Planning for Success: Wellness Everyone Can Afford

Commercial Fitness

Planning for Success: Wellness Everyone Can Afford

Of the many reasons people join fitness clubs, a desire for social support, a need for guidance, and a fun, engaging environment are among the most common. Clubs can struggle with retention when they don't meet their members' needs and expectations, but there's a lot you can do to avoid that pitfall.

Here are some guidelines to consider that will help you design wellness programming that goes above and beyond the basic requirements.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Radka Wilson is an Ultimate Trainer, Cancer Wellness Specialist and Yoga Teacher at the Bay Club Company in Washington D.C. She holds an M. Ed degree in Physical Education, Literature and Language. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer.

Why Do People Join Fitness Clubs?

People join fitness clubs for a myriad of reasons. The most prevalent reason is the atmosphere of the club and amenities available. Clients seek self improvement and appreciate the social aspects of a fitness club. They seek direction and encouragement and also look for leadership in their fitness quest.

Research has shown that people who participate in group workouts exercise more often and make fitness a regular part of their lifestyle. Your programs should encompass all of these components – direction, encouragement, leadership, and group support – to be well received.


Our population is plagued by sedentary lifestyles, including lifestyle-related illnesses such as obesity and diabetes. Communities benefit from the support of prevention and post-rehabilitation services. Demonstrate moral responsibility by becoming involved in your community and supporting health initiatives through wellness programs. Establish leadership and work to guide members and prospective members toward healthier lifestyles.

United States Facts and Figures

  • 50 percent of the population have one or more chronic illnesses
  • 25 percent have two or more chronic illnesses
  • 68.8 percent of adults are overweight or obese
  • 20 percent of youth (2-19 years) are obese

Only one in five adults consistently practices healthy behaviors, such as regular exercise, healthy levels of fat intake, five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, moderate alcohol intake, and no smoking.

Good Member Relations

Increasing awareness of health-related problems plaguing society and the health benefits of exercise encourages increased participation and retention. Wellness programs can take a holistic approach by including Eastern and Western health and wellness modalities.

The Need for a Whole Experience

People join gyms because they want the human connection and a sense of belonging. Rather than watch a video or stream a workout, gyms provide a society of others with the same interests and health issues. Members want to feel comfortable and committed to an instructor and a workout. A good wellness program encompasses all of this.

Five Ps of Successful Wellness Programming

  • Population: Age, gender, health issues
  • Purpose: Issues, program development
  • Promotion: Marketing
  • Program Implementation
  • Protocol of Evaluation: Statistics and testimonials

Stages of Retention

Integration - Introduction - Instruction

"Integration, Introduction and Instruction" represents the most important member phase. Provide proper onboarding and orientation, introductory classes and beginner resources to new members. Instructions including correcting form, “Dos and Don’ts” related to exercise, and informing members about equipment safety represents a valuable contribution to the long-term member experience.

Acceptance - Involvement - Achievement

The "Acceptance, Involvement and Achievement" stage creates member involvement and commitment. This includes members committing to a specific program with the same instructor on the same day and at the same time. The goal is to encourage a desire for more activity, increase a member’s self-esteem, support feelings of success, be fun, lead to health improvement, and enhanced learning. Provide members with recognition for involvement and participation, even if it is just a ribbon recognizing goal achievement and participation.

Commitment - Improvement - Fun

Offer members access to events, seminars, and more advanced levels of exercise programs. The main goal in this phase is to build a sense of belonging. This is a time for members to enjoy the physical activity, have fun, feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. A sense of camaraderie and belonging is created with regular activity and rewards. In this environment, members will be committed to your club.