COVID-19 Impact on Gym Usage in Australia

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COVID-19 Impact on Gym Usage in Australia

Key Takeaways:

  • The cancellation rate of gym memberships was at 22% in late 2021.
  • Being that there were about 3.7 million gym members in Australia at the onset of the pandemic, the number of gym members towards the end of 2021 dropped to about 2.886 million.
  • Almost 59% of Australian gym members said that missing the gym was among the three most-missed activities during the lockdowns.


  • This report provides insights into the number of gym members/memberships in Australia and the variation over time as well as the consumer sentiment regarding continued gym usage. Data concerning the impact of Covid-19 on exercise professionals and sole traders has also been provided. Below is an overview of the findings, as well as an explanation of the research methodology.

Consumer Sentiment Around Gym Usage

  • A report by IBISWorld found that an increase in health consciousness in Australia was directly proportional to spending on fitness centers and gyms. Thus, increased health consciousness caused an increase in health concerns, which expanded the likelihood of people exercising. IBISWorld projected that health consciousness would rise slightly in 2021-22, setting the ground for revenue growth.
  • A 2020 survey of 14,400 subscribers by Fitness Australia found that consumers craved attending gym sessions more than any other activity, including being with family members and socializing.
  • About 59% of gym members selected missing the gym among the three most-missed activities during the lockdowns. This highlighted the significance of gyms in the support of the gym members' mental, emotional, and physical health. The survey also found that the main reason for going to the gym among Australians was improving and supporting mental health, with about 83% considering this to be a key goal.
  • Gym closures caused several negative impacts on gym members' wellbeing, including depression (16%), stamina loss (32%), increased anxiety/stress levels (35%), and weight gain (47%), among others. Also, the motivation to exercise decreased among almost 50% of gym members. Furthermore, gym members in Australia felt unsafe exercising outdoors, especially shift workers (22%), and they considered the gym to be more secure and safer than training outdoors.

Impact on Exercise Professionals/Traders

  • About 35,000 professionals in the fitness sector lost their jobs in Australia due to COVID-19, with the grand majority (81%) of sole traders and 100% of multi-service and boutique facilities losing revenue. Demand was also low for about 90% of multi-service and boutique facilities, and 100% had to make workforce changes, including laying off staff and cutting work hours.
  • Despite 44% of sole traders and professionals reporting losing over 61% of revenue, they all continued to operational expenses for their businesses. Some were paying as much as $5,000 monthly despite the downturn. While about 50% of personal respondents managed to find new ways to generate income, such as outdoor and online sessions, sole traders were not as lucky since they only managed to convert 10% of their clientele to one-on-one sessions or online platforms.

Variation of gym Membership Over Time

  • As of April 2020, 47% of sole traders and fitness professionals reported that they had over 60% of their members. In fact, most gyms did not charge membership fees during that time. It also reported that there were about 3.7 million gym memberships in Australia at the onset of the pandemic.
  • Another survey conducted in June 2020 found that gym memberships could drop by up to 2 million after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions since about 42% of members had canceled or considered canceling. At the time, about 33% did not intend to return to renew their gym memberships.
  • However, the September 2021 IBISWorld report predicted that membership at women-only, full-service, and 24-hour budget gyms will grow moderately over the next five years. In fact, a survey by the Australian Leisure Management on November 8, 2021, showed that the cancellation rate had dropped from 42% in mid-2020 to 22% in late 2021. The report is paywalled so here is a link to a summary on its Facebook page.
  • Being that gym memberships in Australia were about 3.7 million at the onset of the pandemic, then the number towards the end of 2021 was = 3.7 million X (100% - 22%) = 3.7 million X 78% = 2.886 million.

Research Strategy

To provide the requested information, the research team leveraged surveys from credible market research reports (IBISWorld) and industry associations (RunRepeat Fitness and Fitness Australia). We also leveraged media resources to provide additional insights and statistics. While there was no source that explicitly states the current number of gym members in Australia, the research team managed to triangulate an estimate for late 2021 based on the available data points. Also stated earlier, data surrounding the annual gym visits and how has this changed over time, a breakdown by month and state, or data specific to Victoria and New South Wales, is unavailable in the public domain. Therefore, the team expanded its focus to Australia.

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