Full-Service Gyms Feel a Bit Flabby

Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

Matthew Knowles on a treadmill in Dallas. Solo exercisers pose a challenge to many gyms.

By CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS 
IS the gym passé?
It used to feel worthwhile to commit to an annual membership at an everything-and-the-kitchen sink gym featuring high-spirited classes, top-of-the-line cardio machines, weights — and perhaps a shot at striking up a conversation with Ms. Lithe sipping a post-workout smoothie.

But these days, the idea of a full-service gym is as stale as yesterday’s sweat-soaked towel. Up to 45 percent of fitness-club members quit going in any given year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

For all their ads promising to stir motivation, gyms have failed to do so. “Up until the last six years, it’s been relatively easy to sell memberships, and to replace people going out the back door with people coming through the front door,” said Michael Scott Scudder, a consultant who advises health clubs and conducts up to 15 industry surveys annually. “Not so anymore. We’ve come to a point that we can’t sell enough membership in the industry to cover the attrition rate.”

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