Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. As millions vow to get rid of their holiday bloat, Google searches for “gym membership” spike at the beginning of January:


“Gym Membership” on Google Search, 2004-2012. Source: LaymanPsych

While people pledge to get in shape, gyms scramble to handle new membership applications. From January to March, gyms see the biggest increase in membership sales:

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Change in Membership Sales per Month, 2012-2013. Source: Club Manager Central

The first quarter of the year represents the highest growth months for new members. And the January excitement seems to last for several months. According to Mark Daly of Anytime Fitness, this is because “people are shedding clothing and getting ready for their spring and summer attire.” 

The desire to look good on the beach seems strong enough to motivate a spike in gym memberships, but not strong enough to keep people in those gyms. A 2001 study by the Fitness Industry Association found that, after about 3 months of membership, over 40% of all new members go to the gym less than 4 times a month:

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Data via PT Direct

After March, the percentage of those going to the gym more than 4 times a month continues to decrease. After 8 months, 50% of new members cancel their memberships entirely:

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Retention Rate for New Gym Members. Source: The Retention People

Why are we so quick to give up on the gym? Perhaps our patience with our workout runs thin, or we’ve already made our annual beach trip, or the weather is nice so we’re spending more time outside. Whatever the reason, a lot of us waste money on gym fees. According to Statistic Brain, the average monthly membership is $55, and $39 of it goes to waste because we don’t take full advantage of our memberships. 

Yet, when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, we continue the time-honored tradition of making resolutions we don’t keep. Gyms everywhere must love ringing in the new year.

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