Behaviour change is the key to increasing the lifetime value of our members – while improving their outcomes.

A 2008 study at Princeton University asked students how much time they were willing to give to tutor other students during the exam period. Those dealing with their ‘present self’ in the current semester said they could donate, on average, 27 minutes of their time. Those dealing with their ‘future self’ in the next semester’s exam period said they could tutor for two hours.

These students, like many gym members, were far more optimistic about their intended future behaviour than they were about their present behaviour. In the fitness industry the difference between people’s intentions for the future and behaviour in the present creates significant shortfalls in their length of stay, attendance, spending, referrals and satisfaction in our businesses.

To reduce the gap and optimise each member’s lifetime value we need to understand why members behave the way they do and develop strategies to improve their behaviour towards exercise.

My work with numerous fitness businesses around the country, and internationally, has highlighted some of the more successful strategies that clubs are using to change this behaviour.

Managing expectations

In the early stages of the member’s journey, clubs need to manage the optimism of their intended behaviour by focusing on short-term goals in the present, taking into consideration their current time pressures and life constraints. This reduces the risk of members setting unachievable goals that lead to disappointment and loss of motivation. Create multiple methods of feedback on their progress early on so they feel a sense of accomplishment and are motivated to continue the journey.

Supporting the other 23 hours

The lifestyle of members outside of the gym significantly influences their behaviour in our clubs. Sleep, stress, time management and nutrition all factor. Significantly more fitness businesses today are working with specialists in these areas to create a healthy lifestyle framework for members to follow in their daily lives. The better support we provide to members’ behaviour outside of the club, the better adherence to their exercise inside the club. Better sleep patterns, for example, create more energy which leads to more regular and effective training habits.

Making it social

A 2007-2012 Harvard study on community behaviour showed that willpower is contagious and change is social. Clubs that create a culture and climate of willpower and celebration rather than shame will affect the motivation of individual members.

This occurs because social identity matters and if their peers – not just trainers – are supporting them, motivating them and keeping them accountable, they are more likely to sustain their behaviour than if they are going it alone.

Creating an extrinsic reward program

Providing rewards systems for loyalty, attendance, social media activity and, most importantly, actual physical activity levels and effort have been proven to improve member attendance and retention. Platforms such as enable clubs to link members’ activity and attendance to a rewards program, thereby boosting engagement and retention.

Wearable technology systems, like MYZONE, link members’ effort points from their physical activity to the club rewards program, earning them club upgrades, cash prizes and even holidays, simply by ‘playing the game’ of working out.

Enhancing member support with wearable technology

In addition to rewards platforms, wearable technology enables facilities to support the member’s journey and behaviour beyond the two or three hours they spend in the club each week.

Clubs can create digital platforms that use mobile devices and wearable technology to provide more regular goal setting, feedback on progress and activity, and education. They can also increase trainer and social interaction and enhance accountability without the cost of extra staff hours. This extra support strengthens the member’s motivation to continue the behaviour.

Creating an experience members will genuinely love

Understanding what member category your club serves and then delivering an exceptional experience that matches that category will positively change behaviours.

If members love the way they train, the type of training, who they train with and the environment they train in, they will become intrinsically motivated to exercise. The more members in your facility that enjoy their workout experience, the higher your average spend, attendance and retention will be.

The recent rise in boutique models internationally proves this, with 21 per cent of fitness industry consumers in the US choosing to pay up to five times more for a tailored and enjoyable experience.

Regardless of your club model, creating an experience that your member category will love ensures members don’t just need to exercise at your club, they actually want to. When it comes to intention versus behaviour, that change can make all the difference.

Michael Jordan, BA Bus is the owner of a successful Queensland-based club, as well as being one of the Australasian directors for MYZONE and CFM and a board member of Fitness Australia. He is an international speaker, and has consulted with over 500 clubs in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada. and