The Franchise Fitness Craze
by Ed Teixeira
The fitness industry continues to be one of the fastest growing concepts in
the franchise industry. This article provides a look inside the fitness
franchise craze and why this sector will continue to grow.
As Americans become more health conscience and focus greater attention on
diet and exercise, the personal fitness industry continues to benefit from this
healthy trend. According to its 2010-2011 forecasts, the Bureau of Labor
Statistics predicts employment of fitness workers is expected to increase 29
percent over the 2008–18 decade, which is much faster than the average for all
occupations. These workers are expected to gain jobs because an increasing
number of people are spending time and money on personal fitness, as more people
recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs.
The United States Department of Commerce reports that there are approximately
31,000 fitness centers and health clubs in the United States and franchises
represent almost 65% or 20,000 of the total, which includes personal fitness
programs unique to franchising, such as Jazzercise. There should be little doubt
that the personal fitness industry will continue to provide significant
opportunities for individuals looking for franchises with a strong upside.
Market Potential is Key
When considering any franchise opportunity, market potential is an important
factor. A strong and vibrant market for a franchise provides the right climate
for sales and earnings. The personal fitness industry passes this test because
of some important factors:
- As baby boomers age they
are increasingly concerned with staying healthy and physically fit.
- Concepts like yoga and
Pilates are expected to grow driven partly by the aging population, which
demands low-impact forms of exercise and seeks relief from arthritis and other
ailments. Expect new franchises to sprout up in these segments.
- A reduction in the number
of physical education programs in schools will motivate parents to enroll their
children in health and fitness programs. There are now franchised fitness
programs designed for children.
- Some people prefer more
personalized services which can lead to franchises that offer personal training
and special group exercise programs.
- The awareness of the link
between fitness and health, and the desire to control healthcare costs.
- Technological improvements
are making exercise more accessible, enjoyable and easier to manage.
- Health club membership
among young adults has grown steadily as well, driven by concern with physical
fitness and by rising incomes.
Perhaps one of the most compelling factors in the future growth of the
personal fitness industry is the following statistic from the Center for Disease
Control and Prevention:
Adults aged 55 and older now make up a quarter of the health club memberships
in the United States. From 1998 to 2005, the number of 55-plus fitness
participants increased by 33 percent while the 35- to 54-year-old age group
posted a 13 percent gain and the 18- to 34-year-old group showed no growth.
Since our population continues to age expect more and more seniors to join
health and fitness clubs. Recently, franchised fitness centers that focus
primarily on seniors have begun to emerge. Live2B Healthy provides fitness
programs to seniors at various settings and Club50 Fitness Centers franchisees
operate centers that cater to the over fifty population.
There are approximately 30 franchised fitness center concepts in operation
and I expect that number to double over the next few years. The demand for
services that has driven the rapid growth of homecare franchises will serve to
boost the growth of fitness franchises as well.
These means that there are and will continue to be significant opportunities
in the franchised health and fitness segment.
Recent Growth in Health and Fitness Franchises Indicates Strength
From 2009 to 20010 the number of new franchisees in fitness companies that
were franchising less than five years grew over 120%. This growth on the
part of new fitness franchises is a result of the popularity of the health and
fitness industry and the fact that large fitness franchises have less franchise
territories available. Snap Fitness, which has been franchising since
2004, has grown to over 1,000 locations in that short span. I reference this
growth not as an endorsement of the Snap Fitness franchise, but rather as an
example of the growing popularity of personal fitness franchises. Source: The
Entrepreneur 500 January 2011 edition.
Individuals that seek a franchise opportunity with broad market appeal and an
upward growth trend should consider a health and fitness franchise. The
estimated investment needed to acquire and start up a fitness franchise can
range from as little as $50,000 to as much as $4 million. This range of
investment opportunities can fit various types of franchise investors.
As more people become aware that exercise improves health, the demand for
fitness programs will increase. The Federal Government, insurance companies and
healthcare professionals will continue to beat the drum for people to exercise
more. Mary Furlong, EdD, author of Turning Silver Into Gold: How to Profit in
the New Boomer Marketplace and a market expert on the Baby Boom Generation,
believes that the enormous size of the Boomer market translates into enormous
business opportunities for fitness professionals. This is another indicator of
the opportunity for fitness franchisors and their franchisees.
Putting it All Together
When we consider the fact that the personal fitness industry appeals to a
large and growing market and provides a product with health benefits, the result
is a franchise segment that offers significant opportunities. However, for
prospective franchisees to capitalize on this opportunity they need to find a
franchise that fits their budget and business skills. Although a personal
fitness franchise can be packaged to provide the new franchisee a manageable
business, the franchisee is still responsible for the day to day operations of
the business. This is whether they are an owner operator or absentee owner.
Given the maturity and size of some fitness franchises, a new fitness
franchise program might provide a choice of territory not available from the
more mature franchisors.
Although the market for personal fitness is healthy there have been some
fitness franchises that were not successful, one notable franchisor tried to
capitalize on the popularity of Curves for Women by introducing a similar
concept for men and failed. Although the personal fitness industry and the
franchise component can provide a door to future success, the same requirements
and standards for any franchise still exist. There needs to be a viable
franchise model that when properly managed will result in a high probability of
There is little doubt that personal fitness franchises are operating within
an industry that will continue to grow. The benefits that a franchise model
provides can increase the number of franchise opportunities in the fitness
industry. It’s the right time and the right market for the continued
growth of fitness franchises. However, the key is that each franchise candidate
match up to the right fitness franchise for them.
© 2011 FranchiseKnowHow, LLC
Ed Teixeira is the President of FranchiseKnowHow, LLC. He can be reached at