The number of commercial health clubs, fitness centers and gyms in the United States increased to a record 26,830 facilities as of January 2005, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). This growth represents a 14 percent increase over January 2004, and a 3 percent increase since July 2004. IHRSA estimates that the U.S. commercial health club industry grew to $14.1 billion in revenues as of January 2004, representing steady growth.

IHRSA estimates that more than 10 million Americans will join a health club in 2005 and nearly two million of them will do so in the month of January, which is the most popular time of year for new health club memberships. Industry research shows that this membership growth can be attributed to all age groups. In fact, two of the fastest growing demographic segments of U.S. health club members are Americans under the age of 18 and over the age of 55, accounting for 11.4 percent and 17.4 percent of the health club membership respectively, according to the IHRSA/American Sports Data Health Club Trend Report.

The past year’s growth can be most notably seen in the increase of smaller, niche clubs. IHRSA estimates that small, express workout centers—clubs with less than 3,000 square feet of space serving approximately 350 members—account for more than 10,000 of the facilities in the United States. This type of gym represents the majority of clubs that opened in the past 12 months.

Likewise, larger workout centers showed a growth pattern. A quarterly survey of some of the larger U.S. health club companies found that revenues grew and profitability improved throughout 2004. During the third quarter of 2004, the most recent information available, this group of 14 club companies grew their revenues by an average of 7.9 percent while improving their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, and rent by an average of 8.1 percent.