Research Shows Group Exercise Is the Key to Member Retention


In the last five years, one in every three deaths in the United States was attributed to cardiovascular disease. The latest statistics also reveal that 60 percent of Americans don’t take part in regular physical activity, and 25 percent are not physically active at all. On a positive note, research tells us that statistics like these could be significantly improved if more people simply started exercising on a regular basis.

A Nielsen study of more than 3,000 participants of group fitness classes around the world highlighted that more than 85 percent of class members visit their facility twice a week specifically to engage in group classes. And 43 percent of members visit their facility four times per week for this purpose.

One theory says that group fitness classes enable your members to fall in love with fitness and want to exercise regularly, making them less likely to leave your gym. Now, research backs this theory.

The Powerful Effect of Group Exercise

A study conducted by Dr. Jinger Gottschall of Penn State University reviewed the impact of group fitness on exercisers, and the results were significant. The study developed a group fitness regime that mimicked the Physical Activity Guidelines for Fitness to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of group exercise as a programming tool to help onboard members.

A group of 25 sedentary but otherwise healthy adults (15 women and 10 men) between the ages of 25 and 40 completed a 30-week group exercise program.

The program involved participants undertaking:

  • A six-week familiarization period (where fitness classes were introduced gradually and time spent exercising increased progressively to reduce fatigue as well as to optimize adhesion to the program)
  • A 12-week block of six group fitness classes per week (three cardiovascular, two strength, one flexibility)
  • A 12-week block of seven group fitness classes per week (four cardiovascular, two strength, one flexibility)

The participants were assessed prior to, midway through and after the 30-week exercise program. Each participant showed significant reductions in fat body mass and cholesterol, plus the onset of cardiovascular disease was delayed by an average of 3.6 years.

In addition, the participants had become regular exercisers as a result of the success they had with the program. During the course of the study, 20 of the 25 study participants never missed a workout—a compliance rate of 98.8 percent, which is almost unheard of in exercise studies. Because they were gradually introduced to group exercise classes, their confidence and capabilities grew week after week.

How You Can Help Your Members Fall in Love with Fitness

If gaining and retaining members is important to you, group fitness is an ideal way to engage with and keep your members. To introduce or improve your group fitness, you can:

  • Ensure that group fitness is offered at your club and that class content is updated regularly
  • Ensure there is a good variety of group fitness classes covering cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training
  • Be inclusive and support your members by starting slowly. Develop induction plans that allow your members to join a class for 20 minutes, rather than the whole hour for the first few weeks
  • Speak to your members regularly. Are there more classes you could be running or ones that aren’t well attended? Find out why this is. Perhaps your instructors need additional training or the timing doesn’t suit enough people


Les Mills delivers a variety of group fitness classes that provide cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training for your members. Fresh class content is provided every three months to motivate and support engagement of both instructors and members, which in turn reduces the attrition rate of your members. Our tried and tested group exercise classes deliver real physical results, including supporting the fight against cardiovascular disease.​ Learn more about the tools and resources you need to improve your members’ experiences in their workouts, in the group studio and across the entire facility—all of which contribute to increased member engagement and retention. It’s time to build a stronger business and motivate your members, or somebody else will. For more information, email i[email protected] or call 844-LES-MILLS. 

Trever Ackerman serves as vice president, marketing for Les Mills, where he oversees all marketing and communications for the United States. Ackerman focuses his efforts on connecting marketing and communications with both top- and bottom-line growth. He is passionate about building high-performing teams, helping people move more and providing opportunities to give back to our communities. Ackerman holds an MBA from Georgia State University and a BSBA from the University of Denver.