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A profile of the New Zealand Fitness Industry [article]

This is a brief profile of the New Zealand Fitness Industry published in May 2009.

What makes up the New Zealand Fitness Industry?

The fitness industry in NZ is made up of around 300-360 club operators and an unknown yet substantial number of personal trainers with either studios, or home-based, or outdoor based businesses.  On average there seems to be 11-15 employees (not including group fitness instructors or self employed Personal Trainers) in a workplace and if you remove the ‘big players’ (larger clubs including chains and some of the large stand alone operations) the average is closer to 6-8.  Turnover in the industry is estimated at around $160 million although some of the latest estimates put turnover at around $250 million.

There is a large number of Personal Trainers in the industry.  There appears to be about a  50/50 split between employed and contracted trainers.  A typical ratio of one trainer for every two hundred members is maintained in most clubs although this varies widely depending on club demographics and services.

The number of group fitness instructors is significant (far outweighing the gym instructors) as the delivery of a timetable (usually between 10 and up to 40 classes a week) requires large numbers of mainly part time contractors often co-ordinated by an employee.

In total it is estimated that fitness employees and contractors number somewhere between 4000-5000.

Businesses in the New Zealand Fitness Industry

Businesses in the Fitness Sector


What ‘market space’ does the industry occupy?

Fitness clubs offer a wide range of solutions to members, some of which include weight loss, muscle toning, cardiovascular fitness, stress management, and injury prevention/rehabilitation. 


Fitness clubs compete for customers with each other, and with any other organization that delivers solutions that meet the same needs.  In weight loss alone this would include;

□       Pharmacies (xenical, herbal potions etc)

□       Jenny Craig

□       Weight Watchers

□       Sureslim

□       Hypnotists

□       Home equipment retailers and renters

□       Sports clubs

□       Online providers of weight loss tools

□       TV promotions of shakes and equipment

□       Dieticians/Nutritionists


The market for health and fitness is huge, but the competition is also significant.  It’s important to identify what the unique selling points (USPs) are of the fitness industry when compared to many of the other solutions offered to customers.


Some of the unique things about health and fitness clubs (and the professionals that work in or around the industry) are:

  1. Trained and qualified staff – the fitness industry has some of the most highly trained people of any organization in this market space.  The trainers of the elite come from our industry as do many of the new products and approaches.  Fitness staff require a broad skill set that enables them to be of greater value to their customers than many of the competitors in this market space. 
  2. Follow up and follow through – our industry is fed by retention and should have a focus on helping members attend, adhere and rejoin.  Where virtually all other products or services in our market space ‘sell once’, in our industry we must convince a customer to come back again and again.  This is difficult, however once we accomplish it, we will have a repeat customer for many years to come.  We are also more likely to have ‘advocates’ (who will endorse and openly refer new members to our clubs).
  3. Variety – we offer a wide variety of exercise opportunities ranging in type, level of supervision, demographic make up (all womens for example) and fitness focus.
  4. Range of service levels – we offer customers the ability to purchase more service if they want it providing everything from group fitness instruction, to fitness consultancy, to personal training.
  5. Sense of community – we have people exercising together and our staff can help people enjoy each others company and feel like they belong.
  6. Adaptable solutions – we offer people the opportunity to change their goals, achieve one thing and then try another.


So whenever a potential customer ‘comes to action’ we are just part of the landscape of opportunities open to them.  Our uniqueness highlighted by the ‘USPs’ above can be our strength if we consistently communicate and deliver them.  If we don’t we fall back into the mix and on a ‘sales’ or ‘product alone’ basis we lose our uniqueness.  Most of what we are able to do to set ourselves apart as an industry revolves around how we look after our customers.


IHRSA (International Health Racket Sports Association) in a report in the late 90’s identified that the ‘churn and burn’ approach to membership sales was a real challenge for the industry as it naturally built up animosity in the customer base and it was expensive to maintain (it costs five times more to find a new member than retain one).  Given 50% of all new club members were previous club members somewhere else (who’d moved or were trying again) the ‘burning’ of members is not a good long term strategy.  Again, our focus as an industry, whether a PT in a studio, large club, group fitness solution, or boot camp in the park, needs to be on participation and ongoing support of customers.


What are New Zealand’s current activity levels like?

There is no shortage of evidence that fitness clubs should be popular in the future, if they are well set up and staffed.  The ‘obesity epidemic’ and the ‘time poor’ (busier lives with less ‘spare’ time) situation that is evident in today’s modern society is now truly upon us.  SPARC (sport and recreation New Zealand) gives the following picture:


Intent to be more active:  Among adults, 57% would like to spend more time taking part in sport and active leisure. Men and women are equally interested in being more active but for those adults aged 65 years or over levels of interest in being more active decreases to 32%.


Club membership: Around a third of New Zealand adults (36%) who have participated in a sport or physical activity in the last four weeks are currently active members of a club (sporting) or gym. Men are more likely to be sport club members than women (41% and

31% respectively).


Health club membership alone:  It is estimated that around 8-9% of New Zealanders hold gym memberships at any one time.  That’s around 400,000 members today.

How healthy is New Zealand’s body weight?

In research looking at the ‘obesity epidemic’ the Ministry of Health reports the following:

  • 17 percent of all New Zealand adults are obese. An additional 35 percent of all adults are overweight. So, half of the New Zealand adult population is either overweight or obese. 
  • Obesity in New Zealand increased by 55 percent between 1989 and 1997.
  • Based on current data, obesity will increase by an estimated 73 percent by 2011, to 29 percent of all adult New Zealanders.
  • In 1996 the annual cost of obesity was conservatively estimated to be $135 million. This figure excludes downstream health costs from chronic diseases that result from obesity.
  • The health care cost of diabetes alone is an estimated $280 million per year. The cost of coronary artery disease was an estimated $306 million to $467 million in the early 1990s.
  • More than 1,000 New Zealanders die each year from obesity-related diseases – double the annual road toll.


What is the Fitness Industry’s structure in New Zealand?

A representation of the overall structure of the fitness sector

Fitness Sector Overview

What are the roles and responsibilities of organizations within the New Zealand Fitness Industry?

The above diagram shows most of the organizations within the New Zealand fitness industry.  The table below briefly explains what they do and also provides their websites.



Role and responsibilities within industry

Industry employers

These are all the places a fitness professional may work, or anywhere a customer may seek fitness services.  They include; smaller corporate fitness clubs, franchises, large club chains, home-based or outdoor trainers, community clubs (eg YMCA), personal training studios, student recreation centres at tertiary providers, council gyms, working mens clubs, large stand alone clubs, womens only clubs.

Skills Active


This is a predominantly government funded body responsible for setting and quality assuring academic standards in line with the industry’s needs.  Skills Active submits these standards to NZQA (see below) to become national standards on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

If there was a serious accident at a gym, and the national standards were shown to be out of date, Skills Active would be required to make modifications to the standards.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority


This organization administers all the standards on the National Qualifications Framework including the standards that make up the five national qualifications in fitness.

National Qualifications Framework

This is a database that contains all of the national standards and qualifications in New Zealand and a record of learning for any student who has studied and attained them.

Accredited and approved education providers

These are education providers who have been ‘approved’ by the government’s quality assurance body (usually NZQA) to deliver education under the Education Act.  They receive government funding as a result.  They are encouraged to deliver national qualifications but can also deliver ‘regional’ qualifications if they can show there is a ‘regional’ requirement that is different from the national requirement.  They must also be ‘accredited’ to deliver the nationally registered fitness standards by Skills Active.  Some of these providers may also have registered their courses with REPs (see below).  Where this has occurred the graduates of these courses may be entitled to automatic REPs registration.

If a serious accident occurred at a club and the national standards were updated by Skills Active as a result, the accredited education providers would then be required to update their courses to meet the new requirements.

Non accredited education providers

These education providers have not been approved by the government’s quality assurance body to deliver education under the Education Act.  They may have REPs registration.

Career services

This government agency is responsible for being a leading provider of career information, advice and guidance in New Zealand. They aim to provide all people living in New Zealand with access to the best careers information, advice and guidance to achieve their life goals. This means they promote the importance of career planning at every stage of a person’s life.

Register of exercise professionals


REPs is a registration system that fitness professionals, clubs, or education providers can choose to register with.  It is not mandatory, it is a participatory system.

If there was a serious accident at a gym and a REPs registered individual or club was shown to have been negligent then REPs could de-register them.

Fitness New Zealand


FitnessNZ represents some of the owners and suppliers within the New Zealand fitness industry.  It has a range of information resources for paying members, and is involved in various initiatives to connect paying members and promote their interests.  Usually if something major happens in fitness the media would contact Fitness New Zealand for comment.

Occupational Safety and Health (Department of Labour)


The Department of Labour (DOL) provides best practice information and guidance to assist New Zealand businesses with health and safety in the workplace. The Department of Labour also inspects workplaces to check on safety and health arrangements, investigates accidents at work, and makes sure employers and employees comply with health and safety legislation.

If there was a serious accident at a gym it is likely DOL would investigate.

Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)


The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) administers New Zealand’s accident compensation scheme, which provides personal injury cover for all New Zealand citizens, residents and temporary visitors to New Zealand. In return people do not have the right to seue for personal injury, other than for exemplary damages.  Their pledge is; to prevent injury, to provide the best treatment and care if injury occurs, and to quickly rehabilitate people back to work or independence at a price that offers high value to levy payers and all New Zealanders.

If there was a serious accident at a gym the person injured may get ACC and ACC may, if it is established that there was negligence on the part of the workplace or their staff, then pursue the workplace or staff for compensation.