BOSTON -- U.S. health club industry revenues reached $19.1 billion in 2008, a 3 percent increase over 2007 revenues of $18.5 billion, according to a survey by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

The association annually compiles industry revenues, taking into account the total number of members, total club revenues, and average membership and non-dues fees.

IHRSA said industry revenues increased in 2008 partly because of a nearly 4 percent increase in non-dues-related revenues.

“This increase in non-dues related services, i.e. lessons, classes or personal training sessions, is indicative of members recognizing the value of their health club experience and paying additional dollars for a personal health-related return,” Katie Rollauer, IHRSA’s senior manager of research, said in a statement from IHRSA.

This year, the association also began using a new method to collect membership numbers, which resulted in a change in membership numbers reported in 2007. Under the association’s previous method for data collection, which included mailed surveys, the 2007 member number for the United States totaled 41.5 million.

However, the new online survey method found that health club members in the United States totaled 46.7 million in 2007. For 2008, that online collection method found that members had decreased by 2.4 percent to 45.5 million. IHRSA called the decline "statistically insignificant" because the margin for error in the survey was 4 percent, more than the decrease. Still, the association noted that member growth had stalled.

For the new method of collecting member numbers, IHRSA entered into a research partnership with Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Outdoor Indoor Foundation, Snowsports Industries America, National Golf Foundation and Tennis Industry Association/United States Tennis Association to conduct an annual online consumer tracking study about health club membership and participation.

IHRSA said it used this online survey to ask people if they were members of a health club in 2007 and/or 2008, which enabled it to capture two years’ worth of health club consumer data.

Since the survey parameters differed, Rollauer says it was hard to compare results.

“Since the methods for data collection this year were different from last year, it would be challenging and somewhat inaccurate to directly compare them,” she says. “However, the results do show that despite the different methodologies, membership numbers have remained consistent.”

IHRSA reported that health club members regularly attended their clubs with an average of 89 visits per year. Average attendance has remained steady over the past three years at 89 to 90 visits per member, which the association says bodes well for the future growth of the industry.

“Consistent health club attendance is typically associated with good member retention,” Rollauer said. “Regular attendance highlights the importance of health and fitness to the health club member, which means that members are willing to continue to invest in their health in spite of decreases in discretionary income.”

The attrition rate for consumers participating in this study was a low 24 percent, indicating that 76 percent of health club members remained at their clubs.

The survey also found that nearly 22 percent, or more than 10 million, of the 45.5 million health club members were new, having joined a health club for the first time in 2008.

“The ability of fitness clubs to attract new members helps position the industry for success through the current challenging economic times,” Rollauer said.

The IHRSA survey also found that the number of U.S. health clubs totaled 30,022 in 2008, a 1 percent increase over 2007.