• Human Theory

Crunch Time for UK Gyms?

With UK gyms reopening we used topic modelling to analyse the reaction on Twitter, and whether gyms should expect their old members to return immediately.

Topic modelling is a Natural Linguistics Processing technique which is useful for sizing different audiences and viewpoints within a conversation, and seeing how those audiences and viewpoints relate to each other.

This is what we found:

1. In general, there was more positivity and excitement (46%) than anxiety and concern about the risks & safeguarding (10%).

2. However, this positivity peaked when the announcement was made (9th July) and then decreased after that, as people began to think about the ramifications and practicalities (34%) - now that it was actually going to be possible to go back.

3. In the discussion of the practicalities, there is a weighing up of the value proposition in the new situation. For example, ‘is my gym membership worth the same money, now I have to book ahead and can’t go at certain times?’. Gym owners will have to be careful to strike the right balance here, between covering costs and ensuring longer term loyalty.

4. Finally, gym owners must be aware of their place in the new lockdown economy. In this new partial economy, competitors can come from another sector entirely, as can expectations about what is ‘covid-secure’.

From our own poll on Instagram, we found that just 36% were planning to go back to the gym straight away, indicating it may just be too early to jump straight back into the old routines.


Whilst there was an initial surge of excitement from the announcement of gyms reopening, as time went by the more consumers began to face up to the fact their gym routine will be a very different experience in a post-lockdown world. COVID safety precautions and their practical impacts on that experience, are likely to lead to dissatisfaction, and a pining for how things used to be.

This, coupled with a sharp uptake in exercise outside of a formal gym environment during lockdown, whether at home, in gardens or in parks is likely to see consumers reassess the value they get from their gym. If gyms are to survive, and reverse the waves of membership cancellations some have seen over the last three months, getting under the skin of their different customer groups, motivations and drivers of satisfaction is going to be essential.

Thanks for reading!

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