Maximize the Profit in your Fitness Program

free weights on the floor of a gym

Approach this strategy correctly to infuse your practice with cash.

By Nate Welch

There’s a long-standing connection between gyms and physical therapy clinics.

They have a mutually beneficial relationship. Physical therapy clinics can help gyms by directing to them qualified prospects who need the facilities and services of a gym. Gyms help physical therapy clinics by directing to them patients who understand the value of pain-free and functional movement. When operating together, gyms and physical therapy clinics help the community by providing a comprehensive service that addresses a large portion of their prevention, maintenance, and health care needs.


Maybe you are trying to decide if it’s worth adding this revenue source to your clinic. Maybe you already have a fitness center, but you’re feeling stuck on how to help it grow.

Many physical therapists open a fitness offering only to become very frustrated. It can take a lot of effort for it to become a profit center. One common feeling about the project is managing a physical therapy clinic feels like you’re chasing dollars. Managing a fitness center feels like you’re chasing dimes. This article aims to help you understand how to be successful with this hybrid model.


Gym memberships are now viewed as a commodity by the general population. The dominant fitness trade organization is the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). IHRSA states that over 70 million people in the US have a fitness membership—that’s 1 in 5 people. Yet, even as of September 2020, the US was said to have the highest obesity rate on record!1

Financial success goes hand-in-hand with meeting our customers’ needs. It is time that the fitness industry starts to focus more closely on helping our members reach their fitness goals and stop just collecting their money.

If you’re launching a fitness program, the first piece of advice I would give you is: Don’t get caught in the price game. There are plenty of $10/month clubs around the corner, and you can’t compete with them on price nor facility. Instead focus on the other end of the spectrum: RESULTS.


If your patients weren’t getting better, would you continue to get referrals? Let’s flip this: how many of your members lose weight? Gain strength, power, flexibility? If you have a fitness center, let’s make it even simpler: how many even come into your gym at least twice a week in the first month? How about in three months? I would guess if you looked, it’s less than you think. RESULTS are what drive the value of your fitness center, not price or equipment alone. Let’s take a look at some important tips. As you read these, grade yourself from A+ to D-.

  1. Facilities are what customers SEE. Are your facilities in decent condition? Are they clean? Is everything working? The top 25% of fitness centers in the US have the highest capital improvement budgets. I’m not saying just start spending money on the latest treadmill, but I am saying plan on reinvesting often.
  2. The member’s journey in your brand is what they FEEL. These are the experiences throughout each phase of engagement. What does it look like to join your facility? What happens when a patient is discharged from physical therapy? Do you check on your members after they join? Is the journey focused on what you can sell them next? Is there an opportunity for members to meet other members? Are they recognized when they get results?
  3. The member’s results are what they crave. How many success stories do you have of members? Do they bring their friends to you? Do they share their results with others? Help your members create an exercise habit they can’t quit.

Remember, we are not good at something unless our customers say we are. Invite their input, use a Net Promotor Score® service and ask for open-ended feedback. The answers will be in plain sight.


You can’t be an expert in every industry. My advice to physical therapy operators is to focus on building their physical therapy business and get help from experts in the fitness industry to grow their fitness business. Here’s what you can do next week to make strong progress:

If You Currently Offer Fitness Services

Get data on how often your members attend your facility in the first three months. Your goal should be at least 24 visits.

If your members are attending less than that, make one change in your new-member onboarding process to improve that number.

If You Are Thinking About Adding Fitness As Part Of Your Service

Calculate how many members you can accommodate based on one member per 10 to 12 square feet in the fitness area at one time.

Create a quick proforma that determines whether you can make a profit based on that member capacity number. 

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1Trust for America’s Health. The State of Obesity 2020: Better Policies for a Healthier America. Accessed July 9, 2021.

Nate Welch

Nate Welch has enjoyed 10+ years of experience in the key areas of the fitness industry. He serves as Vice President of Operations at Cross Gates Family Fitness and Lead Consultant in Fitness for STAR Management Company. He can be reached at

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