The past 20 years has seen budget airlines, car hire and supermarkets – and now budget gyms are flexing their muscles against the traditional gym market.
The new players include PureGym, EasyGym, Xercise4Less and The Gym – all of which were founded within the past 10 years – and they are growing in popularity, with new branches opening up every week, all over the UK.
This August, Cardlytics, which analyses the spending habits of 5.5 million people (based on spending on cards and direct debits), found that overall gym membership has risen over the past year (May/June 2014-2015). However, budget gyms have shown by far the biggest rise, at 66%.
HOW DO BUDGET GYMS WORK?
Ever been tied into a gym contract you can’t get out of? Instead of making money from people who sign up then rarely go to the gym, a typical budget gym offers contracts you can leave at any time and pay-as-you-go options. Many include free classes in their monthly contracts and are open 24/7.
Budget gyms will say this is not at the expense of their equipment: instead, they tend to have fewer luxury extras like saunas and cafes. They also tend to operate with fewer personal trainers, fitness instructors and other staff. Those that are open 24/7 with quiet periods unstaffed will usually have monitored 24-hour CCTV for security.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO JOIN A BUDGET GYM?
The key is flexibility. If you can train out of hours and commit to, say, a year-long contract, you can pay as little as £9.99 a month; without a contract you can get a monthly membership of around £14.99, depending on the gym. Most have offers for children and students.
A quick search on PayasUGym.com offered 75 gyms in the Leeds area offering day passes for as little as £2.50.
ARE BUDGET GYMS THE FUTURE?
Budget gyms are certainly giving traditional gyms a run for their money by offering a more flexible approach to payment and contracts. Many say they put their resources into the most up-to-date training equipment from functional training zones to vibration platforms and suspension training.
Perhaps most tellingly, in May, PureGym bought LA Fitness (UK). Their CEO Humphrey Cobbold said: “This transaction represents a good deal for members of both Pure Gym and LA Fitness as well as other consumers that are hungry for more affordable fitness options. Overall demand for affordable, high quality, and no-contract fitness centres is continuing to grow, served by a range of providers in a highly competitive market-place.”
Pure Gym currently has over 100 sites and 10 in Yorkshire alone, with new sites opening every month.
ANY DOWNSIDES TO BUDGET GYMS?
While many people today use apps and wearable devices to help them train in budget gyms, there is no substitute for a qualified personal trainer or fitness instructor, who can monitor progress, set goals and ensure you are training safely and effectively.
At many budget gyms, inductions with a fitness professional are not compulsory, however, a good budget gym will offer access to a personal trainer to support your fitness programme on request.
But the proof of the success of budget gyms is not only in the number opening up every month but also in the fact that many traditional gyms are changing their membership policies and approach to remain competitive.