Aussies love going to the gym. Surveys indicate that approximately 30% of Australians have gym memberships with many also engaging in some form of professional coaching. However, this was not always the case with the 3 largest gym chains in Australia; Fitness First, Anytime Fitness and F45 only opening doors in 2002, 2008 and 2013 respectively.
So, what has caused the recent infatuation Aussie's have with the gym? I believe the answer lies in the phenomenon that I aptly refer to as the democratisation of the fitness industry.
The democratisation of the fitness industry refers to the elimination (or at least the mitigation), of barriers to entry that in the past has prevented individuals from participating in fitness environments. Now the list of these barriers is exhaustive and certainly up for discussion, but based on my experience working on a gym floor and the lively discussions I’ve been able to have with members, I believe that the removal of these three barriers has had a particularly profound impact on the number of people participating in fitness.
Knowledge Barrier: If you're someone who takes deliberate measures to manage your physical health then it is likely that you are very familiar with fundamental concepts relating to general pop fitness, such as ‘calorie deficits’ and ‘progressive overloading’. If this is you, then you’d also be forgiven if you assumed that this standard of physical literacy was commonplace amongst Australians. In reality, it is only since the internet revolution and the subsequent availability of information that everyday citizens have been able to access reliable sources of information in fields of study such as physical fitness, nutrition and recovery. Empowered by this information availability, interest in personal health has ballooned as individuals (like you) were no longer forced to rely solely on health care professionals for advice on the matters of physical well being. Over time, through the influence of information access and personal ownership of health, communities have been mobilised into participating in fitness in the interest of good health and longevity.
Access Barrier: With over 5000 fitness centres nationwide, if you live in a major city there's a good chance you commute past at least one gym between home and work. With the industry growing at an annualised 4.8% over the five years through 2019-20 and trending upwards, owning a gym is a good business to be in...that is when your state isn’t under stay at home orders. These same conditions that have hurt many of the commercial facilities that are unable to service their clients in temporary outdoor gyms have revealed that a gym isn’t essential to participate in fitness. Whether it is a complex solution like a Zwift trainer or as simple as a zoom/IG live workout, Australian gym enthusiasts have demonstrated that in a world post-COVID-19 between the abundance of facilities and the option to workout from home to a similar effect, access to fitness facilities has never been easier.
Psychological Barrier: Walk past the front door of any commercial gym in Australia and you’ll see marketing banners on the windows, capturing patrons of all shapes and sizes working out. Whether you notice it or not this is a deliberate effort by the gyms to present their facilities as catering for anyone, after all, they are a business and more patrons equal more membership fees. This style of branding also attempts to eliminate outdated beliefs that gyms were strictly reserved for jacked-up men competing in bodybuilding - a side effect of the golden age of bodybuilding that deterred potential gym-goers who didn’t match the criteria of people that would commonly be associated with frequenting the gym. Regardless of the impact of the inclusivity campaigns, the perception has certainly shifted with more Australians over the age of 65 attending the gym than those between 18-25 years of age.
With the removal of the aforementioned barriers, the gym is no longer a facility reserved for the elite who can afford it, athletes endowed for exceptional physical performance or bodybuilders prepping for a competition. Instead, the gym is now a meeting point for citizens from all walks of life to better themselves and their health in an environment that suits their needs and schedules.
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 Lloyd, A. (2021, January 11). Financial treadmill: Aussies wasting $2.4 billion on unused gym memberships. Retrieved from https://www.finder.com.au/unused-gym-memberships#:~:text=A new nationally representative Finder,whopping $2.4 billion per year.
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 Fitness, S. (2021, July 14). How Large Is The Australian Fitness Industry? Retrieved from https://stepzfitness.com.au/fitness-centres-australia/
 Published by Thomas Hinton, & 23, N. (2020, November 23). Australia: Fitness and gym participation by age 2020. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/884599/australia-fitness-and-gym-participation-by-age/