How Gyms Make Money (Business Model & Profitability Explained)

Whether it be a sports training facility, a boutique fitness studio, or a giant big box gym, many trainers, athletes, and even some casual gym-goers have considered what it might be like owning their own gym.

What better way for fitness enthusiasts to be a part of the industry that they are passionate about?

Even if you’re not considering becoming an owner or franchisee, there are a lot of interesting questions to consider as someone involved in the fitness world:

How do gyms make money? Are gyms profitable and is it a good business model?

Gyms make most of their money through recurring membership fees. However, smart owners will implement new revenue streams like personal training, branded merchandise, premium amenities, and more to make owning a gym more profitable.

Let’s take a closer look at how the sausage is made!

How Do Gyms Make Money?

It seems simple at first.

People pay to use the facilities at the gym, of course.

But the business model and profitability of a gym is actually a lot more involved! Or it should be.

Here’s an overview of how gyms make money and some of their different revenue streams.

Memberships / Fees

The first way gyms make money is, of course, membership fees.

The cost of a gym membership can vary, usually starting as low s $10/month for budget gyms like Planet Fitness and going all the way up to $200 or more per month for Equinox clubs.

There are several factors to consider when it comes to figuring out how to charge clients.

Most gyms operate on a membership model, which provides members with a fixed monthly, bi-yearly, or yearly rate to use the facilities and services.

The unfortunate truth is that a lot of people bail on the gym shortly after joining, so these financial commitments are important for gyms to have steady revenue.

With memberships, the gym owner can rely on a relatively predictable and consistent income, therefore allowing for easier financial planning.

However, there is also a downside to charging for membership via a contract, as it can make some members feel like they are locked into something that they can’t get out of and are paying for something that they are not using.

Another negative when it comes to membership is that there is always constant pressure for staff to sell, sell, sell, which can sometimes take away from the personal aspect of the health and wellness industry.

For these reasons, some gyms often memberships without a commitment or contract.

Personal Training / Group Programs

Most gym memberships provide you with basic services such as access to equipment, locker rooms, and if they’re available, aquatic amenities.

However, for those who are new to fitness or want someone to help guide them on a specific plan and maximize results, personal training packages are the ideal upgrade for both clients and owners.

Looking for another upgrade option, how about adding in consultation with a Nutrition Specialist?

Group classes are another good way for beginners to learn the ropes, and they can be an excellent revenue stream for gyms, as well.

Many gyms include group classes with the membership dues, but that inclusion helps drive more membership sign ups and recurring revenue. Others charge extra for them.

Both choices are valid models!


Depending on the amount of space and structure of your facility, there are numerous goods and services that you can provide for your clients to enhance their experience.

(And put a little extra revenue in your pocket.)

If the space and staffing allow for it, providing a daycare or child care is huge for many clients who are parents. This cost can be added to the membership or paid for on a per use basis

On the theme of looking good / feeling good, a tanning salon or health food bar are just some of the added perks to give your clients.

If space is minimal, simple things like bottled drinks and branded products such as clothing, water bottles, and gym bags that can be sold over the counter not only help with branding but also make the client feel like a larger part of the gym community.

How Much Money Do Gym Owners, Managers, and Trainers Make?

If you are one of the gym owners who manage to make it past their first year of ownership, consider yourself lucky, as eight out of ten gyms usually fail in their first year.

According to ZipRecruiter the national average salary of a gym owner in the United States is $65,685 per year.

Of course, being the owner, your salary depends largely on overall profit margin and revenue.

They have the salary for a gym manager to be approximately half of that amount, at $33,031, which is more predictable as a true salaried position.

However, depending on the size of your gym, many owners also function as the manager and sometimes even wear a third hat as a personal trainer.

As for personal or group trainers, they make an average of approximately $25 per hour.

While some trainers are full-time staff, many use it as a secondary job.

Some of the biggest factors that influence the varying incomes of a gym staff include the size of the facility, what the membership entails and how many members are enrolled, the location and target demographic of the members.

For owners, you will also have to consider monthly expenses such as rental, utilities, equipment, maintenance, salaries, marketing, etc.

Sometimes these factors will fluctuate depending on the time of year.

8 Ways Gyms Can Become More Profitable

Are gyms a good investment?

They can be, but just charging people to access equipment and calling it a day is a surefire way for a gym to fail.

Here are some revenue stream ideas for gym owners. If you’re just a casual gym goer, you might see your gym implementing some of these ideas, so keep a look out!

Increase Membership Rates

Depending on how you handle this, it could make or break your business.

If you raise your rates, you may see your members walk out the door, but if you don’t, your gym could face a shutdown.

By increasing membership rates by even just 5%, you will improve your profitability without a huge impact on client retention.

If your members are paying $50 per month, the new rate of $52.50 will not be all that alarming, especially if you communicate with your members with plenty of notice and explain to them that in order to continue providing the same great service and value that they have come to expect, that the slight increase is necessary.

If you have 100 members, that slight increase in membership fee will see an extra $2,850 in income.

Selling On-Site Products

How often have you seen your clients forget something that has hampered their workout, or maybe they require something that will help take it to the next level?

Retail products such as clothing, water bottles, energy bars/drinks, and even earbuds are just some of the things that are often forgotten or misplaced.

Additional items such as personal care items (deodorant, mouthwash), yoga mats, and exercise bands are just some of the things that will add value to your members’ trip to the gym and increase your revenue.

However, be cautious with your pricing as overcharging could offend your customers and leave you with a large stash of unused products.

Premium Classes / Memberships

Both Planet Fitness and Equinox have plenty of treadmills.

But there’s a reason one costs $10/month and the other $200/month.

Consider adding some upgrades to your gym to justify a more premium price.

Things such as body composition analysis, nutritionists, state of the art equipment, upgraded locker rooms, and hot tubs are just a start.

There are many bells and whistles that help increase the gym experience and, for some customers, it is well worth the extra cost.


Did you know that Lebron James, one of the greatest NBA players in history, spends a million dollars a year on taking care of his body.

This includes an entire staff of experts to advise and prepare him each day.

Your average gym-goer can’t afford a team like this, of course, but you may be able to help them find an expert who can take their fitness or recovery to the next level.

Partnering with local nutritionists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and kinesiologists is a great way to work together with fellow health and wellness experts in your area.

You can, in turn, refer business to each other — everyone wins!

Special Events

Whether you bring in a guest speaker or celebrity trainer, or you create a themed workshop or fitness challenge, gym members love to be a part of something that helps them stay motivated and on top of their game.

While you will not see a constant stream of money, there will be an immediate lump sum that will increase income, especially if you do it multiple times a year.

Understanding the times of the year when members need an extra pick-me-up or aren’t hampered by holiday bills will help see a larger enrollment.

Commercial Advertising

While most gyms want to create a backdrop filled with mirrors or inspirational pictures and messages, creatively using free wall space for commercial advertising is a creative way to increase revenue streams.

Promoting local health food stores, salons, spas, and restaurants are just some of the target partners that may be interested in the promotional space.

If you do not want to cover your walls in logos and ads, selling space on your website or email blast newsletters is another option.

Just be sure to properly vet your advertising partners so you don’t risk alienating members.

Online Training

By offering an online personal training session to either existing or new clients, you can provide services to a wider audience, including those who are anxious about entering a gym or for those who are frequently on business trips or holidays.

This avenue also allows for your trainers to work a digital group session, catering to a mass audience for a generalized workout program.

Corporate Fitness Classes

Whether it is a one-time seminar about posture, stretching, and movement while at the workplace or engaging staff in a before/after-hours group class, local businesses love this kind of stuff.

By offering corporate classes, there is a good chance that the company will chip in or cover the entire cost of the program, which can be sold on creating a healthier and more productive staff.

Wrapping Up

While the obvious reason for owning and operating your own gym is to make a financial living, most gym owners also have a passion and focus on helping their community become physically and mentally healthier.

If you want to get into the fitness biz, you’ll need that passion. It’s not as simple as buying a few pieces of equipment and raking in the dough.

Keeping up with trends and demands in a digital era is really hard work!

Building a successful gym is not easy, but with a variety of creative ways that your new training facility can make a profit, combined with patience and hard work, being the proud owner of a profitable gym is certainly achievable.

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Hope this helps!