Strategies for Attracting More 50+ Clients to Your Gym

If you are a gym owner and aren’t actively trying to add clients who are over 50, you are missing a tremendous opportunity to grow your business and add value..

Let me explain.

People over 50:

  • Represent a large demographic. One in three adults are 50+, and this group is growing rapidly. By 2030 there will be 71 million people over 65 in the US (more than twice as many as there were in 2003).
  • Can afford fitness. They control 70% of the disposable wealth in the US.
  • Have the time. Many are retired, semi-retired with grown children who have left home.
  • Need fitness. Over 70% have at least one chronic disease, and more than a half are overweight or obese.
  • Want to be healthy and fit. People over 50 want to stay active and healthy. If not because their doctor is telling them to exercise, then for living a more vital life.

Many people over fifty exercise regularly and are a part of the 19% of the population who frequent gyms. The real potential for gym owners is the 80% who have not worked out in a while or who have never worked out that want and need gyms but aren’t going.

Why aren’t they going to the gym and what can you do about it?

There are many reasons people over 50 aren’t attracted to certain gyms including location, cost, and convenience. Unfortunately, most gyms just aren’t designed with the 50+ client in mind. The good news is there are basic strategies any gym can incorporate that will instantly make them more attractive to the 50+ market.

Bad Optics. Most gym’s ads, communications, and social media are targeting the 20-30 market. If your optics do not include people over fifty, they will think your gym is not for them. Remember, visuals dominate the message with social media and advertising. If the image does not scream, “this is about you!”, people move on. 

Solution: Make sure you include images and testimonials of people over 50 in all your advertising and communications. Let prospective clients over 50 know that people like them come to your gym, enjoy it and get results.

Gymtimidation. For many people over 50, going to the gym is a new and uncomfortable experience. They walk in and are often greeted by an indifferent front desk attendant in their 20s or an empty desk.  They do not know where to go or what to ask. Some have described it like going to lunch on your first day of school, and you are the new kid whom nobody knows. Some walk in, take a look around, then turn around and never come back.

Solution: Make sure your front desk area is welcoming, and your people greet new clients and prospects with a smile. Have front desk people engage them in a friendly manner by introducing themselves and asking, “Is this your first time here?” Just like networking or social events this breaks the ice and starts a conversation where the front desk person can determine how to help each person. Once the person becomes a regular, encourage staff to address members by name and to ask about their workouts, family or work. Relationships should start as soon as someone walks in the gym.

Trainers do not understand their issues. People over 50 do not have the same interests, goals, and motivation that they had when they were younger. Most will have health or medical issues and share a common concern about getting injured. Address these concerns quickly, so clients have confidence in the trainer or the fitness program.

Solution: Conduct a comprehensive health and fitness assessment that includes goal, expectations, past exercise experience, injuries, health issues, and medications. It is essential that whatever program a client does is appropriate for their fitness level and physical and medical conditions. If you or a trainer do not understand implications of a medication or physical limitation, ask and get clarification. Then, adjust your fitness program recommendations accordingly.

No results. Results are in the eye of the beholder because each person has their own stated and private expectations for working out. When clients do not reach their expectations, they become discouraged and often quit. That is why many people who join gyms in January never make it to February. If you want to help clients get results, you need to understand what they expect from their gym experience.

Solution: If you exceed your clients’ expectations, they will stay, pay and refer, especially the 50+ population. To exceed expectations, you must:

  • Understand what their goals and aspirations are. Make sure they are specific, measurable and realistic.
  • Discover their “why” behind the goal. A client’s why is the motivation behind the goal and give trainers great insight to designing a program that will get results. For instance, if a client says they want to get stronger, their why could to bench 300 pounds or be able to pick up their grandkids. Both are great reasons, but each requires a different exercise program.
  • Design a program specific to their needs, limitations and commitment level. Be sure to adapt it based on how they show up each day. Not everyone can give it the same effort every workout. Know how to push them without overtraining them.
  • Reinforce progress towards their goals and link it to their “why.” Measure progress in more ways than just the scale. The more you know about a client, the more ways you can reinforce their progress. It is vital that you create a lot of ways for them to win and only a few ways to lose. As my trainer once told me. “The only way for you to not achieve your goals is for you to quit!”

Many gyms will continue to fight over the 19% of the population who are already gym goers. They will run promotions and drop prices to win a few clients from the gym down the street who just stole a few from them.

Other gyms will look toward the vast untapped 50+ market who populate the 80% who have not been going to a gym. This group has tremendous potential because they want, need and can afford fitness. Implement these strategies and make it easy for people over 50 to choose your gym to start their fitness journey.

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Phil Faris

Phil Faris is a Best Selling Author, host of Never Too Late for Fitness Radio and contributor to Business Innovators Magazine and Small Business Trendsetters covering influencers, innovators, and trendsetters in fitness, business, leadership and personal development.