When Did Gyms Become Popular?

Girls laughing in the gym

If you ask most people, they think that fitness products, gyms etc are a relatively new phenomenon. However, if you trace the data back you would see that everything fitness started to become more popular in the 1970s with things like jogging and jazzercise classes. 

Going back further than this, physical exercise goes back centuries before we had all these fancy machines and weights. But, then people didn't really look at this as exercises it was pretty much a way of life and because most work was physical people tended to get all the exercise they needed.

Strange enough, the majority of the population were a lot fitter than we are today and that's purely because they weren't sitting at desks and got a lot more exercise due to the type of work they did .

If we went back to caveman times you can imagine the amount of exercise people got just trying to stay alive. There was a lot more running, climbing and due to the hostile environment and harsh landscape there was no way you could survive without being fit.

If you're in the fitness industry and you regularly go to the gym you might live in a bubble and think that the vast majority of people are into fitness. Unfortunately, this isn't the case and the vast majority of the population very rarely partake in any type of fitness activity.

So when did it all change?

The fitness industry and gyms started to pick up pace in the early 1980s when industry figured out that they could charge extortionate fees and yearly subscriptions to a population that wanted to start getting fit. In effect money and profit was the driver.

The fitness industry today is a multi-trillion-dollar industry linked with clothing, food, drinks, equipment, and gyms.

Before this, the choice was sparse and it was only local authorities and councils that ran gyms. This was before it was heavily commercialised. At this time you local gym would have been tagged on to either a swimming pool or tennis court.

A lot of this was fuelled by the desire to have the right body, physique and to look “beautiful.”

A lot of the new programs, films and soap operas were now driving this change, not only to sell box office tickets and TV subscriptions but also to sell anything related to trying to make yourself look and feel better.

This was a massive change in our society!

The Gym Culture

In the 80s the gym culture was born. In fact, if you go back in time you may remember seeing people with sweatbands and leg warmers. 

There was also a new industry developing which was that of the fitness video (in essence an information product).

What made these videos so profitable was the fact that you only needed to produce this product once, package it up and selling millions of times to the consumer.

If you can imagine with all of this going on the gym culture developed. Not only was it cool and hip to be at the gym, but the message was also put out there that if you wanted to be as beautiful as the people on the TV then you had to get yourself down to the gym.

This was a start the gym culture and when they became popular.

The business model

In the 80s operating a gym was extremely profitable because back then you could only purchase an annual subscription. This means that even if you didn't use the gym you will still have to pay for it.

You guessed it, the vast majority of people (even the most enthusiastic) were motivated to use the gym at the start of their subscription, but once reality kicked in they would use the gym sporadically and sometimes never enter the gym again even though they paid for it.

Fun Facts:

Your Salary Influences Your Gym Habits

Did you know that the larger your salary the more likely you are to go to the gym? This should probably come as no surprise as we talking about disposable income here really aren't we?  

The larger your disposable income the more money you have to spend on leisure activities. In fact, there was a study of 1600 participants by healthcare charity Nuffield Health that found that people earning less than £20,000 per year use the gym for an average of an hour per week.

Those earning more tended to spend about 3 hours per week on average.

People Use The Gym To Pick Up Dates

This one may seem a little strange but it is true, people are just going to the gym to get fit they also have an ulterior motive.

That ulterior motive is to find themselves a date. There was a study commissioned by Kettler who sampled 2,000 participants. Can you believe that 50 percent said they only go to the gym to check out the opposite sex or meet friends?  

This was a surprise to me.

Even more surprising was the fact that almost a third of them had never even broken a sweat at the gym.

Gym Goers Likely To Eat More Chocolate

This one might be down to feeling the need to replace energy after a workout, but according to Market Research World, gym goers are more likely to eat chocolate than non-gym goers.  

In fact, if you are regular at the gym then you are 18% more likely to indulge in a chocolate bar than those that don't.

Maybe they think that because they have burnt off a lot of energy and calories that they are entitled to have a sneaky chocolate bar?  

Whatever the reason, it's definitely a strange statistic.

Redundant Gym Memberships Outstrip Active Memberships

Even though gym memberships have reduced in price dramatically over the last few years it's still not that cheap to pay for something that you're not using.

Based on this fact, you would be amazed at the number of people that pay for a membership and don't use it.

They reckon the statistic is as high as 80% of people that pay for a gym subscription don't use it.

This pattern has been found to be the same all around the world. so it's not just a UK thing.

New Year Good Intentions Never Last

The most popular time for people to use the gym is the post festive season. When everyone has all of these great intentions that unfortunately never last.

They say that of the people that sign up for the gym in January a large proportion of them either quit or stop going after 24 weeks. It's only the ones that have signed up for 6 or 12 months that actually stretch it out a bit longer.

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