How to start a gym business

How to start a gym

The rise of health and fitness chains during the past decade is proof that people are willing to dedicate a lot of time and money to get in shape, especially as obesity rates hit record levels.


Most gyms tend to operate within a franchise framework with an independent gym offering something a bit more personal, but it is a highly competitive sector that doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.


StartupSmart provides a rundown on the industry to stop you from breaking out in a sweat.

What is it and who is it suited to?


A gym, also known as a health club or fitness centre, houses exercise rooms and equipment used for exercising.


Most gyms have a main workout area which primarily contains free weights including dumbbells, barbells and exercise machines. That area often includes mirrors so users can monitor themselves and maintain correct posture during workouts.


A cardio theatre or cardio area includes various types of cardiovascular related equipment including treadmills, stationary exercise bikes and rowing machines.


Those areas often include audiovisual displays that are integrated into the equipment or mounted on walls to keep exercisers entertained.


Many newer gyms offer group exercise classes conducted by qualified fitness instructors, with classes including aerobics, cycling, boxing, yoga, Pilates and even dancing.


Some gyms offer have swimming pools, squash courts or boxing areas, with additional fees sometimes charged for the use of those facilities.


Gyms may also include health shops, snack bars, restaurants, child care facilities and cafés, and it is not uncommon for a sauna or “wellness area” to be incorporated.


A strong interest in fitness is highly valued but not essential. You will need to put in long hours, with most gyms opening before 7am and not closing until well past 5pm to accommodate full-time workers.


A strong work ethic and genuine passion for working with people are paramount in this industry.


Rules and regulations


A gym has the potential to be a minefield for injuries and accidents so attention to OHS is a major priority.


Businesses are encouraged to join an industry association. Fitness Australia is the national health and fitness industry association and it monitors adherence to industry standards of service, care and safety via registration of exercise professionals and businesses.


Fitness Australia guidelines, including state-specific codes of practice, are a great guide for the fitness industry to use when working with clients.


Research and competition


As a small operator, at least initially, you will need to determine what kind of people your business should cater to and tailor your offering accordingly.


For example, if you’re trying to attract a younger age group organise activities with a social element such as aerobics or dance sessions.


Defining your target market will help you figure out how big your gym should be and which equipment you should have.


You will probably need some capital to buy or rent a space and to fit it out with the necessary facilities. Select a location that is conveniently accessible to your customers, such as a shopping centre.


Employees can contribute greatly to the success of your business so you need to hire capable and professional people who can provide excellent service.


Having a good image makes it easier for people to remember your business. You should create a name, logo and slogan that are unique and appealing to your prospective clients.


Before your gym is completed you should start planning your sales and marketing campaign, offering special discounts or promotional items to attract clients.


Costs and earnings


The financial outlay of starting a gym should not be underestimated.


In addition to a decent-sized venue in a good location you’ll need to consider gym equipment, changing rooms, showers, saunas, etc.


If you’re strapped for cash buying into a franchise could be the way to go.


According to salary comparison site Simply Hired the average salary for gym owners is $58,000, although salaries vary greatly depending on the company, location, benefits and other relevant factors.


An average day


Gym owners need to complete or delegate the following tasks:

  • Compile regular work schedules for staff.
  • Inspect gym equipment, make repairs and purchase new stock.
  • Talk to existing customers and give new customers tours of the facilities.
  • Devote time to marketing your business via campaigns and special offers.

Useful contacts


Fitness Australia  

1300 211 311



Australian Government Small Business Support Line

1800 777 275


Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

02 6273 2311

03 9668 9950