OPINION

Joining gym is easy, turning up is a workout

Australia is one of the most obese countries in the world, despite a thriving fitness industry.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2018 that two thirds of Australian adults were overweight or obese.

That's because most people think the answer to their weight issues is to go to the gym.

But the gym industry is built on selling memberships rather than getting people fit and isn't actually a suitable solution for the majority of the population.

The fact is that the business model for most gyms is built on people not going.

If everyone who bought a membership did go, our gyms would be filled to the brim and unusable.

Our experience talking to people in the industry is that it can be as high as 80% of people at a particular gym paying for a membership but not going - and that means they never get the health benefits they should be finding.

Part of the reason for that is the gym is simply not suitable for everyone - in fact, the majority of people probably need to take a different approach.

A Finder survey from 2018 found that Australians were wasting $1.8 billion on unused gym memberships.

So why are so many people buying in but not turning up?

Gyms don't cater to specific needs: Gyms are often not suitable for people with injuries, the elderly or accessible to many who have a disability - a large part of the population.

New members don't know where to start: While most health professionals recommend working with a personal trainer or physiotherapist to develop a gym program, that does constitute an additional cost on top of the already expensive membership - but learning how to use equipment by yourself is difficult.

The gym is too busy: All regular gym-goers have been involved in battles over machines, trying to find a free treadmill and just the general hustle and bustle of navigating a gym during peak periods can make it feel like a wasteful exercise.

Self-consciousness (and all those mirrors): If you're not already a fit person, gyms can be confronting and intimidating places to be, and for many that psychological hurdle is too big to get over.

Gyms don't incentivise you to go: It's a rare gym that follows up on you actually attending it, outside of personal training sessions (which are usually another income source). There are lots of incentives for being a member - but few for turning up.

Matej Varhalik is the CEO of Speedfit