Promoting feelings of ‘group’among new memberscan help you tominimizeexercise dropout and reap long-term benefits.

Just about every “bell and whistle” has been tried to prevent member dropout. It is a common belief that the right type of technology will magically transform peoples’ exercise experiences from difficult to rewarding and easy-to-maintain. Also common are incentive programs that attempt to “buy” exercise maintenance with rewards that vary from water bottles to jackets to money. Most prevalent, though, are the numerous methods used to promote “customer loyalty.”

These may range from hostingnew member parties to makingfollow-up calls when facility usage has ended to providing the latest in exercise equipment, advice and programming. While these methods are well-meaning andcan beuseful, they do not hit at the heart of the member attrition problem. If the typical new member can not successfully “adapt” to exercise, customer loyalty will have little impact on dropout statistics.

The new-exerciser dropout rate remains between 40 and 65 percent within the first three to six months, whether people start exercising on their own, or within a full-service, professionally staffed fitness center.3,4 Obviously, something is wrong with how new exercisers are being supported within most fitness centers.

Even a modest change to this disheartening statistic can add tremendously to the bottom line,8 as well asplace many members into that all-too-select group of14 to 19 percent of Americans whoexercise enoughto actually benefit their health and longevity.12

What research has shown time and again is that most new exercisers (about 80 percent) do not have sufficient self-management/self-regulatory skills to maintain exercise programs much longer than a few weeks or months. When the reality of the demands of their new exercise programs hits (time requirements, physical effort required, slower than expected “pay-off”), most do not have the abilities needed to persevere, and sotheydrop out.3 Sure, most will probably try again within a year or two (with a similarly high probability of failure), but wouldn’t it be nice to finally have a comprehensive plan to address the root cause of member dropout?You can, but you and your facilitywill need to be committed to “exercise support.”