Why Your Fitness Business Can Benefit from Trend Insights

2018 trends

Trends are one of the quintessential truths of mankind, and one of the core truths of capitalism. Trends influence how we think, what we want to believe or not believe, how we act and how we react. From a business perspective, trends can inform us where the market is headed, what competitors are doing, what consumers are embracing, what business leaders are thinking and which opportunities are there for the taking. It has been said: “Those who are ill-informed will be at risk for a rough future.”

The health and wellness industry may be one of the most fickle when it comes to the ways in which trends impact how players do business. Change often occurs at seemingly warp speed. Against this backdrop of business disruption, trends can spawn informed or misinformed strategy. Consequently, it behooves business owners to distinguish between those trends that are opinion-driven and those that are data-based—and then act appropriately.

Opinion-based trends are typically statements of opinion regarding what’s happening in the marketplace. These opinion-based trends can be the result of discerning observations, the gathering of qualitative opinions and possibly even the consequence of gas-lighting from those with something to gain from such proclamations. Data-based trends (think “big data”) are founded in statistics and metrics pertaining to actual behavior patterns—what people and businesses are actually doing and have been doing over time.

Fitness business owners who want a competitive edge in understanding the trends of today and tomorrow should be focused on discovering the truths behind by data-based trends. To accomplish this, the business owner needs to take two steps. First, they should contribute to trend studies that collect data-driven information about trends, such as levels of adoption and changes across various practices. Contributing to these studies brings forward more data. Second, operators should study the results of data-driven trend studies to gain an understanding of what is being adopted and how those adoption practices are changing over time. By taking these two steps, business owners can avoid the rough future that comes from being ill-informed about trends.

Since 2015, ClubIntel, in collaboration with various international partners in the health and wellness industry industry, has facilitated a global study of relevant data-based trends. This annual study collects data on adoption levels for over 90 different industry practices across four broad categories; programs/services, equipment, facilities and technology. The study, now entering its fourth year, is able to pinpoint the level of adoption for each measured trend, including the degree of variance in that trend since it was first measured. Some trend facts from the 2017 study, in which the practices of over 14,000 global health and fitness facilities were represented, include:

  • HIIT group exercise was with sixth most popular trend of 2017 (offered by 62 percent of facilities), but has garnered the largest increase in adoption over the past five years at over 30 percent absolute growth.
  • Barre, with adoption growth of 30 percent over the past five years, is second only to HIIT group exercise over that time period.
  • In 2017, the most highly adopted fitness equipment was traditional functional fitness equipment with 76 percent of all facilities indicating they offered it. Interestingly, non-traditional functional training apparatus such as battle ropes and sandbags was the fourth most adopted type of equipment with 64 percent of facilities indicating they offered it.
  • Only 26 percent of operators reported having a mobile app for their business in 2017.
  • The most popular technology in the industry in 2017 was the use of social media with 57 percent of operators adopting its use.


Stephen Tharrett and Mark Williamson are the co-founders of ClubIntel, a brand insights firm serving the commercial and private club industries. Tharrett has more than 35 years of experience in the club industry, having served as CEO of the Russian Fitness Group SVP of ClubCorp and as former president of the IHRSA board. Mark Williamson has more than 30 years of experience in consumer-driven market research, 17 of those with ClubCorp and more than 10 years with organizations such as Brinker International, Applebee’s and Match.com.

The 2018 International Fitness Industry Trend Study launches in September and will remain open till November, with the final report ready for distribution by year-end. If you want to be a part of the dialogue and share the practices your business is embracing, click here. Your data will be combined with that of others who participate to bring forward the data-driven trends in the health/fitness industry and in return, you will receive a complimentary copy of the report for your use.