20 Easy Ways To Increase Your Group Fitness Participation

If you are looking to fill up your classes so you can increase your income, or just prefer the buzz you get from having a maxed-out class, you will want to read this article.

I’ve taught group fitness countless times in my life and loved having busy classes, the busier the better, so I spoke to a bunch of group fitness instructors and have put together a list of 20 simple and effective ways to increase your group fitness participation.

Sound good?

Let’s go…

I’ve personally felt the frustration that comes from turning people away at the door that would love to join your class but can’t because your list is full up, only to find out that a quarter of those that “booked in” never end up attending the class.

As an instructor, this puts you in a very difficult situation, because what are you supposed to do? You can’t let the person who didn’t book join the class in case another person that did book is late, but you also don’t want to say no to a member who is willing to pay and can clearly see there is space available.

Now there are a lot of tips coming up, so feel free to click on the menu below to take you to your favorites, or be really bad**s and read the whole article. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and learn how to have people queuing outside your classes each week!

Let’s dive in!

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busy group fitness class

1. Ask your members for feedback

group exercise class asking for feedback

You could guess whether or not people are enjoying your classes by assuming they like the way you teach or the music you play, or better yet, you could just ask them.

People are generally pretty honest about things like this, if they enjoy coming to classes in general, they will probably have their own preferences, so if you ask them for feedback, I would be pretty confident you would get it from them.

Never be offended or take this feedback as a negative, it’s something that you can use to make sure every single member of your class is enjoying what you are teaching, which makes them more likely to stay and recommend you to their friends.

Remember, you can’t please everyone, but if the majority of your class participants agree on similar changes (if there are any), then you will have a pretty happy class.

2. Make sure your classes aren’t too hard to too easy

This can be tricky, as a class can sometimes have 20 or 30 members participating, all of varying degrees of fitness. What might be a walk in the park for some people can be like climbing Everest for others.

Striking a balance between the two is important to make sure that you don’t discourage half of the people that had turned up that day. In my club, there was a certain class that was full of seriously fit individuals that were very completive with each other. It was well known to all the members of the club that this class was not for the faint-hearted. This made things easy, but it’s rarely the case in most gyms.

An easy way to make sure you are catering to everyone’s varying degrees of fitness is to remember to add exercise progressions and regressions. Teach all versions so that your members can decide what difficulty level of exercise they want to choose.

This way, everyone’s happy.

3. Make everyone feel included

group fitness class making sure everyone feels included

No one should ever feel like they are being left out of a fitness class they are taking.

Nothing would make me want to stop going to a class more than an instructor that either couldn’t tell that I was struggling, or even worse, could see that I was struggling, but did nothing about it.

As an instructor, it is part of your role to make sure that every participant is treated equally with the same level of attention given to each member. By showing everyone that no matter their level of ability they are welcome as part of the group and will be given any additional instruction or motivation they need, you will prevent a lot of disheartened and sometimes embarrassed members from leaving your classes.

4. Don’t let your class members get bored

I’d really like to think that this point is so obvious that it wouldn’t happen, the sad truth is that it does, all the time.

Members get bored of exercises and routines very quickly, remember, your group fitness class is supposed to be the fun and exciting thing they do after a long hard day at the office, if you are using the same music, teaching the same exercises in the same way and teaching in the same style week in week out, you shouldn’t be surprised when your attendance numbers start dropping.

Keep things fresh as often as you can, you don’t have to invent a brand new way of training, but just try to make sure you aren’t repeating yourself too often. Your workouts should be different each week unless you are training for a specific purpose that needs constant progression. In most cases though, people want a hard workout to help them relax at the end of the day.

Don’t treat this the same as you would a personal training client where you teach the same exercises with progression each week, you’ll need to constantly keep mixing training programs up to keep things fresh and interesting.

5. Set your class apart from all the rest

set your group fitness class apart from the rest

There are a lot of great companies out there that teach fantastic group exercise courses, I am sure you will know most of the famous ones, but I won’t say their names in case I get sued for something, so I will just say that I like them, but they can create a problem.

When members go to a certain training brands class, they know that they will be being taught in a specific way, to specific music, and with specific equipment. The problem that I have with this, is that as an instructor, there is nothing that sets your class apart from anyone else teaching the same thing.

It’s very difficult to bring your personality across and make it truly your own. Now I understand that the confidence that comes with knowing what to expect from a class is what can be appealing to some people, but I do believe that trying to inject some of your own personality into a class to make it your own is really important to keep your attendance levels up.

I would want people to book into my classes because they enjoyed the way that I taught it, not just because of the brand it was designed by. Try your best to inject a little bit of yourself into what you teach and how you teach it.

6. Create a community within your class members

This is an indirect way of increasing your class attendance, as by creating a strong community between the participants of your classes, you create bonds which in turn lead to increased attendance levels.

Put simply, by creating a community in your class and helping people get used to the idea of working as a team, and making it normal to speak and interact with other members of the class, you will help establish friendships that will encourage people to attend the classes not only because they want to exercise, but because they will also want to see their new friends.

How do you do this?

You can achieve this by making encouragement part of the social norm, by using partner exercises (as we will discuss later), and making it perfectly clear that even though everyone is there for their own reasons, they are all there to get fit and should work together hard as a team to achieve this.

7. Don’t only rely on the gym to promote your classes

marketing your group exercise classes

This point is more geared towards self-employed instructors who rely on busy classes to be kept on the gym’s books and to make enough money to cover the cost of renting the studio whilst still making a profit.

You should not rely on the gym to promote your classes, if you’re renting the studio yourself, they in all likelihood won’t help you market your classes at all, it’ll be up to you.

If you have become a fitness instructor because you have a passion to teach fitness but also want the benefit of running your own company and being your own boss, you need to treat it as such. This means you need to put as much effort into marketing your group fitness classes as you would if you were opening your own restaurant, you wouldn’t use a “build it and they shall come” attitude towards that, would you?

There are plenty of different ways you can market your studio classes, including social media, signs around the gym and changing rooms, and plenty more that I will certainly cover in another article soon.

The main point is that you need to get creative here and not assume that just because you are paying to rent a studio the gym will help you out, you are purely renting the space from them and they don’t owe you anything, so you will need to put a great deal of effort into your marketing, especially when you initially start your classes in a new gym.

8. Market your classes to local businesses

Why stop at members of the gym? Sure, there are going to be a lot of people that want to get in great shape there, but your market is still limited. If you are teaching classes like dance, pole fitness, or yoga, why limit yourself to only the members that already exist within the club you are renting from?

Visit local businesses and ask if you can either give talks on the benefits of your classes to their staff or leave group fitness marketing material around the business.

You could also offer company discounts for staff and management as an incentive, just remember not to give too big of a discount as you will probably need to pay for guest passes or put these costs into the prices of your classes, this is up to you though.

By reaching out to local businesses you can greatly increase the potential number of people attending your classes, it will also take away the stress of having a few people drop out of classes a few weeks in as will commonly happen as you will be able to quickly replace them.

9. Remind your members about upcoming classes

remind your group fitness class members about upcoming classes .jpg

Not every member that didn’t attend your class did it because they don’t like you as a teacher or don’t like your class, some people just plain forget what day of the week it is, I do it all the time.

As a personal trainer, I was well used to reminding my clients that they had an upcoming session the following day to make sure that I didn’t have a wasted hour on my hands. I used this exact same mentality to make sure that I reminded all of the members that came to my class the night before that they had my class coming up and not to forget to call in and book their slots.

Of course, this was back before GDPR regulations came in so that we weren’t allowed to use people’s personal data such as phone numbers without their permission. Gone were my days of looking through the contact details of my class members and reminding them by text.

These days, you can create a group that all your class members belong to so that you can remind everyone in one go, Facebook groups, and WhatsApp chats are good places for this, and your class members will have to give permission for you to use their numbers (or add them to a group) in the first place, so you know they are ok with it.

Just give a reminder the evening before each class letting them all know how excited you are about the class, and maybe give them a sneak peek of what’s coming up and a reminder of the time and place it’s taking part.

10. Ask your gym to help with your marketing

I know I just said that you shouldn’t rely on your gym to market your classes, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them for additional help. Remember, you are renting the studio, and I can tell you from experience that gyms want every bit of extra cash they can, so they will almost certainly want to help you out if they can.

Every little helps, so notice boards on reception and in changing rooms, announcements promoting your classes, and allowing you to give example classes to drum up business should all be ways you can ask for the gym to help you fill your classes up.

These are simple marketing tips that will not negatively impact the running of the gym at all, so you shouldn’t come up against much resistance when you request this.

11. Ask for deposits if you charge for classes

Ask for a deposit for your group fitness classes

No one likes losing money, and even a small amount might be enough to deter people from not turning up to a class just because they don’t feel like it. Adding a £5 deposit to each of your classes will make a huge difference in the amount of “no-shows” you get.

Don’t feel like you are being harsh by asking for a deposit, it’s not that you are trying to make money off people whenever you can, it’s really there as motivation to make sure people come to your classes. I am sure you would rather have a full class of people really enjoying your exercises than have people missing out.

Asking for a deposit also acts as a filter for people that wouldn’t take your classes seriously. For example, if a person books into a class on Wednesday but is thinking they either may or may not go to it depending on how many drinks they have at their lunchtime meeting, they are less likely to book in the first place if they know that they might lose money.

12. Use a cancellation list

Whilst working as a fitness instructor I had to answer the phone and book people into classes, the cancellation list was an excellent tool we used to make sure that class spaces weren’t left empty and I highly recommend you make use of one too.

You will have your own list of people booked into your classes, and a cancellation list can be used when your class is fully booked. All you do is create a list that people can book onto on a first come first serve basis to take the place of any dropouts of the class.

The fitness team or yourself will need to replace any members that have called up to cancel their booking and put the first person on the reserves list on the confirmed booking sheet instead. Now, even if people do decide to cancel (and they will), you don’t have to worry about spaces being wasted, especially once your class becomes increasingly popular, as you will always have a reserve list of people desperate to attend.

13. Give “try before you buy” classes

give try before you buy group exercise classes

If you are charging for your classes, a great way to drum up new business and get more people to attend your classes is to give a “try before you buy” session. Giving people the chance to see how effective and fun your classes can be will make them much more likely to be willing to pay whatever you are charging.

If it is your very first time in a new gym, I would recommend giving the first session for free anyway, as people may be unlikely to sign up for a class that they are unsure if they will like or not.

You will have to pay close attention to your regular members to make sure that people don’t try to take advantage of this by saying it is their first class over and over, but you will get to know people’s faces fairly quickly, so you should spot this fairly easily.

14. Make use of partner work

A lot of people are shy and stick to themselves in group exercise classes. You can limit this by asking your class participants to partner up and do exercises together.

This has a few benefits. It will help establish a bond between class members as they will no doubt introduce themselves to each other and talk during the exercises, it’ll make the exercises more fun as they now have a partner to help and encourage them, and it will also help to create comradery between class members that will make them more likely to attend future sessions.

If a person sticks to themselves all the time, they will feel there is no issue with them not turning up to a class, however, if they know their friend is going, they may feel more inclined to attend for the sake of their new exercise partner, as they may not want to let them down.

It is also far more likely that a class member will work hard and get results if they have a partner to push and encourage them. The better results they are getting, the more positive word of mouth you get, and the higher attendance rates you will have.

15. Interact with people on a 1-2-1 basis

group fitness classes interact on a 1-2-1 basis

Do you know what makes people want to keep coming back to your classes again and again? Being interacted with and made to be part of the group.

There are simple steps you can take as an instructor to achieve this, such as:

  • Using peoples first names wherever possible
  • Helping individuals with their technique
  • Staying behind to talk to people after the class
  • Letting people know they can contact you if they have any further questions or would like any advice
  • Giving alternate exercises for anyone with an injury so they can still join the classes

Interacting with people on a 1-2-1 basis makes them feel like they belong to a group and are part of something bigger than just another exercise class. Everyone likes being addressed by their first name, and it shows that you have been paying attention and made the effort to learn it. By showing that you care about your class members, they will also care about their instructor.

16. Give training discounts to the highest attending member

Instead of hoping that people turn up to your classes, why not make them actively compete to have the highest attendance in the whole class?

A monetary incentive (reduced cost of classes for two weeks etc) goes a long way to encourage people to keep coming to your classes.

Let people know that you are taking note of how many of your classes your participants have taken in a month, and the person with the highest record will get a 50% discount on next month’s training sessions. It doesn’t have to be 50%, but it needs to be enough of an incentive to make people actually care about it.

It’s not just the monetary incentive that we are using here, we are also playing to people’s competitive nature. as soon as you add an element of competition, you will find people will start to go out of their way to come to your classes.

17. Offer 1 free session for every 10 attended

offer one free group fitness class for every 10 bought

I’m sure you’ve been to coffee shops and barbers/hairdressers where after each purchase, you get a stamp on your card saying that you have made a purchase and once you reach a certain amount (usually 5 or 10), you will get one free.

The reason companies do this is simple, it gets people buying from them again and again!

I see no reason why you can’t set up your own system like this. Just create cards and give them to all new members of your class, at the end of each session, go around stamping everyone’s card. There may well be a session where you have to give it free to nearly the whole class, which could make some people uneasy, however, if you are only giving away one free session in ten, you are almost guaranteeing that your class members will show up to at least ten of your classes.

It’s hard to guarantee anything of course, but people love a freebie, and in order for them to get their freebie, they need to attend (and pay for) a bunch of your classes first. That’s a pretty good deal for them and you.

18. Ask your class attendees to bring a friend

If you have a class of twenty people, what’s easier, trying to find another ten or fifteen people from marketing, or asking every person there to invite their friends along with them next time?

I hope this is a fairly obvious answer, but in case it’s not, the latter is much easier!

You can help to grease the wheels a little by letting your class know that if they bring a friend with them, they will get a discount on their own training for the following months worth of sessions.

Again, you will be losing a little revenue by offering cheaper rates to your existing attendees, however, if you can bring along another ten members that are paying full price and then stay on to continue training with you, you will have made more money than if you had stayed with your original twenty members.

Some people will be so impressed with your classes that they will invite their friends anyway, but if you put the effort in to ask them and give them a financial incentive, they will be far more likely to do it.

19. Become famous by developing yourself as a brand

One way that I always managed to have packed out classes, was to make sure that I was “famous” in my club for giving the most brutal classes.

I worked in the City of London where the members were fiercely competitive, so making sure that everyone knew that if they wanted a seriously hardcore workout they should come to my classes was what made my classes and by default, me, famous in my club.

This won’t work in every club of course, but you should do something that sets your classes apart from all the others out there. We have already spoken about setting yourself apart from all the other teachers of your style of classes, but this boils down to personality. What can you do that makes people talk about your classes to all their colleagues when they go back to the office?

This is something you will have to think about yourself, but have a look into what you can offer that no one else can.

20. Don’t worry about low attendance once in a while

Low attendance group exercise class

I’ve left this point till last, but it in no way means that it’s less important than the rest. In fact, for some people, it may be the most important point of all.

No matter what tips you use from the list above, or any others that you choose to use, I want you to be realistic in how long it will take for you to get your class numbers up.

If you are brand new to a club, it is going to take a while for your name to get out there, for your marketing to work, and for people to start telling their friends about you, so don’t start to panic if after three weeks you still have low-class numbers.

Don’t give up prematurely, as you could be a matter of weeks away from having fully booked classes. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take your time. As long as you are delivering fantastic classes that people are enjoying, word will get around and you will be successful.


Whew, ok, so there you go, there’s quite a long list of things for you to try.

I hope that these tips will help you increase your group fitness class attendance and increase the revenue you are making from teaching.

Remember, if you are working for yourself, no one said it was going to be easy, so put in the effort and you will reap the rewards.

Go get ’em!

If you enjoyed this article and feel it might help others, please feel free to share it or link back to it.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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