In the past 12 months, the fitness industry saw encouraging signs that it was breaking free from the recession that engulfed the latter part of the previous decade. More club company owners were able to refinance their debt, thus putting them in better position for expansion and acquisition. More club operators created new brands, some in the form of the still-growing high volume/low-price arena, while personal training studios and cycle-only clubs continued to grow. And, at least according to statistics released by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the industry enjoyed 5 million more memberships since the last roll call in 2009.

However, for every 24 Hour Fitness grand opening, there was a club such as the 20-year-old Spa & Fitness Club in Costa Mesa, CA, that closed. For every new LA Fitness, there was the Naples (FL) Fitness Center that closed after 32 years. For every club that In-Shape Health Clubs acquired or built, there were clubs such as Lakeshore Athletic Club that closed. For every new Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness or Snap Fitness, there was a Bally Total Fitness, a World Gym, or a smaller gym, such as Medina’s Gym in Hayward, CA, that closed its doors. Growth was everywhere, but so were reminders that the industry, like all industries, is still grappling with a lagging economy.

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As with almost every year, some fitness facility operators and equipment manufacturers faced their share of legal battles. Some lawsuits are still pending, while others have been ruled on. Incidents of violence at fitness facilities coincided with stories of members whose lives were saved with the help on an automated external defibrillator.

Some manufacturing jobs left the United States for China, as was the case for Star Trac, Irvine, CA, while some jobs returned to the United States from China, as was the case for Med-Fit Systems Inc., Fallbrook, CA, which makes Nautilus equipment in its Independence, VA, plant.

Innovators came onto the club scene, while some of the great figures in the industry died.

The year 2011 was one of transition. Join us as we take a look back at some of the stories that shaped the year.

Acquisition Activity for Commercial Health Clubs Abounds throughout Industry

Revenues Improve at Public Health Club, Fitness Equipment Companies

More Health Clubs Get into the High Volume/Low Price Game

More Gold’s Gym Operators Leave Brand

Cybex Ends Year with Mixed News

Fitness Industry Mourned Passing of Leaders in 2011

Mother Nature Damages Fitness Facilities throughout the Country

Several Health Clubs Face Lawsuits for Sexual Harassment

Violence Erupts Outside Health Clubs

Military Focuses on Functional Fitness Training

Public-Private Partnerships Take Off at Recreation Centers

University Rec Centers Look Off Campus for Revenue

Mobile Apps Remain Popular with Fitness Industry

VGB, ADA Compliance Cause Struggles for Pool Operators