Latest News

Back to Latest News back


Fitness Australia says industry ‘continues to strengthen’ 12 months since COVID-19 shutdowns

Fitness Australia says industry ‘continues to strengthen’ 12 months since COVID-19 shutdowns
March 23, 2021

With this week marking a year since Coronavirus forced much of the industry to close down, Fitness Australia is reporting that operators are experiencing a resurgence that is driving jobs, memberships and demand for services.

Writing on the organisation's website, Fitness Australia Marketing Coordinator, Rachel Ely recalled "midday, 23 March 2020 will forever be etched in the memory of fitness facilities, exercise professionals and fitness industry staff as a day that more than 6,400 fitness businesses closed indefinitely, put more than 35,000 people immediately out of work and removed the option of gym-based exercise from four million Australians.

"Faced with uncertainly, instant loss of clients, revenue and income and not knowing how they would survive sent many health and fitness business owners and sole traders into a state of despair and scrabbling to go virtual within a matter of days, just to keep food on the table."

Advising that the $3 billion a year industry was hit devastatingly hard, with no warning or foresight into how long businesses would remain closed, Fitness Australia Chief Executive, Barrie Elvish stated "this time last year was a period of panic, uncertainly and fear for our industry. No one was immune from the forced shutdowns - from business owners and personal trainers to support staff and the four million gym members across Australia.

“COVID-19 was unlike anything anyone has ever experienced before, as with many other industries we were not prepared for what played out over months of various shutdowns and restrictions. We had to adapt very quickly to ensure people still had access to vital exercise options, such as virtual training and outdoor exercise, when permitted."

“This allowed some businesses to continue to operate at a minimal capacity, which was important for the livelihood of so many people and the survival of the industry.”

Data from Fitness Australia’s COVID-19 Fitness Industry Impacts Report released last year, found:

  • 81% of exercise professionals and sole traders had lost their job or main source of income
  • 70% of business cited a 100% decline in memberships
  • Revenue was down 100% for 50% of gym owners
  • Gyms that could adapt and go virtual or outdoors were able to only generate less than 10% of their usual income.

12 months on
Despite the financial the financial and emotional pain faced by many over the past 12 months, the industry is continuing to quickly rebuild strength and resilience according to Fitness Australia who is the industry’s peak member association.

Elvish noted "at an association level, we’ve implemented more robust health and hygiene frameworks for Fitness Australia members to give their business greater credibility and provide their members with the confidence and peace of mind their gym is of the highest standards and delivering service excellence. COVID-19 also saw Fitness Australia start to work more closely with governments and health authorities, and while this has been slower in some states than others, we are confident our engagement will continue to push for fitness facilities to be classified an essential service due to the benefits on our community’s long-term mental and physical health and wellbeing."

Adding that the industry was also seeing a surge in new job opportunities as businesses cater for heightened demand and start planning for the future, Elvish went on to say “job listings through the Fitness Australia Jobs Board* for the January to March quarter so far are 88% above the 2019 average. In comparison, listings in April last year were 79% below the 2019 average - that’s a big turnaround and gives us tremendous reason for hope.”

For Newcastle business owner, John Pirlo, who owns eight Genesis Health Clubs and founded the Ninja Parc franchise, the closures impacted more than 21,500 members, 174 of his staff and 32 contracted Personal Trainers from across the region and took a toll personally.

Pirlo explained “it was a real challenge coming to terms with the shutdown. Personally, I think I was in a blackhole for two to three days not knowing what to do.

“I made a critical decision to keep all staff employed, even before JobKeeper came into effect. This coupled with annual rents of more than $3 million and zero revenue coming in, meant times were very dire.

“Once we got up and running online we were able to achieve approximately 10% of our revenue through a pay-per-use system for members. It was minimal but allowed us to keep going, we knew many of our members relied on the training for their mental health and wellbeing so we didn’t want to let them down.”

Once gyms reopened in NSW his clubs were swift to go above and beyond COVIDSafe procedures to give people a high degree of confidence they could visit the gym and train safely, Pirlo stated “we had great feedback and high level of understanding from our members and the community; they were willing to do whatever they needed to ensure they could go to the gym and keep them open.

“Within 30 days of reopening we were back to approximately 60% of revenue and this increased to 95% within four months with the majority of members now back. It’s been a long road, but it taught us that we can adapt and learn no matter the circumstances.

“Our mission is to inspire movement and that keeps us going.”

For Adelaide local Tony Mennillo, founder and Chief Executive of Better Than Ever, a personal training, health and nutrition business in Findon, the snap shutdowns meant he had to completely reengineer his business model.

Mennillo explained “Better Than Ever is a one-on-one personal training business, we didn’t have an online offering. When the shutdowns happened we basically had nothing to fall back on, direct debits for our 150 plus clients stopped and we were essentially stuck in mud with no way out.

“I had to lay off staff, my wife who works in the business with me had to find a second job and I was working 80 plus hours a week. We had to get online as quickly as possible, which on the bright side has seen us design a sophisticated online platform that will future proof our business.”

Mennillo said the business has seen very positive signs in recent months, and he was now hiring more staff to keep up with growing demand as be rebuilds the business, concluding "January was a complete reset for us and most likely for many fitness businesses.

“We’ve had more than half our clients return and we’ve signed up more new members in the past two-and-a-half months than we did in whole 2020 calendar year. We are rebuilding, we’ve gone back to basics and are focusing on giving our clients a high level of personalised service.

“Realistically, I think it will take us a solid two years to really get our business back to pre-COVID times. The past 12 months have taught us a lot but we are very grateful that we are still standing and pushing forward.”

*Source: Fitness Australia Jobs Board powered by Sportspeople. 

Images: Enhanced hygiene is now a feature of all gyms (top), Fitness Australia's Barry Elvish (middle) and a Ninja Parc gym (below).

Related Articles

22nd March 2021 - Fitness and Lifestyle Group launches Emerging Leaders program

19th March 2021 - Eco Gym Wipes offer sustainable option for hygiene in gyms and fitness centres

11th March 2021 - Rapid growth sees Fitness Business Sales expand its staff team

10th March 2021 - Peloton launches interactive fitness platform in Australia with plans for retail locations

9th March 2021 - New fitness and lifestyle shows look to exploit post-COVID market opportunities

3rd March 2021 - Genesis Health and Fitness Chief Executive positive about 2021 resurgence

2nd March 2021 - VIC Active continues to highlight the safety of fitness centres

26th February 2021 - International webinar sees industry experts outline role of technology in fitness’ future

23rd February 2021 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish highlights the value of health

18th February 2021 - Manhattan fitness studio owner Mark Fisher to address first FILEX virtual summit of 2021

11th February 2021 - International fitness bodies launch leadership initiatives

10th February 2021 - Evolution Wellness to launch boutique FIRE Fitness brand in Australian market

3rd February 2021 - New fitness platform MoveMii launches to connect members with personal trainers

29th January 2021 - White paper identifies role of technology in driving post COVID fitness operations

25th January 2021 - Fitness First launches ‘Put Yourself First’ campaign

25th January 2021 - Planet Fitness opens first Queensland gym

22nd January 2021 - Body Fit Training founder shares insights into top fitness trends for 2021

21st January 2021 - New research shows Barre classes to be world’s most-searched fitness class trend

2nd December 2020 - Australian Institute of Fitness predicts top industry trends for 2021

22nd November 2020 - IHRSA survey highlights users’ sentiments on the essential role of fitness clubs

7th January 2021 - Ninja Parc set to open third facility

1st May 2019 - Fitness Australia partners with Sportspeople to provide industry jobs board

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

Aussie Strength

We are Aussie Strength. The ultimate supplier for Commercial Gym Equipment that's built to deliver in the toughest environments. From USA-Built hardcore weight training equipment from Arsenal…

read more

Fitness / Technology / Wellness


@leisure Planners

@leisure is a team of experienced leisure, aquatic and sports facility managers and planners, with market modelling, sports management, recreation planning, business and GIS qualifications. We have…

read more




Our team believes floors should be beautiful, comfortable, and engineered for safety, even when wet. Life Floor tiles meet six unique performance based standards: slip-resistance, impact absorption,…

read more

Aquatics / Play / Recreation / Safety / Surfaces


TJS Services

TJS Services is a leading national facility services provider. We deliver quality cleaning, maintenance, construction and facility management services to over 1,500 sites Australia wide.  Our…

read more

Hospitality / Retail / Venues


Pricemark Pty Ltd

Pricemark supplies a wide range of custom branded membership & RFID access products for the Health & Leisure Industry. 

read more




Playrope Aqua-Fun, are the Australian & New Zealand exclusive distributors for Vortex Aquatic Structures International, the world leader in aquatic playgrounds and urban water landscapes.…

read more

Aquatics / Attractions / Parks / Play / Recreation



Intelligenz provides Leisure Management Software for managing all your Program Registrations, Facility Bookings, Membership Sales and POS Transactions; including detailed Reporting, automated…

read more

Access / Billing / Finance / Marketing / Technology


METRA Australia

With industry leading solutions in design and durability you can improve your facilities with our access control operations, payment systems and flexible personal locker storage solutions. Your…

read more

Aquatics / Attractions / Fitness / Recreation / Security


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business