South Africa: Pandemic Punches - Gym Memberships Hit the Mat As Industry Is Forced to Adapt

Fewer people are going to train, so gyms are learning to adapt.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Global research from RunRepeat this year has found that about 71% of gym members are not using their subscriptions and that more than a quarter don't plan to return, even after being vaccinated. Locally, gyms are hanging on, but are adapting.

Nick Rizzo, fitness research director at RunRepeat, says he was expecting a more positive response.

"What this shows us is that the fitness industry has changed permanently, and a return to 'normal' is impossible."

Of South African respondents, he says, 35% do not plan to return, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. Less than half of South Africans with gym memberships are using them in person, and 29% have cancelled or paused their subscriptions.

Gillian Elson, head of marketing at Planet Fitness, says that although it has had some cancellations of contracts, membership has stayed "pretty consistent" and did not experience the large decrease the company would have expected amid the pandemic.

"People have realised that to build up their immune systems to combat the virus, whilst they wait for the vaccine, they need to be fit and...

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