Establishments in this industry are primarily engaged in operating reducing and other health clubs, spas, and similar facilities featuring exercise and other active physical fitness conditioning, whether or not on a membership basis. Also included in this industry are establishments providing aerobic dance and exercise classes. Sports and recreation clubs are classified in SIC 7997: Membership Sports and Recreation Clubs if operated on a membership basis, and in SIC 7992: Public Golf Courses or SIC 7999: Amusement and Recreation Services, Not Elsewhere Classified if open to the general public. Health resorts and spas providing lodging are classified in SIC 7011: Hotels and Motels and SIC 7041: Organizational Hotels and Lodging Houses, on Membership Basis. Establishments that promote physical fitness through diet control are classified in SIC 7299: Miscellaneous Personal Services, Not Elsewhere Classified.
Fitness and Recreational Sports Centers
According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, the number of health clubs in the United States grew by 5.1 percent during 2001, reaching 17,807 facilities at the beginning of 2002. This was an increase from 16,938 in January 2001. Despite the slow economy that characterized the first years of the 2000s, health club expansion continued at a quick pace. In 2001 fitness and health centers in the United States generated combined revenues of more than $12.2 billion.
Health clubs emphasize three aspects of physical fitness: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, and flexibility. Some even add nonprofessional mental health services like stress reduction and counseling programs. Full-service health clubs featured aerobic conditioning equipment, resistance equipment, dance and exercise classes, swimming pools and spa areas, and sometimes even tanning and massage. As the U.S. population ages, the over-50 population is becoming increasing important to the health club industry, and some clubs are responding by adding health maintenance and monitoring programs to their offerings, including checks for bone density, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
In 2002 membership and enrollment (or initiation) fees from the industry's 33.8 million members constituted the vast majority of club revenues. Although these fees have long been the mainstay of industry income, other revenue sources like children's programs, personal training, exercise classes, physical therapy, and aquatic programs started contributing a growing proportion of health club revenues.
According to industry statistics, there were an estimated 32,040 physical fitness facilities in 2005. The industry employed 254,345 people, with the average fitness facility employing nine people. Combined, physical fitness facilities reported estimated revenues of nearly $10 billion for 2005.
The fitness center industry is self-regulated through several professional organizations that were formed in the mid-1970s. The two most influential of these are the Association of Physical Fitness Centers (APFC) and the International Racquet Sports Association (IRSA). The APFC was founded in 1975 to provide the burgeoning industry with information, education, and public relations advice. This organization is concerned with the public's perception of the fitness industry, and it has led the way in self-regulation. The APFC's Code of Ethical Practices was one of the first, and until the early 1990s the only, attempts to establish and enforce industry guidelines. Member facilities had to agree to honor the Code, but the APFC had no legal authority over its members. IRSA, which later changed its name to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub (IHRSA), was formed when the National Tennis Association and the National Court Club Association consolidated in 1981. As its name indicates, the majority of IHRSA's membership (about two-thirds) consists of multipurpose clubs that combine fitness and racquet facilities. IHRSA's most valuable contributions to the fitness industry include its statistical surveys and its professional journal, Fitness Management. Fitness centers are geographically concentrated in high population areas. Consequently, California leads the nation, followed by New York, Texas, and Florida. The vast majority of these businesses were privately held, with notable exceptions being industry leaders Bally Total Fitness Corp., Sports Club Company Inc., and Health Fitness Physical Therapy Inc.
Known early in their history as health spas, fitness centers sprung up in the early 1960s, by which time increasing automation had negated the need for most people to perform daily physical labor. At the time, some experts predicted that physical health in the United States in general would deteriorate, but some Americans made a concerted effort to encourage physical fitness. This "fringe movement" of enthusiasts and entrepreneurs started a trend that led to a fitness boom.
Spas were the first establishments of the fitness center industry. They emphasized relaxation with a European flavor, featuring whirlpools, steam rooms, and massage services. The following were the most prominent of these spas: Europa, European, Scandinavian, Grecian, and Olympic. These early facilities also had some fitness equipment, including manual joggers, stationary bicycles, standard resistance machines for men, and passive resistance equipment for women. Most spas focused on a single sex and had only one locker room. Some clubs tried to maximize their facilities by alternating women and men on particular days of the week. In 1972, however, the New York Health and Racquet Club ushered in co-ed fitness when it built its first facility that had both a men's and a women's locker room. The vast majority of fitness clubs constructed since that time also have locker rooms for both men and women.
An appreciation of professionalism was also spawned in the early 1970s. In the decade prior to that time, health spas were largely isolated from one another and were characterized by "inexperienced, inefficient and insincere" management, according to The Complete Health Club Handbook. Rising concerns about providing consistent quality led to the creation of affiliate organizations such as the APFC and, later, the IHRSA.
But these early attempts at professionalization were not sufficient to stem the rising tide of consumer complaints that precipitated public Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hearings in the late...