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4156.0.55.001 - Perspectives on Sport, May 2009  
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FEATURE ARTICLE 2: HEALTH AND FITNESS CENTRES AND GYMNASIA



A feature of contemporary society is the extent to which individuals are faced with demands on their time - time for work, time for education, time for family responsibilities and time for recreation. This is reflected in the nature of participation in sport and physical activity which has changed somewhat in recent years. The health and fitness centre industry has grown to meet this challenge. This article draws together ABS data on health and fitness centres and the relevant activities that individuals may undertake in these businesses.

Data are available from several ABS publications that highlight the growth in fitness centre activities. Some ways in which this growth may be measured include an increase in operating revenue and profit, increased employment in the fitness industry and an increase in health and fitness activities. The publication Sports and Physical Recreation Services, Australia, 2004-05 (cat. no. 8686.0) provides data on the number of businesses, employment and operating profit for health and fitness centres. Data on the different types of fitness centre occupations can be found in the publication Employment in Sport and Recreation, Australia, Aug 2006 (cat. no. 4148.0), while data on activities undertaken by participants in fitness centres are shown in Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2005-06 (cat. no. 4177.0).

A number of other published articles have indicated a growth in health and fitness centres. (Endnote 1, 2 and 3) The Australian Government's Department of Employment and Workplaces (DEWR) August 2007 Vacancy Report (Endnote 4) also shows that the number of job vacancies in the health and fitness sector was, at that time, at an all-time high. In 2008, it was reported that personal training was growing, along with gym memberships, fitness club openings and sales of fitness programs, (Endnote 2) while the increased demand for the health and fitness industry lead to a shortage of staff within the industry. (Endnote 3)


WHAT ARE HEALTH AND FITNESS CENTRES ACTIVITIES?

A fitness centre, also referred to as a health centre or 'gym', is "a place, providing a range of facilities designed to improve and maintain physical fitness and health exercise". (Endnote 5) They may operate as participative exercise groups or allow individuals to use exercise and weight equipment that is provided. They may contain squash courts, swimming pools and other sporting facilities provided their primary purpose is the provision of a range of fitness and exercise services. For the purposes of this report the term 'health and fitness centres and gymnasia' is shortened to 'fitness centres'.


HOW MANY BUSINESSES AND WHAT IS THEIR ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION?

Data from the publication Sports and Physical Recreation Services, Australia, 2004-05 (cat. no. 8686.0) shows the number of fitness centres increased from 667 in 2000-01 to 824 in 2004-05 - an increase of 24%. There was a sizeable increase in the income of fitness centres during 2000-01 and 2000-05 with annual turnover increasing from $294.3m to $679.4m (131%), while there was an 89% increase in operating profit before tax between these years ($16.0m to $30.3m).

Fitness Centres and Gymnasia, Summary of operations

2000-01
2004-05

Businesses at end June (no.)
667
824
Income(a) ($m)
294.3
679.4
Operating profit before tax(a) ($m)
16.0
30.3

(a) Includes captial funding.
Source: Sports and Physical Recreation Services, Australia (cat. no. 8686.0)


At the end of June 2005, the majority of fitness centres were in New South Wales with 306 centres. This is an increase of 62 centres from the end of June 2001. Queensland recorded the highest percentage increase of 61% for the number of fitness centres across the states and territories. There were 115 centres recorded at the end of June 2001, which increased to 185 at the end of June 2005. Among the other states to experience an increase in the number of fitness centres were Western Australia, with a 29% increase from 49 to 63 businesses and Victoria, with an increase of 8.9% from 157 to 171 businesses over the same period.

Number of fitness centre businesses, At end of June
Graph: Number of fitness centre businesses, At end of June



EMPLOYMENT

Data from the Service Industry Survey 2004-05 reported that the number of people employed in fitness centres nationally increased from 12,552 at the end of June 2001 to 16,871 at the end of June 2005 (34%). According to 2006 Census (ABS 2008 cat. no. 4148.0), the majority of persons employed in fitness centres are fitness instructors (13,800), followed by sports centre managers (3,406) and fitness centre managers (1,663). This was an increase over the levels reported at the 2001 Census for these fitness centre occupations: fitness instructors, 12,364; sports centre managers, 2,800 and fitness centre managers 1,163 respectively.

Fitness Centre Occupations, Census
Graph: Fitness Centre Occupations, Census


There is a difference in the number of persons employed in fitness centres according to 2006 Census data (18,869) and the 2004-05 Service Industry Survey data (16,871). Aside from the differences in timing, the Census collects information from every person in the population, whereas the 2004-05 Service Industry Survey collected information from businesses about their employees. The differences between the two collections is summarised in the table below.

Diagram: Employment


HOW MANY PEOPLE PARTICIPATE IN FITNESS CENTRE ACTIVITIES?

The main activities provided by fitness centres that are measured in the ABS survey of Participation in Sport and Physical Activity are as follows:

Aerobics/fitness includes callisthenics, gym, exercise bike and circuits (ABS 2007 cat. no. 4177.0).

Pilates includes a system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness. (Endnote 5)

Weight training is physical training that involves lifting weights. (Endnote 5)

Yoga is an ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation. (Endnote 5)

The ABS Multi-Purpose Household Survey (2005-06) provides data on the number of people participating in fitness centre activities. Of the 10.5 million Australian adult participants in sport and physical recreation in 2005-06, 2.0 million people (13% of the total adult population) participated in aerobics and fitness activities. More females than males participated with 1.3 million females (16% of the female adult population) compared to 745,000 males (9.4% of the male adult population). It is important to note that not all participants in aerobics/fitness may have undertaken this activity within health and fitness centres but may have undertaken this activity in home gyms, in public parks or at other locations.

In 2005-06, 177,000 people (1.1% of the total adult population) participated in weight training. The majority of persons involved in weight training were male (127,900) compared with females (48,600). The number of persons participating in yoga was 274,000. Nearly 249,000 females (3.1%) participated in yoga in 2006 compared to nearly 25,000 males. There were 125,000 people (0.8% of the total adult population) who participated in pilates and of these participants, the majority were female (121,000) compared with males (4,000).

Participants, Fitness Centre Activities - By sex - 2005-06
Graph: Participants, Fitness Centre Activities—By sex – 2005-06



ARE SOME PEOPLE MORE LIKELY TO PARTICIPATE IN FITNESS CENTRE ACTIVITIES THAN OTHERS?

A breakdown of fitness centre activities by age and sex can be found in the table below. All the percentages are expressed as a percentage of the age group population. The age / sex group most likely to participate in aerobics/fitness was females aged 15-34 years (21%) followed by females aged 35-54 years (17%) and males aged 15-34 years (13%). Pilates is predominantly undertaken by younger women (15-34 years) and women aged 35-54 years. Those more likely to participate in weight training are males in the 15-34 age group (2.7%) or the 35-54 years age group (1.5%). Females aged 15-34 or 35-54 years were most likely to participate in yoga (3.8% and 3.4% respectively).

Participation Rates, Fitness Centre Activities - By age and sex: 2005-06

Age (years)
15-34
35-54
55 and over
Total
%
%
%
%

Males

Aerobics/fitness
13.2
9.5
4.8
9.4
Pilates
-
-
-
*0.1
Weight training
2.7
1.5
*0.4
1.6
Yoga
**0.2
*0.4
*0.3
0.3

Females

Aerobics/Fitness
21.3
16.9
7.9
15.7
Pilates
1.4
2.0
0.9
1.5
Weight training
*0.7
*0.7
*0.4
0.6
Yoga
3.8
3.4
1.8
3.1

Persons

Aerobics/fitness
17.2
13.2
6.4
12.6
Pilates
0.7
1.1
0.5
0.8
Weight training
1.7
1.1
0.4
1.1
Yoga
2.0
1.9
1.1
1.7

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
Source: ABS data available on request, Multi-Purpose Household Survey, 2005-06



ENDNOTES

1. McMurtie, R. 2007, The Skills Shortage, Australasian Leisure Management, Australian Leisure Media Pty Ltd., New South Wales.

2. Burns, P. 2008, Rich Man: Poor Man, Australasian Leisure Management, Australian Leisure Media Pty Ltd., New South Wales.

3. Evans, P. 2008, Training on the job, Australasian Leisure Management, Australian Leisure Media Pty Ltd., New South Wales.

4. Department of Employment and Workplace Relations 2007, Vacancy Report, August 2007, Australian Government, Canberra.

5. Oxford Reference, 'Gym', 'Pilates', 'Weight Training' and 'Yoga', Oxford Reference, Accessed 2 March 2009, <http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/GLOBAL.html>


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