New Year Resolutions?

It’s been a solid 26 days since the beginning of the new year, and I would bet that most resolutions–especially fitness resolutions–have fallen flat by now. Well, it turns out that maybe fitness resolution-makers shouldn’t carry the full burden of blame for their failings. In some ways, the system is stacked against them. NPR’s Planet Money scrutinized the business model of typical gym in a recent podcast episode. A brief summary of their observations:

  • It’s not in the interest of gyms’ financial interest to have frequently-attending members. More use means more cost (replacing machines, cleaning up, providing paper towels for de-sweatifying things), but not more revenue. Revenue is generated by monthly membership fees, which with a good marketing strategy, can be collected mostly independently of attendance.
  • Many gyms plan on non-attendance; they have a much higher membership than their facilities could handle if that membership were to attend regularly.
  • The monthly membership cost an “elite” gym in New York City (where members must attend regularly or their membership is dropped) provides a glimpse of a gym economy sans nonattendance; a monthly membership there runs in the high hundreds of dollars. Planet Money argues that, in a perverse way, the majority of non-attending gym members subsidize the gym system for the minority of attending members at most gyms. If everyone made use of the gym, facility and maintenance costs would skyrocket.

Definitely an interesting listen, especially at this time of the year when the New Year chatter is starting to die down.

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