As an industry, we understand that member recruitment and retention are keys to success. With research showing that 50 percent of new gym members will drop out of a fitness routine within six months, the challenge of retention and recruitment becomes even harder1, putting huge pressure on owners and operators.

So how can we support our members to change their mindset from feeling like they “have to” work out to “want to” work out? We know that group exercise classes encourage regular workouts for members who may not enjoy training on their own or who want to combine it with other forms of exercise. The challenge is engaging members in group exercise and motivating them to keep coming back.

Have you ever wondered what the secret ingredient is that causes certain group exercise classes to be fully booked with members returning for more week after week? Perhaps the class incorporates the latest fitness trend, has the best music or gets unparalleled physical results.

Although all of these factors contribute to member engagement within classes, our research shows that often it is the coaching skills and personality of the instructors that keep them coming back for more. We have all been to classes that just didn't meet the mark or chosen classes we normally wouldn't go to because we know our favorite instructor will be teaching. But why is this?

Many assume that the “no-pain, no-gain” approach to working out gets better physical results and leads to members coming back for more. But, in fact, the opposite appears to be true. A recent study2 found that instructors who use a “motivationally adaptive” communication style are more successful in helping retain participants. Compared with instructors who use a "no-pain, no-gain" teaching style, the motivationally adaptive communication style encourages participants by making them feel supported, cared for, respected and confident. This approach allows members to develop a personal connection with their instructor and helps support a mental change to enable them to “want to” work out versus “having to.”

In addition to the physical and mental wellbeing attributed to exercise, if your instructors are encouraging class members in this manner, research shows they are much more likely to return, fall in love with fitness and become a long-term member of your club.

Keep in mind that joining a group fitness class can be really daunting for new and existing members. If member retention is important to you, the key things to remember to get more people to want to work out are to motivate your team and your members.

How to motivate your team:

  • Take time to select the right team members who mirror your mission and vision for your club
  • Partner and work with instructors who use a motivationally adaptive communication style
  • Provide regular training opportunities for your team that can be updated regularly

How to motivate your members:

  • Speak to your members during on-boarding and keep in touch via calls and emails, encouraging them to try a group exercise class based on their individual needs
  • Offer a “starter” class or invite members to attend half a class when first testing group exercise to help create a positive introduction to the concept and with that, more confidence to keep going
  • Ask for feedback from members who have attended a class for the first time to understand what they thought. If the experience wasn't positive for them, find out if a different class may suit them better. If they say it was too hard or not enjoyable, help them choose another class. This is your opportunity to help them start to love your club.
  • Regularly communicate via marketing campaigns in club and online (e.g., website, emails and social media), letting them know about new classes. Tailor these marketing activities for different member groups you have identified (age groups, interests, etc.).

It is time to build a stronger business and motivate your members, or somebody else will.

  1. Berger BG et al. RS.Foundations of exercise psychology. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology, 2002
  2. Ntoumanis N. et al. (2016) The effects of training group exercise class instructors to adopt a motivationally adaptive communication style, Perth. Scand J Med Sci Sports


Trever Ackerman serves as vice president, marketing for Les Mills, where he oversees all marketing and communications for the United States. Ackerman focuses his efforts on connecting marketing and communications with both top and bottom line growth. He is passionate about building high-performing teams, helping people move more and providing opportunities to give back to our communities. Ackerman holds an MBA from Georgia State University and a BSBA from the University of Denver.

Motivational communication has long been an integral part of Les Mills instructor training. Les Mills instructors understand the importance of catering to all fitness levels and want participants to have a safe and effective workout. Each class will require modifications on how the information is delivered and the type of motivation used to inspire members throughout the workout.​ Learn more about Les Mills instructor training and other tools and resources you need to improve your members’ experiences in their workouts – all of which contribute to increased member engagement and retention. For more information, email or call 844-LES-MILLS.