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Gym cost as a % of average salary

Revealed: The True Cost of Gym Membership Across the Globe

Paul

January 10, 2024

In the past decade, working out has become something of a global obsession, which has led to a surge in gym openings. In many countries, the fact there are so many companies operating in the space has led to the cost of gym membership dropping to as low as 1.05% of the average salary. But in others, the price is still prohibitively expensive. In Mali, it costs 63.83% of the average salary to join a gym.

We found this dichotomy interesting and wanted to find out why there was such a huge difference in gym affordability between countries. In the process, we ended up identifying the country with the most affordable gym membership.

Using crowd-sourced data, we analyzed the average monthly salary and how much a month’s gym membership costs for each country. This enabled us to determine what percentage of a person’s monthly wage was needed to secure a gym membership. 

Key Findings

Some of the results were unexpected. Our key findings were:

  • The USA has the most affordable gyms
  • The Netherlands takes the 2nd spot
  • Denmark ranked 3rd for gym affordability
  • The cost ranged from 1.03% to 63.83% of monthly salary required
  • Market size was not the only factor in Gym affordability – many smaller nations have affordable gyms
  • All 3 of the most expensive are on the continent of Africa
  • 60% of the countries with the most affordable gyms are in Europe

Gym cost as a % of average salary

Now, let’s take a deeper look at the figures and examine trends and socio-economic factors behind them,

The USA has the most affordable gyms in the world

According to the latest research by IHRSA in 2021, 21.8% of Americans belong to a health club or studio. That is a growth of 3.8% over 2020.

Our research shows that to be members of those gyms pay an average of 1.03% for their membership.

https://hub.ihrsa.org/2021-ihrsa-media-report
https://www.ihrsa.org/improve-your-club/2022-ihrsa-global-report-recognizes-fitness-industry-resilience/

Americans have a long history of working out in fitness clubs. The first private member gym, Hegeler Carus in LaSalle, Illinois, opened in 1876 and in 1913 the gym chain Oliphant’s was founded.

http://bartitsusociety.com/the-oldest-gym-in-america-2/
http://www.oliphantsgym.com/our-history.html

All five of the world’s biggest fitness companies were founded in America. The collective dominance of Life Time, LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox Holdings and Planet Fitness significantly influences the market. They are able to leverage economies of scale to price their membership competitively. As a result, independent gyms also do not charge highly.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/257839/health-und-fitness-club-companies-ranked-by-revenue/

The Netherlands ranks 2nd in global affordable gym study

The Dutch have to pay only a small amount more for gym membership than Americans do. They came 2nd in the rankings. Typically, they need to spend about 1.05% of their salary for gym membership.

A recent survey carried out by Euro Barometer showed that 56% of Dutch people engage in physical activity, every week. Their enthusiasm for fitness makes it relatively easy for gyms to maintain full membership and turn a profit. This combined with relatively high levels of competition helps to keep the cost of gym membership very low.

https://denfit.nl/why-is-street-workout-gaining-popularity-in-netherlands/
https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/2668

Denmark ranks 3rd in global study on gym affordability

Denmark also ranks surprisingly high, grabbing the 3rd spot. Most things are very expensive there, but not gym membership. Again, it is high level of competition that is keeping prices low. Fitness World and Fitness.dk dominate the market and benefit from economies of scale, which keeps membership fees relatively low.

It helps that the Danes love the outdoors and encourage their children to play a lot of sports. A study carried out by the University of North Dakota (UND) and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario showed that Danish kids were amongst the fittest in the world. When they examined the aerobic fitness levels of children and youth for 50 countries, Danish kids ranked 6th overall.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30687761/

Unsurprisingly, a lot of them grow up to be fit adults, who enjoy going to the gym. In 2014, the Danish government set the country the goal of becoming the fittest on earth and have backed that up with numerous initiatives to encourage it’s people to be more active. So, it is fair to say that interest in gym membership is likely to continue to grow in Denmark.

https://national-policies.eacea.ec.europa.eu/youthwiki/chapters/denmark/73-sport-youth-fitness-and-physical-activity

Those are the top findings, but there is more, which we will go into later. Before we do it is worth reminding ourselves of why access to affordable gyms is important.

Gym members stay healthy for longer

There is a strong correlation between gym membership and health. Gym goers really are healthier. Here is some of the evidence that backs up that statement.

The National Library of Medicine states that “Health club membership is associated with significantly increased aerobic and resistance physical activity levels and more favorable cardiovascular health outcomes compared to non-members.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5249148/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28107459/

Iowa State University created a study that found: –

“Gym members were 14 times more aerobically active than non-members and 10 times more likely to meet muscle-strengthening guidelines, regardless of their age and weight.” The results were similar in both men and women.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170123111536.htm

The full study can be found below: –

CountryContinentGym cost as a % of salary
United StatesNorth America1.03%
NetherlandsEurope1.05%
DenmarkEurope1.06%
New ZealandOceania1.25%
NorwayEurope1.26%
BelgiumEurope1.27%
GermanyEurope1.33%
SwitzerlandEurope1.40%
FranceEurope1.42%
Puerto RicoNorth America1.52%
United KingdomEurope1.53%
FinlandEurope1.55%
CanadaNorth America1.56%
AustraliaOceania1.57%
SwedenEurope1.58%
AustriaEurope1.65%
Timor-LesteAsia1.70%
IrelandEurope1.87%
SingaporeAsia1.91%
United Arab EmiratesAsia2.00%
GuineaAfrica2.27%
SpainEurope2.38%
South KoreaAsia2.42%
South AfricaAfrica2.53%
IsraelAsia2.55%
EritreaAfrica2.55%
QatarAsia2.59%
OmanAsia2.61%
JapanAsia2.75%
PolandEurope2.77%
LesothoAfrica2.88%
AngolaAfrica2.92%
Sierra LeoneAfrica2.99%
ItalyEurope3.01%
BulgariaEurope3.31%
LithuaniaEurope3.40%
IndiaAsia3.43%
LiberiaAfrica3.64%
PortugalEurope3.66%
SloveniaEurope3.69%
LatviaEurope3.78%
MalaysiaAsia3.79%
Bosnia And HerzegovinaEurope3.84%
EstoniaEurope3.87%
BotswanaAfrica3.93%
HungaryEurope4.18%
ArgentinaSouth America4.34%
NamibiaAfrica4.35%
SerbiaEurope4.36%
AfghanistanAsia4.53%
CyprusAsia4.54%
GreeceEurope4.66%
CroatiaEurope4.87%
ChinaAsia4.88%
MauritaniaAfrica4.89%
BangladeshAsia4.90%
TurkeyAsia/Europe4.98%
UruguaySouth America5.00%
IraqAsia5.01%
Saudi ArabiaAsia5.23%
MexicoNorth America5.27%
RomaniaEurope5.28%
IranAsia5.49%
ChileSouth America5.52%
PakistanAsia5.58%
MyanmarAsia5.59%
North MacedoniaEurope5.61%
Czech RepublicEurope5.64%
UkraineEurope5.64%
Guinea-BissauAfrica5.66%
Trinidad And TobagoNorth America5.67%
TogoAfrica5.80%
BrazilSouth America5.86%
BahrainAsia5.95%
MauritiusAfrica5.97%
ColombiaSouth America6.06%
MoroccoAfrica6.07%
VietnamAsia6.13%
JamaicaNorth America6.15%
KuwaitAsia6.21%
RussiaEurope/Asia6.21%
AlgeriaAfrica6.23%
MoldovaEurope6.26%
Dominican RepublicNorth America6.27%
JordanAsia6.45%
LibyaAfrica6.49%
PanamaNorth America6.54%
GhanaAfrica6.56%
ParaguaySouth America6.64%
Costa RicaNorth America6.64%
Democratic Republic of the CongoAfrica6.75%
EcuadorSouth America6.78%
AzerbaijanAsia6.84%
Sri LankaAsia6.86%
ArmeniaAsia7.02%
El SalvadorNorth America7.11%
PeruSouth America7.26%
UzbekistanAsia7.49%
BelarusEurope7.51%
LebanonAsia7.59%
Republic of the CongoAfrica7.63%
SomaliaAfrica7.76%
HondurasNorth America7.80%
GuatemalaNorth America7.82%
GeorgiaAsia8.04%
TunisiaAfrica8.33%
NepalAsia8.34%
ThailandAsia8.55%
RwandaAfrica8.59%
IndonesiaAsia8.67%
Papua New GuineaOceania8.67%
KenyaAfrica8.76%
HaitiNorth America8.88%
KazakhstanAsia8.98%
AlbaniaEurope9.06%
NicaraguaNorth America9.22%
BoliviaSouth America9.29%
Burkina FasoAfrica9.42%
LaosAsia10.51%
PhilippinesAsia10.74%
ZambiaAfrica10.85%
EgyptAfrica10.96%
TurkmenistanAsia11.94%
CameroonAfrica12.22%
ZimbabweAfrica12.56%
KyrgyzstanAsia12.86%
TajikistanAsia12.98%
CambodiaAsia12.99%
SudanAfrica14.06%
Equatorial GuineaAfrica14.87%
GabonAfrica15.00%
VenezuelaSouth America15.85%
SenegalAfrica16.33%
MongoliaAsia17.32%
YemenAsia17.47%
South SudanAfrica17.86%
NigerAfrica18.31%
NigeriaAfrica18.62%
MozambiqueAfrica19.02%
TanzaniaAfrica19.27%
MadagascarAfrica19.98%
SyriaAsia20.33%
EthiopiaAfrica22.26%
CubaNorth America35.48%
UgandaAfrica36.02%
ChadAfrica42.67%
GambiaAfrica43.75%
Ivory CoastAfrica46.87%
BeninAfrica51.19%
MaliAfrica63.83%

Affordability of Gym Membership for Every Country

To really understand how affordable gym membership was in each country, we also looked at regional trends.

Europe

Gym cost as a % of average salary in Europe

Norway has the 3rd most affordable gym membership Europe

The European section of the study covered 45 European countries. Here are our headline findings:

  • The Netherlands ranked 1st in Europe and 2nd in the world (see above for more details)
  • Denmark was 2nd in Europe and 3rd in the world (see above for more details)
  • Norway has the 3rd most affordable gyms in Europe and ranked 5th in the world.
  • Belgium, Switzerland and France all the global top 10 
  • Europeans are paying between 1.05% and 9.06%
  • Europe took 60% of the top 20 spots, for example Finland was 12th

Let’s delve a little deeper into what is behind the figures for some European countries.

The UK is outside the top 10 in study of affordable gym access worldwide

One of the biggest surprises of the study was that the UK did not make the top 10. Despite Britons having to pay 1.53% of their salary for gym membership, the UK ranked 11th. Exactly why that is has been hard to pinpoint.

The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report 2023 shows that the UK has slightly fewer gyms in 2023 than in 2022. Yet the number of people attending fitness clubs has risen by 3.9%, indicating that gyms are busier than ever. Logically, this increase in demand should have translated into lower prices, but that has not happened yet. 

New budget chains like The Gym Group and PureGym are entering the market which indicates that prices could be lower than they currently are.  Once they and similar firms gain a foothold in the market, the price of gym membership in the UK should start to fall.

https://www.leisuredb.com/2023-fitness-press-release

https://www.healthclubmanagement.co.uk/health-club-management-features/

https://www.healthclubmanagement.co.uk/health-club-management-news/UK-fitness-sector-hits-record-value-according-to-State-of-the-Industry-Report/

https://emduk.org/the-fitness-industry-and-the-cost-of-living-crisis/

https://www.statista.com/topics/3411/fitness-industry-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1194831/fitness-health-club-market-size-uk/

Spain and Italy are falling behind in affordable access to gyms

Both Spain and Italy have strong sporting traditions. For example, in Spain, even small villages have council-run sports pitches.

Yet, despite this, both countries perform badly in the rankings. Spain ranks 22nd in the world rankings and 13th in the European table. While Italy sits at number 34 globally and at 15th in the European rankings.

In Spain, gym membership costs 2.38% of monthly income. For Italy, it is 3.01%.

This is in part because the gym fitness industry is still relatively new in those countries. It is yet to meet the tipping point where economies of scale enable costs and therefore membership fees to be pushed down. Gym chains in both countries still operate mainly in cities. But, they are starting to branch out into towns, so gym membership affordability should improve in the future.

Most of Europe now has access to affordable gym membership

Most Europeans have access to a gym that charges affordable fees. Even in places like Romania (5.28%) and Moldova (6.26%), access to good fitness facilities is no longer completely beyond the reach of the majority of the population.

CountryContinentGym cost as a % of salary
NetherlandsEurope1.05%
DenmarkEurope1.06%
NorwayEurope1.26%
BelgiumEurope1.27%
GermanyEurope1.33%
SwitzerlandEurope1.40%
FranceEurope1.42%
United KingdomEurope1.53%
FinlandEurope1.55%
SwedenEurope1.58%
AustriaEurope1.65%
IrelandEurope1.87%
SpainEurope2.38%
PolandEurope2.77%
ItalyEurope3.01%
BulgariaEurope3.31%
LithuaniaEurope3.40%
PortugalEurope3.66%
SloveniaEurope3.69%
LatviaEurope3.78%
Bosnia And HerzegovinaEurope3.84%
EstoniaEurope3.87%
HungaryEurope4.18%
SerbiaEurope4.36%
GreeceEurope4.66%
CroatiaEurope4.87%
RomaniaEurope5.28%
North MacedoniaEurope5.61%
Czech RepublicEurope5.64%
UkraineEurope5.64%
MoldovaEurope6.26%
BelarusEurope7.51%
AlbaniaEurope9.06%

North America

Canada has the 3rd most affordable gyms in North America

We were able to secure data for 15 North American countries. Here are the main findings:

  • The USA has the most affordable gyms in the world (read more above)
  • At 1.52% Puerto Rico ranked 2nd for North America
  • Canada ranked 3rd for the most affordable gyms in North America with membership fees that represent 1.56% of the average monthly income.
  • North Americans pay between 1.03% and 35.38%  of salary for fitness club membership
CountryContinentGym cost as a % of salary
United StatesNorth America1.03%
Puerto RicoNorth America1.52%
CanadaNorth America1.56%
MexicoNorth America5.27%
Trinidad And TobagoNorth America5.67%
JamaicaNorth America6.15%
Dominican RepublicNorth America6.27%
PanamaNorth America6.54%
Costa RicaNorth America6.64%
El SalvadorNorth America7.11%
HondurasNorth America7.80%
GuatemalaNorth America7.82%
HaitiNorth America8.88%
NicaraguaNorth America9.22%
CubaNorth America35.48%

South America

Gym cost as a % of average salary in South America

In most South American countries interest in gym membership is on the rise. Over the next 5 years the market is expected to grow by 10.26%. 

https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/south-america-health-and-fitness-club-market

  • Argentina (4.34%) has the most affordable gyms in South America
  • Uruguay (5.00%) ranked 2nd.
  • Chile (5.52%) was 3rd on the list.
  • South Americans are paying between 4.34% and 15.85% of their wages to join a gym.
  • Venezuelans have the most unaffordable gym membership fees in South America. They are paying 15.85% of an average monthly wage.

Brazil ranks 83rd in the world but is No. 4 in South America rankings

Whilst the above highlights are interesting this roundup would not be complete without taking a look at Brazil. It has one of the biggest fitness industries in the world. There are 340,000 fitness clubs in Brazil with 9 million active users, only the USA has more gym users.

https://labsnews.com/en/articles/ecommerce/economies-of-the-fittest-brazil-leading-latin-americas-fitness-revolution/

Yet, despite there being huge demand there prices are still quite high. Brazilians are paying about 5.86% of their monthly pay for gym membership. Fortunately, prices are steadily falling. Companies like Smart Fit and Bodytech which offer low-cost gyms are now well established and busily expanding beyond the cities and larger towns.

https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/brazil/articles/the-top-gyms-in-copacabana-rio-de-janeiro

CountryContinentGym cost as a % of salary
ArgentinaSouth America4.34%
UruguaySouth America5.00%
ChileSouth America5.52%
BrazilSouth America5.86%
ColombiaSouth America6.06%
ParaguaySouth America6.64%
EcuadorSouth America6.78%
PeruSouth America7.26%
BoliviaSouth America9.29%
VenezuelaSouth America15.85%

Oceania

Because many of the countries of Oceania are relatively small we were only able to glean useful statistics for the 4 largest countries – Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. People in those countries are paying between 1.25% and 8.67% of their monthly wage to be able to work out in a gym.

New Zealand secures 4th place in a global study of gym affordability

New Zealand has a growing gym culture, they rank 10th globally for the percentage of people who are fitness club members. This is partly because going to the gym is so affordable. In our affordability study, the country ranked 4th with people only have to pay 1.25% of their monthly salary for gym membership.

https://www.noobgains.com/gym-membership-statistics-new-zealand/

https://www.ihrsa.org/about/media-center/press-releases/ihrsa-reports-asia-pacific-markets-attract-22m-gym-members/

New Zealanders are prepared to invest in their fitness. There is one personal trainer for every 200-gym members. A strong indicator that a significant proportion of gym goers in New Zealand are prepared to pay a personal trainer to ensure that they perform at their best.

https://nzihf.ac.nz/personal-training-careers/new-zealand-fitness-industry-overview/

Asia

Gym cost as a % of average salary in Asia

We looked at how easy it was for people living in 43 Asian countries to be able to afford gym membership. Here are our headline findings:

  • Timor-Leste is the most affordable country in Asia for gym fees. People there are paying an average of 1.70% of their monthly wage to be able to work out at the gym. That puts them in the No. 17 for the global rankings.
  • Singapore (1.91%) ranks 2nd for Asia and 19th globally
  • United Arab Emirates (2.00%) takes the 3rd slot for Asia
  • Asians are paying 1.70% to 20.33% of their monthly income for gym membership

Those are the headlines. Because many of the countries on the continent have relatively young fitness industries, for some countries we dived a little deeper into the figures. Here is what we found out.

The cost of going to the gym in Thailand is relatively high.

Thai’s have a long tradition of staying fit. In the past, this usually meant Muay Thai, the training for which is rigorous. Today, many people also train in Western style gyms. The fitness market there is growing at a crazy rate, the industry is expected to grown by 9.99% between now and 2027. Given this and the fact it is highly likely that how much of their salary Thai’s have to use to enjoy gym membership will start to fall from the 8.55% they are currently paying.

https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/app/health-fitness/thailand

Russian’s work out more at home which keeps gym prices high

We were quite surprised to learn that those Russians who belonged to gyms were paying around 6.21% of their wages to do so. In Russia, becoming and staying fit is still very much encouraged, and most people do engage in high-energy physical activities. Researchers from the HSE University Department of Applied Economics discovered that 60% of Russian men were engaging in sports at least 3 times a week.

But the same study uncovered the fact that 60% of respondents preferred to workout at home or by taking part in outdoor activities rather than going to the gym. So, demand for gyms is relatively low, which may explain why the fees are still relatively high.

https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/752062

Initially, Turkey did not really stand out as being particularly interesting to us. People there are paying around 4.98% of the average wage to join a gym, which is not bad. They rank within the top-third when it comes to gym affordability.

It is another country where gym culture is relatively new, but is growing at a phenomenal rate. In Istanbul alone there are 400 fitness clubs, 25% of which opened in the past 2 years. There are plenty of places to choose from, but attendance rates per head of population are still relatively low. A fact that makes it quite hard for owners to cover all of their overheads, which is very likely to be why gym fees there are still not that affordable.

https://businessturkeytoday.com/sports-fitness-facilities-in-turkey.html

https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/demand-for-gyms-low-in-turkey-despite-rise-in-supply-85830

Philippines have some of the least affordable gyms in the world

The Philippines is in a similar position to Italy and Spain. Their fitness industry is still relatively small with the added problem that wages are low. If gym owners were to charge only 1 or 2% of the average monthly wage, there would be no way that their running costs could be fully covered. 

It is therefore unlikely that The Philippines will ever be able to climb from 120th to the top of the gym membership affordability rankings. But, the cost could still fall from where it is at the moment. There are other countries with a similar cost of living to wages ratios where gym membership costs far less than the 10.74% of monthly income that is currently charged in The Philippines.

CountryContinentGym cost as a % of salary
Timor-LesteAsia1.70%
SingaporeAsia1.91%
United Arab EmiratesAsia2.00%
South KoreaAsia2.42%
IsraelAsia2.55%
QatarAsia2.59%
OmanAsia2.61%
JapanAsia2.75%
IndiaAsia3.43%
MalaysiaAsia3.79%
AfghanistanAsia4.53%
CyprusAsia4.54%
ChinaAsia4.88%
BangladeshAsia4.90%
IraqAsia5.01%
Saudi ArabiaAsia5.23%
IranAsia5.49%
PakistanAsia5.58%
MyanmarAsia5.59%
BahrainAsia5.95%
VietnamAsia6.13%
KuwaitAsia6.21%
JordanAsia6.45%
AzerbaijanAsia6.84%
Sri LankaAsia6.86%
ArmeniaAsia7.02%
UzbekistanAsia7.49%
LebanonAsia7.59%
GeorgiaAsia8.04%
NepalAsia8.34%
ThailandAsia8.55%
IndonesiaAsia8.67%
KazakhstanAsia8.98%
LaosAsia10.51%
PhilippinesAsia10.74%
TurkmenistanAsia11.94%
KyrgyzstanAsia12.86%
TajikistanAsia12.98%
CambodiaAsia12.99%
MongoliaAsia17.32%
YemenAsia17.47%
SyriaAsia20.33%

Africa

Guinea has the most affordable gym membership fees across Africa

We looked at how affordable gym membership was in 45 African countries. Our main findings were: 

  • Guinea ranked 1st – there people pay 2.27% of their monthly salary to be members of a health club
  • South Africa came in 2nd – South Africans spend 2.53% of their salary for gym membership
  • Eritrea – took the 3rd spot – in Eritrea gym membership costs 2.55% of the average monthly salary
  • Africa is home to the 3 most expensive countries – Mali (63.83%) – Benin (51.19%) – Ivory Coast (46.87%)

In countries where demand is high gym membership really is affordable

As you can see, we left out no corner of the earth. Even in countries where the cost of living was high or wages very low there are people joining gyms. 

The fitness industry as a whole is providing well for people. In 56 countries, residents are paying less than 5% of their monthly wage for gym membership. In 33 of those countries the cost was 3% or less.

Sources and methodology

To produce this index we used data from Numbeo’s crowd sourced cost of living and quality of life data. It is the world’s largest database of this type of information. Since 2009, Numbeo’s 775,232 contributors who are living in 11,604 cities have entered 9,126,722 prices into the system.

The gym data was taken from a study of the cost of living data in Numbeo and independently averaged gym prices across 150 countries.

Some countries have been excluded for valid reasons including: –

  • Very small population (E.g. Micronesian islands) 
  • Data was unavailable (countries in conflict or dispute e.g. Ukraine) 

We compiled this data into a study that compared the cost of gym memberships as a percentage of their monthly salary to reveal which countries have the most affordable access to gyms.

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