Gym Memberships and Attendance Plummet in Canada Amid COVID-19: Survey

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Besides hospitality, the fitness sector has been one of the hardest hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people continue to be reluctant to visit their gyms and studios.


RunRepeat, a website that reviews running shoes, recently conducted a survey of 5,055 gym members, between August 1 and August 13, on their thoughts about returning to their gyms and what they plan to do.

Overall the survey found:

  • Only 30.98 percent of gym members have returned to their gym since lockdowns;

  • 60 percent have cancelled or are considering cancelling their memberships(19.59 percent cancelled, 40.11 percent considering);
  • Consumer confidence in gyms has decreased since March, with: 22.35 percent fewer members returning to their gyms than had expected to by now and 22.49 percent more respondents having already canceled or considering cancelling their memberships than expected to in March.

The survey found that in Canada 69.23 percent of gym members have not returned since opening while 30.77 percent have. In the U.S, 70.72 percent have returned and 29.28 percent have not. The world average was 69.01 percent returned and 30.98 percent not returned.

The survey produced some interesting numbers of how COVID is impacting gym memberships.

Canada had the highest percentage of members who are currently considering cancelling their gym memberships at 39.23 percent. The world average was 38.55 percent and for the U.S. it was 39 percent.

The percentage of people who have already cancelled their gym memberships was 21.15 percent in Canada, 20.51 percent world average, and 20.56 percent in the U.S.

The percentage of people keeping their gym memberships was 39.62 percent in Canada, 40.93 percent for the world average, and 40.44 percent for the U.S.


Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat, said that in Canada less than one third of gym members have returned to their gyms since they were given the go-ahead to reopen during the pandemic.

“That’s almost an indicator of consumer confidence. How confident they feel that they can go to the gym, get the value they want out of it and be okay with it. There has to be a value exchange,” said Rizzo. “They have to feel safe enough, comfortable enough, to go back. That’s an indicator.

“The other aspect of it is the financial one. What are they doing about their gym memberships and how do they feel about it? In Canada, 60.38 percent had already cancelled or were considering cancelling . . . There’s a massive looming potential for a mass exodus if things don’t start improving. We’re seeing the trend of people cancelling has been increasing 10 per cent since our last survey over four months ago. And if (COVID) cases continue to rise and we hit those winter months and the New Year when memberships are supposed to increase and that doesn’t happen and we start losing more memberships it’s going to be very difficult for a lot of gyms.”

People have gotten more accustomed to working out at home or outside since the pandemic began in mid March. The behaviour is becoming more entrenched in people’s habits and that is having and will continue to have a big impact on the fitness industry.

“This is the conversation I’m having with so many people right now — gym members and fitness professionals. This is the first time in who knows how long what is typically referred to as the primary form of exercise - fitness, the gym - was no longer an option during the lockdown. People were forced to go and try other potential solutions to fill that need,” said Rizzo.

“Now that many can go back, they’re choosing other options. And the longer that this goes on, the more likely people are going to develop habits that suit their lifestyle better or they get more out of or are more consistent with.

“We ran another study before and saw that people are actually exercising more during the lockdowns than before when things were open. Specifically the people who were exercising the most are the ones that used to go and exercise the least.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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  1. The only reason I stopped going to the gym is because they want us to wear a mask. I don’t go into any place to shop or any business that requires me to mask up.

  2. The sampling size of Nick Rizzo’s market survey is far too small to have any true accuracy. His background is in reviewing running shoes and he should stick to this niche area instead of trying to create sound bites or doom scrolling articles in industry sectors that he has no background in.


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