The Mature Market: The Fitness Industry Perfect Storm

Unfortunately very few professionals in the fitness industry have any idea this storm is upon us.

Even though many of us have been sounding the alarm, most have listened politely and nodded their heasd at all the right times. But they still just don’t get it. Maybe they thought it was just going to be a passing shower.


We might get a little wet but for the most part it will be business as usual.

But this is not your casual sprinkle. This is a full on downpour. A torrential rain. A deluge. And many are going to be swept under by the coming flood. Maybe right now you are wondering if your business will be ready for this next wave. There are four factors that we believe will create this Perfect Storm.

  1. A huge population.
  2. Lots of discretionary spending power.
  3. Incredible interest in staying healthy.
  4. Low competition.

These are the four realities of the Mature Market. On the upside this provides you with an amazing opportunity for financial independence and lifestyle freedom IF you run your fitness business the right way. We believe this actually provides a tremendous opportunity to attract more of the clients whom you can really have a positive impact on for years to come.

There are numerous business advantages to targeting the mature market that we could share but none are as powerful as an incredible phenomenon that we call “The Spillover Effect”.

This one benefit alone has the ability to multiply your business ten-fold and give you a distinct competitive advantage over all the other trainers in your area. This Spillover is just the kind of Perfect Storm you have been looking for, but you have to know how to tap into it.

One of the fears that many trainers have in building their business around an older clientele is that they will lose their current younger clients or will be viewed as the “senior citizen” program. So they see focusing on the mature client as a potential negative to their business.

However, if done correctly you can completely flip it on its head and make the mature focus a magnet for attracting younger clients that we likely never would have otherwise.

How is that possible? Let us explain.

There are many people of all ages who share some very similar characteristics when it comes to joining a fitness facility. What do these groups below have in common with the 55+ population?

1. Middle-aged women who want to lose a little weight and feel better about themselves;
2. Men and women with physical challenges or injuries;
3. Those suffering from chronic health problems such as arthritis, low back pain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia and  obesity;
4. The millions of adults who did not play sports in high school or college and have never worked out before.

Answer: All of them are looking for a comfortable, supportive, non-competitive place to work out where they will get high-quality instruction and can build their confidence.

By focusing on the needs and desires of the mature market you create an environment that is also very attractive to all of these other groups as well. This is The Spillover Effect at work. Your efforts with the 55+ population will essentially “spill over” to these other groups and it will be much, much easier to attract them, too.

We know this to be true because we have used this effect to our advantage magnificently and have built a large and continually growing clientele of folks who “would never step foot in a gym” (their words) or who went somewhere else only to be completely dissatisfied with the environment or have needs that are beyond the abilities of most places and knew we could help them (many with recommendations from their physicians).

While the sweaty, hard-body ideal has been the calling card of the fitness industry for a long time now (thanks to our bodybuilding roots) most people find this to be a turnoff to some degree and there is a complete disconnect between how they view themselves and those images. So by building your business around the mature market you naturally eliminate 90% of the barriers that many other people have for joining a center or studio.

  • There won’t be any pumped-up meatheads wearing string tanks, throwing around heavy weights and grunting.
  • No fitness divas in spandex shorts and revealing sports bra (up and out) showing off their lean legs and abs.
  • No more intimidating equipment, ‘no-pain no-gain’ attitudes, or obnoxious music.
  • No more supermodel ideal body types that people can’t even hope to achieve.
  • No more gallon jugs of water, weight-lifting straps or massive weight belts with superman logos (who really wants that in their facility anyway).

We must create everything for our clients instead of for ourselves. Removing these elements is only the first step towards shaping an environment that can meet the needs of all of these groups, but it is a critical one.

There will always be a place for hard-core, youth-focused programs, studios and facilities. BUT the population of potential clients is shrinking and the competition is growing.

However, the population of mature adults as well as all the groups mentioned above are growing rapidly and there is very little competition.

So which do you think will drive the fitness industry in the near future?

In 2012 the oldest baby boomers are turning 67, the youngest by some definitions 48. If we think back to the fitness boom and the real birth of the personal training industry in the 1980s and 1990s, it was fueled by boomers in their then 30s and 40s.

The fitness industry has continued to stay focused on youth, while the mature market that first created demand for it, is now often an afterthought. The segment of the marketplace that has the most need for personal training, and has the most financial resources is often overlooked entirely by the fitness industry.

So what should one do to tap into this ever growing up tapped market?

On the fitness side you need to:

• Become skilled at training mature clients for health and functional outcomes
• Gain credentials and expertise in exercise as a tool for disease prevention and management
• Specialize in one or more areas of concern to older adults (e.g. Balance and Fall Prevention; Post-Rehabilitation)
• Learn advanced assessments for function, balance, health, posture and more
• Run Small Group Training Programs in addition to 1-1 training

On the business side you need to:

• Tailor everything about your facility (look, feel, equipment, staff) to attract and serve this market
• Learn contemporary lead generation strategies
• Establish a strong presence online with a squeeze page, email opt-in for a free “thing” (report, video, assessment, training, etc.) and low “leakage”
Use social media such as Facebook, email, and blogging to establish a relationship with potential clients
• Have a strong closing script that connects with the values of the mature adult
• Offer long-term (6 month or more) training programs built on recurring revenue (monthly EFT)
• Provide excellent customer service

Don’t let this incredible opportunity pass you by. You can create a secure future filled with financial and lifestyle freedom but you’ve got to be willing to be different from all the other trainers around you. Forget the 20 and 30 year old clientele that everyone else is going after. Set yourself apart by focusing on the fast-growing 55+ population. They’re here. They’ve got the money. They’re interested in staying healthy. Are you ready for them?

About the Author – Dan Ritchie PhD, CSCS, HFI-ACSM

Dan has a broad background in the fitness industry including training and management in commercial and university/hospital-based fitness, for-profit, not-for-profit, and educational facilities. His primary areas of expertise are in personal training for special populations: athletes, pregnancy, blind, stroke recovery, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Fibromyalgia, Alzheimers, etc. He has worked with Division I athletes, some of whom have been professionally drafted. He has also worked on state funded research on exercise for severe dementia alzheimers type. He regularly presents at national and regional conferences and has been active on committees for the American College of Sports Medicine. In May of 2008 he completed his Ph.D. in Health and Kinesiology, with a minor in Gerontology at Purdue University.

If you are a fitness professional and would like to tap into the mature market, Dan can help you do that in his Booming PT Profits:

Rick Kaselj, MS

P.S. – If you liked the above, Dr. Dan Ritchie has a number of other great resources on EFI: