If you’ve been keeping an eye on the gym industry over the last few years you will have seen the amazing growth of the market. In the UK, over 9m people now have a gym membership.

That’s 14 percent of the total population – the highest it’s ever been.

But what does this mean for the industry and the wider health and fitness market?

Well, on one side of the coin, it’s a great thing. People are getting healthier and the sector is booming. On the other side, gyms are going to get crowded and many people with memberships still won’t go. In fact, it’s estimated that 67 percent of gym memberships go unused!

The real problem is that gyms lack stickiness.

They can be an expensive monthly outgoing that requires some cold, hard determination to get true value from.

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Either you go to a cheap and cheerful gym for around £20 per month and fight to use their dated equipment, or you opt for a luxury spa membership for £100+ a month and enjoy good equipment and a nice sauna.

Gyms can also be seen as boring and inconvenient.

You have to make time for a gym visit, find parking, queue for equipment. Even once you’ve gone to all that hassle, the only thing to do other than work out is watch endless Top 40 music videos.

Getting the industry into shape with apps

It’s great that people are choosing to exercise and stay healthy, and if gyms are the best way for them to achieve their goals then great!

But for many, gyms are simply uninspiring and overpriced.

These users are crying out for a new way to get fit – something more engaging and fun than grinding a treadmill. They want a shakeup.

At the moment, a key challenge to the gym industry seems to be coming from fitness apps. From the basic stuff like pedometers that help you walk 10,000 steps a day to complete fitness training regimes – there are a plethora of apps to encourage fitness.

The best way to encourage people to get fit is to make it entertaining. People will happily spend a couple of hours and £15 to go to the cinema, so why not bring some of that engagement to running, we thought.

Our app Zombies, Run! uses an audio story to keep runs interesting and engaging, giving them a reason to get out and run every week.

Applying new technology to an interesting story will always engage people – it’s been working since the cave men started painting on walls.

If an app can help people stick with running for longer while being cheaper than the cost of the gym, then you have a secret formula for success.

What can gyms do to keep up?

By applying apps to a workout, gyms can increase their stickiness.

Imagine virtual instructors, delivering expert training from around the world. Or virtual yoga classes you can do from your living room. Or even using a story that unfolds with each visit to the gym.

By bringing engaging and interactive elements into gym workouts clients will be motivated to work out more often and more regularly. By keeping it interesting and using apps to track progress or even rewards clients, gyms could encourage people to keep coming back.

Gyms could even work with app developers to create new social features or connect users with the best instructors around the world, for example. The possibilities are almost endless.

It all comes down to motivating people through interactive, engaging technology.