The top club in the world for group exercise class participation is Les Mills Auckland in New Zealand, according to a metrics survey by Les Mills, the pre-choreographed group exercise program company based in Auckland, New Zealand. The club averageed 9,658 group exercise attendances each week.

The Scoreboard survey of 1,200 clubs worldwide included mostly clubs that offer Les Mills programming. Les Mills plans to do quarterly metric surveys of group exercise attendance and would like future surveys to include those that do not offer Les Mills programs, according to the company.

The highest-ranking U.S. club is The Edge Sports & Fitness, which has four locations in Vermont. It had 4,134 weekly group exercise visits for its total membership of 12,000 people. About 30.5 percent of the visits to its clubs each week are for group exercise classes, according to the survey.

Group exercise makes up 33 percent of club attendance on average, but in the top performing clubs in the survey, that number was 57 percent.

Of the clubs that participated in the survey, the average club had 676 group fitness attendances per week. The top 20 clubs had an average of 3,880 attendances. The top 10 attracted 4,656 weekly attendances on average.

Attendance is the key metric in the wider club and fitness industry, but it is one of the least measured with many club owners concentrating on profit and membership, according to Phillip Mills, CEO of Les Mills. Although those measures are important, attendance is ultimately the biggest driver of membership, customer engagement and profit, and as such, is the biggest indicator of and risk to financial success.

Nearly 40 percent of people cite group fitness as the biggest influence in how long they remain a member of a club, and satisfied group fitness members refer people three times more than other club members, Mills says.

“Prior research also shows that group exercise classes and facilities are one of the biggest drivers for consumers choosing to join a health club, with some 60 percent of people rating it as the most important factor,” Mills says.

Just one extra visit per week from each member can increase retention by around 3 percent, and group fitness member retention rates are higher than other members on average, he says.

“There is absolutely a commercial connection between group fitness and long-term profitable clubs,” he says.

Clubs offering group fitness were able to charge higher membership fees, the survey found. The Peak, in Scotland, offers multiple membership options. Its group fitness membership attracts 57 percent of members and is the club’s largest income stream.

The Les Mills Auckland club has comparatively high membership fees of NZD$130 (USD$100) per month and charges for specialized programs. About 1,900 members each week (equivalent to 15 percent of members) pay an additional fee to attend Les Mills’ cycling class, RPM, which generates NZD$7,600 (USD$6,000) in weekly revenue on top of membership fees.

“Sure, increasing sales will increase profit in the short term, but more people in the door is the key to a sustainable and successful business,” Mills says. “In the Les Mills Auckland club, more than 55 percent of visits are to do a group class, despite charging some of the highest monthly prices in town.”

Mills says the survey proves that the industry needs a new business model that focuses on getting more people through the club door more often and that scheduling group exercise is a key way to increase attendance, engagement and the bottom line.

“We have to focus on giving members what they want, not just designing timetables around instructor availability, which is so common across our industry,” Mills says. “Above everything, tracking attendance gives you transparency, so you can ensure you’re giving the most popular formats and instructors the time they deserve, and driving customer demand as a result.”

The top five clubs based on weekly group exercise attendance were:

  1. Les Mills Auckland City (New Zealand) – 9,658 weekly group fitness attendance
  2. IKSU Sport (Sweden) – 8,358
  3. The Edge (Vermont) – 4,134
  4. Virgin Active (Spain) – 4,048
  5. Anon – 3,927