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Suburban Diary

Welcome to the gym . . . will you be staying?

The main workout area of Life Time Center in Newton.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff, file 2017/Globe staff

At my Braintree gym, it has already started.

As gyms and fitness centers in the area flood the airwaves with incredible — but read the small print! — membership offers, the routines of existing members are disrupted by a huge influx of new members.

Some arrived soon after Christmas, but most start on New Year’s Day or shortly thereafter, spurred by New Year’s resolutions, others following the advice of medical professionals in beginning an exercise program.

They come in droves, easily identifiable by their sketchy fitness outfits, not wanting to invest real money until they know they are going to stay for a while.


It is sad but true that many will be long gone by Valentine’s Day, according to a December 2014 article on creditdonkey.com headlined “23 Gym Membership Statistics That Will Astound You.”

The reporter cited a wide variety of sources for these numbers:

Eighty percent who joined a gym in January 2012 quit within five months.

Four percent of new gym-goers don’t even make it past the end of January; 14 percent drop out in February.

The genders are split roughly 50-50 in new memberships, but almost twice as many women drop out during the first year as men.

In 2011, about half of existing members visited the gym 100 times or more during the year.

Gym owners expect only about 18 percent of people who buy memberships to use them consistently. In fact, to be profitable, they need about 10 times as many members as they can actually fit through their doors.

Paul Gorman, president of the nonprofit South Shore YMCA, which has 21,000 members at its Quincy facility and 19,000 more in Hanover, says he sees “hundreds and hundreds” of new arrivals each January. He believes his organization is positioned to retain them and keep them active and engaged. He cites the diversity of health and wellness programs, a wide variety of classes and activities, and facilities that include a fitness center, pools, running track, and basketball courts.


“You don’t have to do one thing all the time and get bored with it,” he says.

Gorman thinks the best way to retain new members is to get them exercising with a friend and becoming part of an exercise group, whether it’s yoga, spinning, or aquatic exercises.

His wife, Clare, is a member of a group that meets three mornings a week.

“People in these groups look out for each other,” he says.

I think he has a good point.

At most gyms or fitness centers I’ve belonged to, there’s a sense of community. It’s helped along by rules established to help women who might be intimidated by overbearing displays of testosterone — you know who you are, in the free-weight area — so that there is a certain comfort level for everyone.

When a trainer or staff member isn’t around, we take it upon ourselves to show new members the ways around the machines, which if misused can end your fitness campaign before it even starts.

I always root for someone with an obvious weight problem to stay with it, knowing that when they start to see some results and feel better, they’ll be hooked.

In a January 2017 article on the Huffington Post website, fitness trainer Jamie Logie said those bothered by January crowds should try getting outside when possible, taking a week off in early January, or working out earlier in the day, noting that the benefits last the entire day.


He also urged existing members to be tolerant of the newcomers.

“Remember back to when you first started — you probably felt hesitant,’’ he said. “So if you see someone who seems lost, maybe go give them a hand and pass on what you know now. We’re all on the same road to health and wellness; we’re just at different points in the road.

“You may meet a new friend and help someone make a healthy, positive change in their life.”

I agree.

So, welcome, newbies. I root for every man and woman who walks through that door, and most of all for those who seem to want to make a momentous change in their lives.

Yes, you may be using my favorite machine — improperly to boot — but I’m here to help, hoping someday to see you at our “Saturday Sunrise Fitness Club.” We meet at 7 a.m., when the gym opens.

Rich Fahey can be reached at fahey.rich@2gmail.com.