Many of the world’s greatest bodybuilders are American-born and raised, including back-to-back Mr. Olympia champions Jay Cutler, Ronnie Coleman, and Phil Heath.
Others hail from our European allies overseas, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dorian Yates.
But we often forget those native to the Great White North — good ‘ol Canada.
Our upstairs neighbors churned out bodybuilding greats like Jeff Nippard and Frank McGrath. Both of them chased pumps in Canadian gyms and fitness clubs in their newbie days.
So forget “Murica!” Here’s an in-depth view of the Canadian fitness industry (eh).
Table of Contents
- Canada Gym, Health & Fitness Club Industry Statistics
- The Biggest Gym Brands and Profitability in Canada
- How COVID-19 Affected Canada Gym Memberships
Canada Gym, Health & Fitness Club Industry Statistics
- In 2012, Canada’s health and fitness club market size exceeded $4.4 billion.
- The Canadian gym market size climbed an unexpected 8% in 2021 despite the global COVID-19 pandemic.
- Between 2016 and 2021, Canada’s fitness club market size ballooned by about 1.9% each year.
- Canada’s health club industry grew faster than the nation’s entire economy.
- The fitness club industry has the 198th largest market size in Canada and is the country’s top-ranked industry in recreation, entertainment, and arts.
- Our neighbors up north boast more than 9,429 fitness clubs.
- More than 72,654 Canadians call a fitness club their employer.
What’s Behind Canada’s Health Club Upswing?
With a multi-billion dollar value, consistent growth through a worldwide pandemic, and industry expanding faster than the entire Canadian economy, the question becomes:
Why is Canada’s fitness club industry so massive?
We dug through the PartipACTION Pulse Report for possible explanations.
Here’s what we found.
The percentage of “active” Canadian adults sits just shy of one in five, which is surprisingly lower than America’s pathetic 23%. Yet, it’s the attitudes toward fitness that make a difference.
The report discovered that Canadian adults are:
- Generally excited about fitness, with many describing it as “pleasant” (90%)
- Self-described “motivated” individuals (89%)
- Confident enough to admit that they’re to blame for their own health (84%)
- Likely to view inactivity as harmful as alcohol or tobacco (83%)
- Quite fond of physical activity (74%)
- Able to become more active without major lifestyle changes (61%)
Canada is also home to one fitness club for every 4,002 people, with a total population of 37,742,154, making the Canadian industry about twice as dense as America’s.
If people acknowledge the benefits of fitness, generally hold positive attitudes toward it, and have greater access to fitness facilities, is the industry’s growth really that surprising?
Canadian Health Report: Just How Healthy Are Our Neighbors Up North?
America ranked tenth in the running for the “unhealthiest country in the world” in 2017. And, the statistics above suggest that Canadians may secretly be fitness freaks at heart.
But what better way to put both of these facts into perspective than with a side-by-side comparison of the two nations? Let’s look at the general health of Canadians vs. Americans.
|Nationwide Obesity Rate||42.4%||27.7%|
|Percentage With at Least One Chronic Condition||51.8%||33%|
|Average Amount of Physical Activity Per Day||14–24 minutes||23 minutes|
|Total Gym Memberships||64.19 million (19.5%)||6 million (16%)|
|Life Expectancy||78 years||82 years|
Research proves that Canadians tend to be thinner, healthier, more active, and live longer than the average American. However, one of these numbers is not like the other: gym memberships.
America leads Canada with about 3.5% more of its population carrying an active gym key fob. Then again, Americans are also notorious for also pouring money down the drain.
In fact, a survey from Finder.com revealed that 6.1 million us Americans don’t use our memberships at all, and only 56.6% visit the gym at least twice a week.
The consensus: The Canadian fitness industry may still fall short of America’s, but Canadians are still healthier in just about every other health-related category (even if only slightly).
The Fittest Canadian Provinces
Many across the globe regard America as the “fattest” country. But we also know that the data varies from state to state. (For example, Massachusetts is “fittest,” and Arkansas is … not.)
Similarly, in Canada, some provinces or territories are much more active than others. Now, let’s take a closer look at the five Canadian provinces with the most fitness establishments:
- Ontario: 1,727
- Quebec: 926
- British Columbia: 731
- Alberta: 509
- Manitoba: 164
The fourth-largest Canadian province, Ontario, leads the pack with 1,727 fitness clubs spanning the region; that’s about one gym for every 8,436 local residents, whether you’re a boomer or a millennial.
However, if we look beyond the number of fitness clubs in each territory, British Columbia may actually be the healthiest place to live in all of Canada.
B.C. earned four “A’s” on its health report card, including life expectancy and self-reported health. But it’s so healthy that it also ranks third behind two nations: Sweden and Switzerland.
Ontario is the Silicon Valley of fitness nuts, whether yoga, CrossFit, or traditional gyms are your thangs. But B.C. is the place to be if you want to surround yourself with other healthy folks.
The Biggest Gym Brands and Profitability in Canada
- The biggest movers and shakers in Canada’s health club industry include GoodLife Fitness Centres, LA Fitness, Self Esteem Brands, Gold’s Gym, and PFIP.
- The average Canadian fitness center pocked between $30,000 and $5 million in annual revenue.
- Nearly 71% of fitness and sport-related businesses in Canada reported profits.
What Are the Best Gyms In Canada?
With a selection of more than 9,000 gyms across Canada, choosing a fitness club can feel next to impossible. So which Canadian fitness chains are really worth your loonies and toonies?
That depends on what counts as a “good” gym, in your opinion!
Best Overall: Good Life
Canada is home to 200+ Good Life fitness clubs offering everything from 24/7 unlimited access and squash courts to 100 women-only facilities and on-site swimming pools. Good Life toppled the one-million-member mark in 2014 — one in 35 Canadians are members!
The fitness chain’s most popular perks include:
- Yoga, Zumba, and Spin classes
- A sprawling resistance training section featuring dumbbells, power racks, and more
- A pool and sauna
- Massage chairs
- Fitness instructors on-site
- A non-cramped gym feel
The one caveat is the misleading fee structure. Memberships start at $25+ bi-weekly, which would pay for a Planet Fitness membership five-fold.
Best Luxury: Equinox
Equinox is one of the leading fitness club brands for those who appreciate the finer things in life, though its steep $150+/month fee scares the middle-class crowd away. Canada’s gradual Equinox takeover is still remarkably slow, with three just three clubs in the entire country.
The luxury gyms are best known for their:
- Variety of classes, with more than 50 offerings per week
- Juice bars, pilate studios, and cafes
- High-end spas
- 30,000+ square foot facilities
The obvious downside — aside from the astronomical monthly fee — is the availability of gyms in Canada. So unless you live in Toronto or Vancouver, Equinox likely isn’t in the cards.
Best Discount: Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness is now one the most recognizable fitness brands in the world, with more than 1,899 global locations and more than a dozen locations in Canada. PF’s non-lunk-head reputation is a turn-off to many, but at about $10/month, it’s the best gym on a budget.
The growing chain’s most talked-about perks include:
- Massage chairs, tanning beds, and discounted supplements
- 24/7 gym facilities
- On-site personal trainers and fitness classes
- Free pizza, bagels, and Tootsie Rolls (free food is always a benefit)
Now, the biggest bummer is that Planet Fitness is, well, PF. There’s no weight-dropping, water-jug-carrying, grunting, power racks, loadable barbells, or any of that good stuff.
The Future of Canadian Gyms
Of the 71% of Canadian-based gyms that turned profits, the average facility earned between $30,000 and $5 million (pre-COVID).
Then again, the business world was at a standstill in 2021, and this data came from 2019. These days, the profits are likely even lower due to COVID.
So what is the future of Canadian gyms?
Boutiques and fitness studios suffered the most during the COVID-19 crisis, unable to stay afloat after lengthy stay-at-home orders and the ongoing risk of coronavirus outbreaks.
Fortunately, the end is in sight, leaving many local gym owners optimistic that visitors will return in due time. But the pandemic also exposed a hard truth: gym memberships are luxuries.
And, online platforms like Athlean-X, Beachbody On Demand, and BodyFit will continue to surge as home workouts offer the convenience and low-stress environment that gyms cannot.
The fitness world as we know it is forever changed. But, unfortunately, those neighborhood fitness studios may not be able to foot the bill.
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How COVID-19 Affected Canada Gym Memberships
- Only 15% of gym-goers in Canada have returned to the old clubs since COVID shuttered their doors indefinitely in 2020.
- Twenty-nine percent of Canadians won’t return to the gym atmosphere, even after receiving their vaccinations.
- Two in three Canadians are still reluctant to visit health clubs — 33% of former attendees paused their memberships, and another 33% canceled them altogether.
Popular Post-COVID Gym Alternatives in Canada
About a third of Canadians already axed their old gym memberships. Another third are on the fence about returning despite social distancing, mask requirements, and vaccinations.
This is in high contrast to what’s happening in the UK gym industry. For example, one of the top chains, PureGym, recorded only a 9% drop in memberships by May 2021.
Yet, research published early in the pandemic revealed that many Canadians are more active than before, with 33% of inactive people and 40.3% of active people becoming more fit.
If neighborhood gyms shuttered the doors, where are all these fit Canadians trainings? The savvy crowd turned to these alternatives to stay active while the world stood eerily still:
- Fitness apps that host virtual classes, like MindBody.
- Household items and DIY equipment to add resistance.
- Living room-based calisthenic workouts.
- Free online fitness classes or YouTube clips.
- Workout subscription apps, like Beachbody On Demand.
- Luxury home gym equipment, such as Bowflex or Tonal.
- Group fitness classes hosted at local parks (including Yoga Domes).
The future of Canadian gyms — or really any gym — remains uncertain. But while some gyms may not return post-pandemic, and some may not profit from the common New Year’s gym surge, that’s not necessarily tragic for Canada’s overall health.
Those who wish to return to the gym will (with 9,000+ around, there’s likely another local option). Those who discovered home gyms and virtual classes will continue on their merry way.
The Transition to Home Workouts
Despite climbing vaccination rates, 29% of former Canadian gym-goers refuse to return to their old stomping grounds. More will eventually cancel their memberships.
If you’re not set on returning, investing in a home gym is a solid alternative that’s COVID-free.
Priced at about $2,000 (USD) or $2,530 (CAD), the average home gym could pay itself off in about four years (assuming you currently spend $50/month on a gym membership).
You can replace your gym membership with the following equipment:
- An adjustable bench
- An adjustable dumbbell set
- A barbell
- Weight plates (extra savings if they’re compatible with the barbell and dumbbells)
- A squat rack or power rack
Of, if non-traditional workouts spark your interest, invest in:
- A box
- A pull-up bar
- A resistance band set (that ideally combine to double or triple the resistance)
- Push-up stands
The best part about building a home gym — aside from not waiting your turn at the power rack — is tailoring the entire room to your fitness goals and preferred training style.
So choose the gear you’ll actually use!
The Canadian arm of the fitness industry may still be unstable in 2022 and beyond.
However, while gym memberships plummet in favor of more convenient and affordable alternatives, the one thing that matters is staying active and chasing your goals.
Here’s how to stay on course:
- Choose a program that targets your fitness goals and is doable in your current gym set-up (home, gym, or something in between).
- Set a regular training schedule to exercise at the same time every day.
- Stock up on the right fitness supplements, such as pre-workout powder, whey protein, creatine, and BCAAs.
- Refine your goals as needed (i.e., if you max out on dumbbell bicep curls, then what?).
Even more importantly, keep a close eye on other areas of your health — mental, emotional, social, and more. A healthy physique doesn’t matter if you’re not confident or happy.
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