How Many Members Does a Gym Need to Be Successful?

Jun 26, 2023 - 10 min read
Three Women Doing Yoga (How Many Members Does a Gym Need to Be Successful?)

Think about a sea of perspiring bodies, pushing the limits of their endurance amidst the steady hum of treadmills, the rhythmic clanging of weight stacks, and the pulsating beats of high-energy music.

This is the world of fitness clubs and health clubs, a bustling industry that focuses on well-being, fitness, and an active lifestyle.

The heart of this sector is the gym, an institution powered by the lifeline of gym memberships.

However, the question that echoes through the minds of many gym owners is: how many members does a gym need to be successful?

The answer to this question is a bit nuanced. So let’s break it down one by one.

The Art and Science of Determining Your Gym’s Capacity

Various fitness machines in modern spacious gym

Whether you’re the owner of a sprawling health club like Planet Fitness or LA Fitness or a quaint, boutique gym tucked away in a trendy neighborhood, the first order of business is determining your gym’s capacity.

The difference isn’t just in aesthetics; it’s about the number of members you can comfortably accommodate without compromising on the quality of the workout experience.

In the case of large fitness facilities like LA Fitness, they’re designed to host thousands of gym goers. A chic, boutique-style gym in a high-end neighborhood, on the other hand, caters to a more limited clientele due to space restrictions and its focus on offering a more personalized workout environment.

But how do you determine the capacity of your own gym? Here are a few considerations:

  • Size matters: Measure your gym’s total square footage. Don’t forget to consider the floor space for different zones - workout area, locker rooms, lounge, etc.
  • Equipment check: Take stock of the number of machines and equipment pieces you have. Remember, you don’t want your members waiting in line for their turn on the treadmill.
  • Prime-time or downtime?: Identify the peak hours when most of your members prefer to work out. This helps in managing the crowd and ensuring a smooth gym experience for everyone.

Once you have figured out your gym’s capacity, it will significantly impact how you approach gym membership demographics, pricing, and marketing strategies.

Calculating Your Costs and Revenue

Woman Counting Money with Calculator

A gym, like any other business, needs to balance its costs with its revenues. A clear understanding of your operating expenses and potential income is key to determining your membership goals.

Cost considerations include:

  • Location expenses: This includes lease or mortgage payments. A gym located in a posh neighborhood will have higher rent or mortgage payments compared to one in a more residential area.
  • Operational costs: These are recurring costs like utilities (water, electricity, etc.), equipment maintenance, and upgrade costs.
  • Human resources: This refers to the salaries of your staff, including trainers, cleaning and maintenance crew, front desk personnel, and others.
  • Marketing expenses: Allocating a budget for marketing and advertising is crucial to attract new members and retain existing ones.

On the revenue side, while your primary source is undoubtedly gym memberships, you can’t overlook the importance of additional services.

These might include personal training sessions, group classes, or selling gym merchandise.

The balancing act between costs and revenue plays a crucial role in determining the average gym membership cost.

You need to price it in a way that it’s affordable for your members and profitable for your business.

Setting a Minimum Viable Membership Number

a group of people cheering a woman in a red shirt

Once you’ve crunched the numbers, you can calculate the minimum viable number of gym members - your base level for breaking even. However, remember that this number is just the minimum.

To be successful, you’ll want to comfortably exceed this number.

Let’s say, for instance, that after factoring in all your costs, you determine that you need to make $10,000 a month to break even.

If your average gym membership cost is $50 a month, you’ll need a minimum of 200 members to cover your costs.

However, to make a profit and cater to potential member drop-offs, you’d want to target a higher membership number.

Member Retention

a cheerful woman with her hands up

While focusing on getting new members is essential, never underestimate the value of member retention.

As per a Harvard Business Review report, acquiring a new customer can cost five to twenty-five times more than retaining an existing one.

Investing in member satisfaction can not only save you money but also boost your reputation, leading to positive word-of-mouth advertising.

You could think of each of your satisfied members as brand ambassadors, enhancing your gym’s image and appeal in their social circles.

Diversifying Your Revenue Streams

a bunch of 100 dollar bills laying on a white surface

In the fitness club industry, it isn’t just about gym memberships. Just like a well-balanced investment portfolio, having multiple revenue streams can help your business weather any financial downturns. Some options for diversification might include:

By offering a diverse range of services, you not only create more income sources but also increase your gym’s appeal to potential members.

Keeping Members Engaged and Churn Low

Three Women Kneeling On Floor

When you are aiming to be a successful gym owner, one of your primary goals should be to keep your members engaged and the churn rate (the number of members canceling their memberships) low. Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Regular updates: Keep your gym environment fresh and exciting by regularly updating your fitness facilities, introducing new equipment, or rearranging the layout for a fresh look.
  • New workout programs: Offering a wide variety of workout programs or online fitness challenges can cater to different fitness levels and interests, ensuring your members always have something new to try.
  • Special events: Organizing health fairs, fitness challenges, or member appreciation days can foster a sense of community among your gym members, making them feel valued and connected.
  • Rewards program: A rewards program that offers perks for consistency, referrals, or trying new classes can be a great way to motivate and retain members.

Marketing to Gain New Members

Effective marketing strategies are the fuel that drives the growth of any business.

In the case of a gym business, a targeted marketing campaign can attract new members, raise brand awareness, and showcase what sets your gym apart from the competition. Some strategies to consider include:

  • Social media campaigns: These can be an effective way to reach a wider audience, promote your gym’s services, and engage with potential and existing members.
  • Referral programs: Encourage your existing members to bring in friends or family in exchange for perks or discounts. It’s a two-way win for both you and your members.
  • Collaborations: Partnering with local businesses for cross-promotion or organizing community events can boost your visibility in the local market.

Offering the Right Mix of Services and Amenities

Man on Treadmill

The most successful gyms understand that their members have different needs, preferences, and fitness goals.

Offering a diverse range of services and amenities can cater to these varied needs, boosting member satisfaction and, in turn, retention rates. Some aspects to consider might include:

  • Variety of workout equipment: A mix of cardio machines, weight-lifting equipment, and functional fitness tools can cater to different workout preferences.
  • Classes and programs: Offering various group classes, personal training sessions, or specialized fitness programs can add value for your members.
  • Amenities: High-quality locker rooms, showers, sauna or steam rooms, smoothie bars, and childcare services can make your gym more appealing.
  • Friendly and professional staff: Hiring knowledgeable, friendly staff who can assist and guide members effectively can greatly enhance the member experience.

As a gym owner, by maintaining a consistent focus on these areas, you can boost both member satisfaction and retention, ensuring a steady influx of revenue while laying the groundwork for sustainable growth and success.

Keep Your Membership Retention Up to Date with These Gym Membership Statistics

White Printer Paper

Knowledge is power, and when it comes to running a successful gym, knowing key gym membership statistics can provide the crucial insights needed to boost your membership retention.

Frequency of Visits

According to a study published by “Managing Sport and Leisure,” Gym members who go to the gym frequently throughout the week are significantly more likely to maintain their membership over the long term. Knowing this, consider strategies to increase visit frequency.

This could involve introducing enticing group fitness classes, running regular fitness challenges, or implementing a points-based loyalty program that rewards regular attendance.

Churn Rate

Understanding your churn rate – the rate at which members cancel their memberships – is critical. On average, the fitness industry experiences an annual churn rate of about 28.6%, as reported by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

To combat this, focus on identifying the reasons behind member cancellations. Surveys, feedback forms, or simply talking to your members can provide invaluable insights.

Once you know the issues, you can start addressing them, whether it’s improving your facilities, offering more classes, or providing better customer service. most gym members

Time of Enrollment

IHRSA also reveals that gym sign-ups skyrocket in January, only to significantly taper off by February and March. This is likely due to the wave of New Year’s resolutions.

To maintain a steady influx of new members throughout the year, consider offering special incentives, promotions, or events during these slower months.

These could range from discounted membership rates to free personal training sessions or guest passes.

Age Group

Knowledge of your target demographic is critical. As per Statista, 18-34-year-olds form the largest age group among gym members in the U.S., closely followed by 35-54-year-olds.

Understanding this can help you tailor your services to these age groups.

This could mean offering more advanced or low-impact personal training for seniors while providing high-energy, trendy workout options like HIIT or dance-based fitness classes for younger members.

Member Preferences

The fitness world is no longer confined to the four walls of a gym. A Fitness Report by Mindbody showed that a whopping 72% of gym members also exercise at home.

Catering to these members could involve offering hybrid memberships that combine in-gym and online workout options.

This flexibility can make your gym more appealing, increasing the chances of retaining members who may otherwise cancel their membership due to lack of use.


The number of members a gym needs to be successful depends on a wide variety of factors.

However, by understanding your gym’s capacity, costs, and potential revenue streams, you can determine a minimum viable number of members.

The success of your gym isn’t just about having a large number of members, it’s also about keeping those members engaged and satisfied while constantly striving to improve and grow.


How many members does a gym average?

On average, a gym could have anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 members based on factors like location, size, and type of gym.

Are small gyms profitable?

Yes, small gyms can be profitable. However, profitability depends on various factors, including operational costs, gym membership costs, the number of members, and the services provided.

How many employees does an average gym have?

This varies by the gym’s size and the services offered, but a mid-size gym might employ anywhere from 5 to 50 employees.

What is the success rate of gym ownership?

Specific statistics are hard to come by, but like most businesses, the success rate varies based on factors like location, market demand, business model, and the owner’s experience and business acumen.

How many members does a normal gym have?

A “normal” gym, if we consider mid-size, non-chain gyms, might have between 500 and 2000 members.

How big should a small gym be?

The size of a small gym could range anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, depending on the services offered and the gym layout.

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Tamara Ruiz

Digital Marketing US/UK

Tamara Ruiz works in US/UK digital marketing at Virtuagym. She loves learning new things and has a passion for fitness and health, which she shares through her blog posts. Tamara is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in Marketing at Hogeschool van Amsterdam, with a minor in Cross-Cultural Business Skills.