The Ultimate Guide to Attracting and Retaining Gen Z at Your Health Club or Gym

The Ultimate Guide to Attracting and Retaining Gen Z at Your Health Club or Gym

If you’re working on your 2024 marketing strategy, you cannot miss this! This is the year of the Generation Z (Gen Z) gym goer – a generation committed to fitness – in a way never seen before.

Did you know 86% of them are either already working out regularly or are eager to start soon? Look at more numbers:

  1. The Gen Z population in the United States is estimated to be around 70 million, approximately 20% of the total
  2. A Mckinsey Future of Wellness report states, “56% of Gen Z consumers in the US say fitness is a “very high priority,” compared with 40 percent of US consumers overall.
  3. As per the Les Mills 2023 study:
    1. 30% of Gen Z are already regularly working out in fitness facilities – a far higher figure than the total adult population, which typically ranges between 15-25%.
    2. 50% of Gen Z want to work out regularly, but need help getting started.
    3. 36% plan to start exercising in the next 3 months.

Numbers never tell the full story. So, beyond numbers, the reason why we should prioritize Gen Z is: the soft power Gen Z wields in the world today. They lead most trends and define what is cool.

According to the Edelman’s Trust Barometer Report on the New Cascade of Influence: “Gen Z wields tremendous influence over older generations, with global respondents saying Gen Z influences what they buy (average of 58% across several items) and how they support causes (52%).”

Some clubs and chains have already recognised this and started wooing this segment. Planet Fitness offers free summer access to teens, under its High School Summer Pass program. In 2023, the program saw over 400,000 more teens join Planet Fitness this past summer, 70% of whom were first-timers.

Jump to

Who is Gen Z?
Strategies to attract Gen Z
Strategies to retain Gen Z members
Digital marketing techniques

Who is Gen Z?

A common opinion about Gen Z is that they are all about phones and social media. But, this is a misconception held by most businesses. So, what are they really about and what makes them unique?

It is the first generation which focuses on:

  1. Total wellness with an emphasis on mental health
  2. Being eco friendly and supporting sustainability
  3. Doing everything online like work, shop, date, make friends and more
  4. Being inclusive in many ways – gender, color, nationality and class

I can also lean in and share what I know first hand with two Gen Z daughters who I live with. They walk the talk in so many ways that my generation never did. They are unafraid to speak out on political and cultural issues and injustice. They stand up for global and local issues, and shun global brands not aligned to their values. They are also committed to sustainability in ways foreign to me: they thrift clothes, buy used iphones, and support local businesses.

More than anything else, this is a generation which is brave and shows heart. To attract them into our gyms and health clubs, we will need to do more than create some new programming, pay lip service to a local cause, or run a new ad campaign.

To learn and truly understand them, it is important to go beyond what you can learn from fitness centers and fitness publications. We will need to pay close attention to not just who they are, but also who we are, and what we want to become.

In this article, I have started that attempt.

Strategies to attract Gen Z

Get creative in your programming – the crazy and the unusual works well

Don’t be surprised if a Gen Zer goes to the gym one day and a Zumba class the next day. When they are short on time, they will do a 20 min video workout at home. Over the weekend they will go for a hike.

Give them variety not just in fitness, but also events like Cardio Cinema, Goat Yoga, Dance Parties, Movie Nights, and Barbeques.

Maybe even find a way to encourage workout dates, represented by the hashtag #WorkoutWooing. The Drum reports that according to research from Bumble and Gymshark, over one in five (22%) Gen Z and millennials have exercised or attended a fitness class on a first date.

Embrace mobile phones

Most Gen Z folks spend more than 5 hours a day on their phone. They do everything on their phones. making payments, following workouts, listening to music or podcasts. Meet them where they are. If you don’t yet have a great member facing app, get one.

Jason Jaquays-Tarbox, Executive Brand Manager, Elevate and Desoto Athletic Clubs says, “Members may customize their fitness path, monitor their progress, and interact with the community at their convenience with our smartphone apps.”

Offer what they LOVE

Using statistics from the 2023 Les Mills study, it is clear that Zen Z loves:

  1. User-friendly pin-loaded machines – 82%
  2. Group workouts – 81%
  3. Free weights – 81%
  4. Group strength classes – 50%

There is so much to unpack in just 4 of these numbers. Some obvious tactics that jump at me are:

    1. Design a Free Weights offering, which encourages Gen Z to film themselves, post on social media.
    2. Clubs can play an active role by reposting and interacting with this content.

Dr Paul Bedford explains why strength training is so popular with Gen Z. “Given you’re in a fixed position, strength training is one of the easier activities to film yourself doing in the gym (as opposed to being in the middle of a lively class) so that’s what content creators tend to capture. Gen Z then sees this content on their social media feeds and is then inspired to go and copy it. Now you have a network effect through social media and the massive trend towards strength training as a result.”

  1. Create a community and an online group with Gen Z group strength training class.
  2. Encourage girls and young women to lift. You may be aware that hashtags like #girlswholift are inspiring large numbers of young women to take up strength training.

The sky’s the limit.

Offering flexible membership options and pricing structures

Jason says, “We’ve added membership options and exercises that can be customized in response to Gen Z’s need for these attributes.”

Also, be transparent about everything, especially about fees, hidden fees, terms, and conditions.

Strategies to retain Gen Z members

Holistic and Balanced approach to Wellness

Gen Z has a balanced approach to health and fitness. For them fitness, nutrition, and mental health are all important. When they exercise, they are also focusing on wellness, with sufficient attention to recovery and mindfulness.

Instead of big brands, they look for value. For example, they would rather follow an influencer’s fitness video on YouTube, because they feel connected to this influencer.

The Les Mills 2023 report states that 3 of the 5 reasons for them to workout are not only about fitness:

  1. Be fitter
  2. Get healthy
  3. Improve appearance
  4. Feel better/feel good
  5. Reduce stress

Be inclusive and show that you care about the world around you

Gen Z wants brands to be socially responsible, so promoting inclusivity and supporting important causes is a must. When they see you’re all about making the world a better place, they’re more likely to stick around. Show up for the world and community.

From a McKinsey Featured article on What is Gen Z, “They’re part of a new wave of “inclusive consumers” and socially progressive dreamers. More than any other generation, Gen Z collectively demands purpose and accountability, the creation of more opportunities for people of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, and rigorous sustainable and green practices.”

According to the Edelman’s Trust Barometer Report on the New Cascade of Influence:

  1. 57% of respondents expect a brand’s stand on important issues to be visible at the point of transaction; 62% among adult Gen Z
  2. A stunning 84 percent of young Gen Zers (14-17) say that they buy on beliefs, with a five-point jump in the past year among those 18-26 years old to 64 percent saying they’re activists via brand choice.

Be real

Shannon Malooly, Founder and CEO of Eye Spy Solutions Marketing agency, and 20 year fitness industry veteran, articulates this brilliantly. “Gen Z isn’t into cookie-cutter experiences. They want to feel seen and understood. So, toss out the generic stuff and get personal. Share your story, be authentic, and let them know you’re a real human behind the brand. Break down those barriers between business and personal life. Show them you’re passionate about the same things they are, whether it’s sustainability, mental health, or the latest Netflix binge. When they see you’re genuine, they’ll trust you and keep coming back for more.”

Offer smoothies and pre-ordering

Given their inclination for a complete wellness experience, if you have a Smoothie Bar, that can be a big hit with Gen Z, but only if the experience is smooth. If you have long queues and complex manual processes to get a smoothie, you are going to lose them. But, if you can offer a digital pre-ordering solution, you just might have a winner on your hands.

Remove bottlenecks in your workout spaces

Strength training is a big favorite with Gen Z. And often they face bottle necks like on the gym floor as everyone wants to use the same strength equipment. As per Dr Paul Bedford, removing these bottlenecks can be a big draw for Gen Z.

Go green – implement eco-friendly practices and initiatives

Gen Zers often choose brands that have a strong story or purpose, as well as those committed to green practices. In one McKinsey study, 73 percent of Gen Z reported trying to purchase from companies they consider ethical, and 9 out of 10 believe that companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. However, they can tell when a brand is just paying lip service and isn’t backing up diversity or sustainability claims with real change

In Jason’s words, “Gen Z’s beliefs are directly aligned with our commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. We make sure that we communicate everything we do in these areas, from community service projects to eco-friendly facility improvements, demonstrating our dedication to the environment and the neighborhood. Examples would be our involvement with local non-profits and installing water-bottle refilling stations, shoe donation centers, etc.”

Move from Hybrid to Omni

In the covid years, a club could offer live streamed classes and call that a hybrid solution, but GenZ expects flexible, fitness solutions so they can work out wherever, whenever, and however they want. Today you need to provide them an omni fitness experience – physical and digital options.

A robust video library, online workouts, are now the bare minimum. Gen Z would also want a modern club app that supports their fitness journey, track their goals and calories, and offer content and coaching. In fact, to understand their comfort with apps, look at this statistic from the Les Mills report – 44% of them are already using paid fitness apps outside the gym.

The Les Mills 2023 report says 68% of group workouts are taking place in the gym, 32% are happening outside of the gym.

Leveraging Digital Marketing Techniques

Use social media platforms like your channels to reach them

Platforms like TikTok and Instagram are the most popular. They are the channels to meet them, reach them and stay connected.

In Jason’s words, “ We have used TikTok and Instagram, to produce relatable and interesting content. We’re also just beginning to introduce Snapchat into our strategy.”

Content should be visual and have lots of video

Shannon says, “Gen Z lives and breathes visual content. Think short, snappy videos and eye-catching graphics.”

Leveraging influencer partnerships and collaborations.

Gen Z love, trust and follow influencers. But it’s not just about numbers. You can create influencers at your own club. Shine a light on your club’s instructors and have them create authentic content to connect with Gen Z.

Incorporating user-generated content and testimonials.

Your content on IG and TikTok should not just be about you. It should be about them. It should feature them, reflect their voice and vibe. It should support and align with popular movements like #Girlswholift.

In Jason’s words, “We have been able to establish a genuine connection with this audience by collaborating with users that exemplify the values of our brand and presenting real-life experiences together with the encouraging community that Elevate offers.”


In conclusion, the fitness market is likely to undergo dramatic shifts with the emergence of Generation Z. As highlighted by Jak Phillips from Les Mills, “Gen Z will have a bigger impact on the fitness market than any generation before them, presenting a transformative opportunity for clubs to drive record growth.”

Health clubs are uniquely set up for offering the choice of amenities, programming, and the community that Gen Z needs and wants. Health clubs that recognize this and meet Gen Z where they are will thrive.

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