Reasons Why People Stop Going to the Gym

There are plenty of reasons why people stop going to the gym. In this article, we’ll look at some of the more common reasons and things you can do to prevent most of them.

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The last thing that any gym owner wants is for a member to cancel their membership. Unless the member is skipping town or has had a medical/family issue, the loss of that member will represent a failure. Either of the gym or of the member, not that you should ever word it that way.

In this article, we are going to explore the reasons why people stop going to the gym so that you can help to reduce the chances of most of these occurring.

3 Ways of Looking at All the Reasons

Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll look at some of the most common reasons why people leave the gym. But all of these reasons fall into 3 groups:

  1. Reasons that are directly inside your control – such as poor customer service, price hikes or a better gym experience elsewhere.
  2. Reasons that are inside your influence – while some factors you’re not fully responsible for, you can influence, such as low motivation, lack of results, gym obscurity, lack of time, and injury from training.
  3. Reasons that are completely outside your control – such as relocating, loss of job, injury from other activities, illness and of course, pandemics or other crises.

In the end, there are some reasons for people leaving your gym that are completely outside of your control, some that you can influence and some which you have full responsibility.

Successful gyms don’t dwell on the reasons such as pandemics, they focus on correcting those that are inside their control such as creating a better workout experience than their competition. Truly exceptional gyms also mitigate reasons within their influence such as lack of motivation.

Give Reasons for People to Keep Going to the Gym

Helping members to feel more confident at the gym, to set realistic goals, and to analyse how they are doing are all excellent ways to help prevent them from leaving. Taking these measures will help boost motivation, make the gym less intimidating and increase satisfaction amongst your members.

But the point is to not only give them less reasons to stop going to the gym, but to also give them more reasons to keep going to the gym. And once you’ve taken measures to prevent the reasons we’ll talk about below, the next step is to help your members build healthy habits so that keeping them becomes even easier.

If you want to get ahead, here are some ways to help your members build healthy habits.

Reasons Why People Stop Going to the Gym

Here are eleven reasons why people stop going to the gym, and (where applicable) we’ve given our advice on how to mitigate or prevent them.

Reason #1 Lack of motivation

Most of the time, people feel some varying degree of intrinsic motivation to sign up for a gym membership. Whether that’s looking in the mirror and feeling compelled to lose weight or in search for a space to relieve stress and “get away”. But that initial intrinsic motivator usually isn’t enough to sustain your members motivation long-term.

Before we talk about some ways to remedy a lack of motivation from your members, let’s talk about the two kinds of motivation:

  1. Intrinsic – this motivation comes from within (more examples include the “high” you get during the workout or the feeling of accomplishment)
  2. Extrinsic – this motivation comes from outside (pressure from a partner, expectation of a reward, accountability by a trainer)

In order to motivate your members long term, you should pay attention to both kinds of motivation. Firstly, you should find out what their intrinsic motivation is. It is usually tied to their overall goal or reason for signing up in the first place. Once you understand this, you could nurture that intrinsic motivation. For instance, if a lot of your members signed up to lose weight, you could offer nutrition plans, introduce a “weight loss” workout program, or even recognize members that achieved their weight loss goals (with their permission).

You should also think about how to motivate your members extrinsically and not only rely on their intrinsic motivation. Some ways could be through praise on social media, holding competitions and offering rewards or simply acknowledging their commitment and accomplishments.

Here are some more tips on how to motivate your members extrinsically.

Reason #2 Lack of support

Many fitness professionals tend to forget just how confusing and intimating going to the gym can be to a new member. This is probably not that surprising, many experts forget how little the public knows about their chosen field. Think about the last time you took your car in for servicing. For those who don’t know anything about cars, it might sound like the mechanic is speaking Chinese while he explains that there was a head gasket issue caused by mayonnaise build up under the oil cap.

Without support, a member is going to really struggle to plan and execute a workout program. This means that they will get subpar results and are unlikely to enjoy the process. Not having someone from the gym come over and offer advice or let them know that they are available if the member has any questions, could give that member reason enough to leave.

There are so many advantages to having staff members interact more with newer members, and few (if any) downsides. Your staff will enjoy it (if they don’t enjoy giving advice about working out, then they are probably not a great fit for this career choice). New members will feel empowered and supported, they will get better results, lower their risk of injury or damage to the gym, and there will be a friendlier and more cooperative atmosphere in the gym.

Reason #3 Boredom

Another thing that many fitness professionals don’t seem to realise is that most people HATE exercising. There are many reasons for this, bad program choices, lack of results, lack of support and integration with the gym community. But ultimately, exercise can be quite boring even if you are following a good program and seeing good progress.

One way to relieve boredom is to get your members interacting more with each other. Using a gym-wide fitness app to create a community is a great step. Running in-gym competitions, hosting charity events, and having an active social media community are all ways to help your members socialise and relieve some boredom.

Here are some ways to gamify your gym experience and make it more fun.

Reason #4 Perception of Failure

In general, people are terrible at evaluating their own performance. This has been well known for a long time. This poor evaluation can sometimes lead to ridiculously high estimations of strength, intelligence, or perceived attractiveness. But it can also lead to people evaluating themselves negatively.

Body dysmorphia is a serious condition where people are unable to see their body realistically. It can lead to eating disorders in both men and women, and anyone can suffer from it. This is not something that you are likely to be qualified to deal with, and you certainly shouldn’t try.

But a more common issue is people not realizing just how far they have come. They are obsessed with the number on the scales, and fail to see how much stronger they are, how much fitter, coordinated, confident. This is something that you can highlight through progress meetings or a fitness tracking solution.

Read more about the benefits of including fitness tracking as an amenity to your gym.

Reason #5 Injury or Illness

These are very common reasons why people stop going to the gym. Unfortunately, with these, you don’t have much control over. If somebody gets sick, then there is absolutely nothing you can do. However, the more support you give to your members, the less likely it is that they injure themselves training at your gym.

People often injure themselves over training, lifting too heavy, using bad form, or just not warming up before jumping right into it. Some things you can do to prevent your members from injuring themselves at your gym are:

  1. Educating your members – on proper form, the importance of warming up and stretching, etc. This can be done during onboarding and progress meetings or posting information on your website and making it easily accessible for your members.
  2. Monitoring your members workouts – This is admittedly a little more difficult but can be done by taking 15-30 minutes to observe the gym floor and making on the spot corrections or hosting group sessions that focuses on proper form for certain exercises.
  3. Offering additional injury prevention services – such as massages or hiring a good physio in-house (or recommending one).

In the end, a study conducted by personal injury solicitors Hayward Baker, claims that 41% of gym users in the UK have suffered an injury whilst training. So even though it’s not entirely inside your control, it’s worth your attention to try to prevent.

Reason #6 Poor customer service

This is a another very common reason why people stop going to the gym. The problem is that even if your customer service is perceived to be a 9.5/10, there’s always a small fraction (.5/10) of members who are dissatisfied. So while you may never meet the expectations of all your members, you should still do your best to maintain high standards, coach your staff, and focus on building a community.

The first step you can take to improve customer service is firstly identify your shortfalls. Ask your members what can be improved, either personally or through surveys distributed via email newsletter, at the gym and on your website.

Even if you correct and improve everything your surveyed members pointed out, this may not be enough to satisfy all your members. And it shouldn’t be expected that your members will identify all your shortfalls. So taking other measures like empowering your staff to make on-the-spot decisions or encouraging front desk staff to greet or start friendly conversations with members are great ways to be proactive with improving your customer service.

Reason #7 Poor facilities

Is your gym messy? Is there equipment that has been broken for weeks? Are there problems with the lighting in your changing rooms? People turn up to gyms at least once per week (on average) and often much more than that. So, you will find it harder to get away with broken equipment, or issues with your gym. Members will get frustrated fast.

Good communication of what has gone wrong, how you plan to fix it, and why it is taking so long, can go a long way to mitigate this issue. But ultimately it is your responsibility to fix issues if you want to keep your members happy. The quicker you fix them, the less likely your members start considering your competition.

Reason #8 Not feeling comfortable

Feeling comfortable is very important if people are going to enjoy their time in the gym. If someone isn’t enjoying their time in the gym (even a little) then they are unlikely to stay. Especially for new member, the first weeks can be very intimidating. It’s very important that your new members don’t wonder the gym floor like lost puppies after being onboarded. Some ways to make your members more confident at the gym:

  • Making new members feel welcomed and supported.
  • Improving overall member communication (from in-person communication to digital channels used to keep your members informed).
  • Getting staff to walk the gym floor, talk to people and get to know their members.
  • Hosting events that are designed to build a community and cultivate an inclusive environment.
  • Teaching people how to use all the equipment and workout safely.
  • Posting educational content on your website and social media channels like YouTube (for example, workout routines or exercises).
Reason #9 Life getting in the way

Family issues, work-related issues, medical issues, social lives, birthdays, holidays, weddings. You name it, there is a life event that is going to trip up your members. Being away from the gym for two weeks for one reason or another can quickly escalate into being away from the gym for a month, then all of a sudden, it’s 8 weeks, a year. You get the idea.

While you can’t control this, you can work on reaching out to members who you haven’t seen for a while. An email, a personalised text, a free PT session, even a phone call. These are all ways to help bring your members back and then you can work on keeping them there by improving your community and cohesion.  

Reason #10 Lack of time

This reason is among the most common. How often do you hear, “I’m too busy, I don’t have time to go to the gym anymore” or “I have a Peloton at home, so I don’t need to waste time driving to and from the gym”? While both excuses have their merits, and are not within your control, you can take steps to show your members you value their time and offer flexibility.

This excuse used to be entirely out of your hands, until the pandemic. The coronavirus showed the industry and consumers alike the benefits of at-home workouts. It also led to consumers expecting more value out of their gym memberships, rather than just access to equipment.

Offering at-home workouts via streaming services and adopting a hybrid approach could prevent busy people from ditching your membership entirely. While they might not have the time to go to the gym as often, you can keep them engaged with streamed workouts. This way they’ll feel it’s worth keeping their membership and can come in when they find the time.

At the same time, offering digital offerings that complement your in-gym offerings will show your members that Peloton isn’t their only option to get a good workout in at home, and that your gym can offer a more holistic experience to their fitness journey. All while saving them time when they don’t have much of it.

Though, if your members feel they just don’t have time for any kind of workouts, then ultimately, it’s out of your hands. But addressing this reason by offering digital fitness services, can prevent some members from leaving.

Reason #11 Success

This last reason may sound like a ridiculous one, but it happens more often than you know. Some people will stop going to the gym once they have successfully hit their goals. Think about it, if your goal is to lose 10 lbs before your holiday, and you succeed, then it may seem pointless to get back to the gym afterwards.

As a gym, it is up to you to teach them about continuing goals. Their short/medium term goal was to lose 10 lbs, but now that they’ve achieved this, what about focusing on improving their muscle tone? Or their stamina?

Be careful how you communicate this to a member. Saying “well done on the fat loss, but what about focusing on building some muscle?” is probably going to be taken as an insult! But saying “you absolutely crushed your goals, what are your next steps?” may come across better.

This type of open question will hopefully get them thinking about their future, and you can then help them set realistic and effective goals for the next 6 to 12 months. For this strategy to work, you need to have scheduled check-ins with your members. Perhaps you could implement a system where a member gets a free check-in and personal training session after they have been with your gym for 6 months?

Most Reasons Why People Stop Going to the Gym are Preventable

As you’ve probably noticed, most reasons why people stop going to the gym are completely within your control or at least within your influence. So the question is, what are you doing to prevent your members from finding one of these reasons?

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