks hosted by Olympic athletes to tech experts and the night was a fun-filled evening of awards, dancing & gin. 

The event kicked off with a thought provoking talk by Steven Ward, CEO of UKActive as he discussed the growing importance of promoting physical activity within the UK. Followed by Dave Wright, CEO of Myzone, who recently launched free virtual classes and a chat feature for trainers. 

Two keynote speakers then took over the stage - Jonathan MacDonald, the founder of Thought Expansion Network followed by Luis Huete, a business school professor & author. 

For the breakout sessions we attended two talks. The first by professional skipper, Alex Phillips who has spent an astounding 17 years at sea and travelled over 150,000 miles on the water. Back in 2000 she managed the yacht "Quadstone" in the BT Global Challenge, also known as "The World's Toughest Yacht Race". The race involves navigating a 70ft steel yacht 29,000 nautical miles around the world starting in Portsmouth and heading West to East.  

The afternoon keynote speaker was none other than track cyclist Jason Kenny, team GB's 6 Olympic Gold medal holder. Kenny and Tanni Grey-Thompson discussed what its like to be a world class athlete and of Kenny's experiences at the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics. A fantastic talk with fascinating insight into the world of professional sport!

The final breakout session of the day was with Professor Andy Miah, a futurist and lover of all things tech. Miah discussed technology trends, the future of sport and fitness and possibility of augmented reality gyms. Miah stated that the "crucial tech parameters of physical activity are mixed reality, mobile health and gamification". The future of sport and fitness is developing through a wide range of tech such as health based mobile apps, esports, wearables, artificial intelligence and ingestible sensors. What sort of possibilities could technology bring to the industry? Why isn't sport made more immersive with the use of technology? An example by Miah was the possibility of projecting the Olympic swimming races live onto pools so spectators could watch and feel part of the experience. And finally, what will it take to create an augmented reality gym? Play. Compete. Develop. Exercise. Research. 

The evening was brilliant and team LeisureDB smashed their daily step count by dancing into the early hours of Thursday morning. Sat with the wonderful (& nominated) Jubilee Hall Trust team during the awards ceremony...Congratulations to all of the award winners and runners up! A huge thank you to UKActive for another fantastic Flame event. See you next year! 

June: Health Club Management

A golden age for the health club industry

The latest numbers from The Leisure Database Company show the market is growing strongly and anticipating a golden age between now and 2020. David Minton reports...

The number of gyms and members, the market value of the sector and penetration rates for memberships are the key metrics detailed in the 2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report published by LeisureDB and they all show the UK fitness industry to be in rude health.

There are now over 9.7m fitness members (an increase of 5.1 per cent from 2016), which has boosted the penetration rate to an all-time high of 14.9 per cent, compared to 14.3 per cent 12 months ago. The market value has continued to grow and is now estimated to be £4.7bn, a 6.3 per cent increase. Now, in the UK, 1 in every 7 people are members of a gym – the most ever.

Budget success
The low-cost market has continued to be the main driving force of the industry. With over 500 sites, they now account for 15 per cent of the market value and an impressive 35 per cent of membership across the private sector.

Some trusts, management contractors and in-house operators across the public sector are also operating low-cost gyms and many of the low-cost brands have discovered that the strength of the market in some areas enables them to raise and move into the mid-market.

Fitness brands, with transparency of pricing and offering, are continuing to grow and by utilising good social media practices and constantly listening and responding to their customers, they are meeting and exceeding their needs.

Investment
However, they are not alone in pushing the boundaries and experimenting with innovation. Both the private mid-market operators and many public sector sites are also investing and expanding their market. Franchise brands have also had their best year to date and some top end brands are quoted as having more members now than ever before.

For the first time in five years, the public sector saw a small decline in membership numbers after closing more sites than it opened for the second year running. With almost 50 per cent of public sites still to go out to tender, the trusts and contract management companies have an opportunity to turn this decline back to growth in 2018 and beyond.

The trend data shows how the industry has grown over the last five years and in 2017 the industry now offers the widest possible choice of fitness options. New technology and innovation feeds into the existing industry at all levels and could in-part be responsible for helping expand the market.

Diversification
Location search, live timetables and deeper booking integration will be commonplace very shortly through search engines, social media platforms and apps. Online class bookings, currently available across 41 per cent of the private sector and 61 per cent of the public, shows good levels of adoption, even if some of the interfaces are still clunky to use for the more tech-savvy consumers.

Meanwhile new fitness experiences, via travel companies, community groups and highly curated events, are often reliant on the consumer having higher levels of fitness to take part.

Boutiques and the growing fitness-for-free sector are all anecdotally helping expand the market, and opportunities at activewear shops, park gyms and meet-ups via apps all seem to be feeding into the core fitness industry.

The consumer brings greater expectation for a better and more connected experience, and despite the current political and fiscal uncertainties, the report remains very positive about the future. It may be a little premature to call the period between 2017 and 2020 the “golden age of fitness” but the industry is likely to reach some key milestones in 2018, including the number of fitness sites surpassing 7,000 for the first time, total membership exceeding 10m, market value totalling £5bn and the penetration rate easily surpassing 15 per cent of the total population. Obviously, the devil is in the detail and the detail is exactly what’s is in this report.

Details from www.leisuredb.com/publications

Original HCM article here

2017 STATE OF THE UK SWIMMING INDUSTRY REPORT - OUT TODAY

 
 

1st June 2017

The 2017 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report reveals that the number of pools has continued to decline slightly over the last 12 months. The number of swimming pool sites has dropped by 0.5%. For the fifth year in a row, more swimming pool sites have closed than opened.

 

The UK’s leading operator (by number of sites) is public leisure trust GLL, with 122 swimming centres. They are followed by Nuffield Health in the private sector who have 110 clubs with a swimming pool.

 

The 2017 report highlights that 84% of the UK population live within 2 miles of one of the 3,158 swimming pool sites.

 

Commenting on the figures, David Minton, Director of LeisureDB said: “Despite another slight decline in overall swimming pool numbers, technology and water that have previously caused a few issues for innovators are finally beginning to come together. New ideas and products to encourage swimming participation are emerging and it will be interesting to see how these developments impact the UK swimming pool market over the next 12 months”.

Summary of Key Facts

  • There are now 3,158 swimming sites in the UK, down from 3,173 last year.
  • 34 new public and private swimming pool sites opened, down from 40 in 2016.
  • Public pay and play fees have increased by 3% over the last 12 months.

 

Notes

The State of the UK Swimming Industry Report is compiled from the most comprehensive review of the UK swimming industry, involving individual contact with all sites. The reporting period is the 12 months to 31st March 2017. The audit and resulting figures are compiled by independent leisure market analysts, LeisureDB, who have been monitoring the performance of the fitness and swimming industry for over 30 years. Further details of the report can be found here 2017 State of the UK Swimming Industry Report.

Tech Will Shape Our Industry

Gerald Ratner, in 1991, achieved notoriety in the UK after making a speech in which he jokingly denigrated two of the jewellery products sold by his company. The so called ‘Ratner Effect’ caused the company’s near collapse. In the USA the hashtag #DeleteUber started trending in January and so far, 2017 for Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, it’s been annus horribilis. Although Kalanick has stepped down from Trump’s advisory council, prompting another mea culpa, the embattled ride hailing company is still surrounded by controversy.  Uber’s troubles have resulted in market share gains for Lyft, it’s main competitor, according to TXN Solutions which tracks debit and credit spending. Uber spend across the US has declined since January by 2% while Lyft has jumped 30% on average. In Uber’s home city, San Francisco, spend was down 8% while Lyft jumped 24%.

For IHRSA attendees in Los Angeles the ride hailing service Lyft became the de facto service and for those with ApplePay, a Lyft (get it?) was just a finger touch away…how simple and intuitive. Lyft’s use of the latest technology provides a seamless digital gateway of choice and many lessons for the fitness industry.  Consumers are in control and brands need to stop interrupting with bad technology and trying to sell unwanted products or services and instead start having smart conversations and start listening. Lyft has that conversation and is listening after every ride and if it wasn’t perfect, how could it have been better. When did you receive a request to rate your instructor, the class, the PT, the club even. For me? Never. Those fitness brands who offer transparency of pricing are growing faster than ever and the same brands are open about the good, and maybe not so good, conversations they are having with their customers but they listen and respond. Peer reviews of the workout, instructors and the all-important experience keeps everyone on their toes. 

At the Networking Roundtable chaired by Bryan O’Rourke, operators degraded the heritage CRM systems that the industry is suffering under. So, will traditional CRM systems be dead in 5 years time? Probably. Some heavy competition is being tested in California. Reserve with Google, gives deeper booking integration so local search, which relies on live timetable APIs, becomes more transactional. Previously booking buttons would link away to a third party provider but now its deeply integrated. Mindbody, Full Slate, Front Desk, Appointy are all currently live on Reserve with Google and ZingFit, MyTime and Genbook are coming soon. Only Mindbody were demonstrating this integration at IHRSA but hopefully all will be there next year in San Diego. More competition is coming from Facebook who have recently added local reservations and integrated bookings. Its Events calendar has been turned into a standalone app, allowing groups of friends to book and buy activities together. Airbnb are linking the consumer to a world of fitness experiences which taps Airbnb’s community to offer highly curated opportunities. Even Yelp is accelerating adoption of local listings to include payments and bookings. It won’t be long before Amazon make an announcement in this area, linked to Alexa searches.  All these companies, plus Apple, have fitness teams analysing the industry and how they can disrupt it, search and bookings is an obvious one.

Reserve with Google was live in LA so IHRSA delegates could logon to experience the granular search, from APIs of live timetables, linked to seamless integrated booking. Reserve puts the consumer at the centre of the search and through Artificial Intelligence (AI), constantly learning what type of class or activity you like, will deliver your personalised push notifications that addresses the question of which class, where and what time before you’ve thought of it. Those poised to take advantage of this new era are the boutiques, fitness without boundaries, community activities and meet-ups. In the UK public sector sites and trusts have been early adopters of live timetables and APIs, concretely demonstrating the value of digital. For those of you who are still using Pdf’s, and heaven forbid, a Pdf on an app, then help is at hand.  AiT (Active in Time) http://info.activeintime.com/operator-software-explained/ a UK start-up company provide the free software and for a small monthly charge APIs for those who want to be part of the digital revolution. Over 500 sites in the UK and Ireland are now live and pushing digital innovation.  AiT offers to integrate your live timetables into these new search and booking services as they become available in the UK.

IHRSA is known for its roundtables, as mentioned above, and keynotes. Soraya Darabi, a Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum said we can’t create emotional attachment if we stand for nothing. So Lyft drivers stand for great service, good value and working for a company they admire. From Soraya’s experience at her local gym in Brooklyn she wonders if the fitness industry, which has the potential, will ever develop the same emotional attachment. Martin Lindstrom, a brand futurist, suggested ‘living with the client’ or listening to the consumer because how many fitness sites have anything more than a feedback form? Lindstrom used the supermarket Lowes to show how it was ‘small data’ that helped turn around a failing brand, not big data. Lowes relaunch has some fun elements but Jonny Earle, alias Jonny Cupcakes was off the wall. He created a brand and inspired customer loyalty from shops that don’t sell cupcakes but t-shirts. My favourite was the breakfast t-shirt which you could only buy between 7-11am.

The 21st annual IHRSA financial panel moderated by Rick Caro emphasized that detailed knowledge of the industry is limited even when big investments are being made. l hope Rick will come to London in October for IHRSA Europe and put a panel of UK investors together who have access to the most detailed data on the industry thanks to LeisureDB. LeisureDB will be presenting in October its data analysis platform and the historical trends from its annual State of the UK Fitness Industry Report and live monitoring of the industry from its Social Media Fitness Index.

Historically prospectors in the Californian gold rush needed a shovel and a sieve, now influencers do the spade work for you. ‘Cycologists’ create 45 minute experiences you want to pay $30 for and who ignite avid followers. I’m following Shannon at Aura on Third, https://www.auraworkout.com  and Nick at Cycle House on Melrose, http://cyclehousela.com...Who are you following?

- David Minton, Director of LeisureDB - IHRSA 2017

Valentine's Day Special

We want to share the love of fitness so we've picked our top 5 Valentine's Weekend Offers:

1. The Pendle Leisure Trust believe that if you train together, you'll stay together so they're giving away couples 7 day fitness passes for free. The offer is valid until February 15th and gives you access to 4 gyms, 3 swimming pools, fitness classes, water-based exercise classes, personal fitness advice and an induction.  

 
 

2. 1Life at Sleaford is giving away 3 day free passes for a member to bring along a friend. The pass includes access to the gym, pool, classes and squash courts and can be used between Friday 12th to Sunday 15th. Whilst, 1Life Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre is offering joint membership for just £19.99 a month.  

3. Places for People want you to fall in love with their #Place and they're offering the rest of February at only £14 (plus an admin fee). The membership includes unlimited gym, swim and class access and the offer also applies to swim only memberships. 

 
 

4. TruGym are taking a slightly different approach to Valentine's and are having 'Bring a Buddy' weekend between 13th and 14th February meaning you can train with a friend for free. 

5.  A number of Pure Gym sites including Edgware, Wakefield and Newcastle Eldon Garden, are giving out free day passes for loved ones or friends using the code 'PGLOVE' which can be used between the 13th and 14th. Pure Gym Widnes have a no contract 24/7 membership for £14.99 so you can get in shape for Sunday and Pure Gym Newport are giving away free day passes using the promotional code 'LOVE' which will be valid for use between 12th-14th February. 

These other Valentine's offers are also worth mentioning:

Active4Less Hove are feeling the love and to show it they're are giving out Valentine vouchers at reception which lets you bring a loved one to the gym for free. It's valid until 14th February but does not include classes.

The Rossendale Leisure Trust are giving away a whole year's membership for just £250 as part of their Valentine's Offer.

Fit4Less Enfield are asking members to refer a friend and win the chance for a dinner for 2 at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. 

And finally, there's a few other brands which may not be offering voucher codes, discounts or free passes but are still promoting the romantic weekend vibes. Everyone Active Cambourne are suggesting couples Valentine's Day workouts whilst the newly opened boutique cycling studio, Pure Ride, will be celebrating on 12th February with special edition classes and unique sounds. 

Happy Valentine's Day!