Business in gym and fitness centres is blooming on the back of rising awareness of the health benefits for citizens.
Gyms in Harare are doing brisk business with big brand national and international companies establishing new branches and new local gyms coming up around the capital city.
More middle-class Zimbabweans are becoming health and fitness-conscious because they understand the benefits of being fit and healthy.
There are more people lining up to join gyms and weight loss programmes, and drawing the attention of old and new players in the pool of those in the fitness industry.
The business owners say profit margins are rising and there is a consistent growth in annual income.
Mrs Maureen Nyemba, owner of Oxygen Fitness Centre, Joina City said her business has recorded consistent growth in the last two years.
Recently, the management of Oxygen Fitness Centre, announced its plans to expand the gym due to high and consistent attendance at the heart of the city.
The well-known Profitness Gyms, with branches at Colcom Complex and Semi-Levy Village, said they are looking at more expansion in the capital this year.
“We have seen a growth in the number of clients and annual turnover compared since year. We are now extending to cater for our clients because the gym is now crowded,” Mrs Nyemba said.
“Well, gradually, Zimbabweans are embracing the gym culture and gyms are increasingly becoming a necessity for people to lead a healthy life and we have seen high numbers of all age groups here.
“The new section will be divided into three large sections, non-AC, cardio training and aerobics whilst we intend to build a sauna and steam rooms.”
In developed markets like North America and Europe, the fitness industry makes over $30 billion every year.
With increasing urbanisation on the continent, unhealthy “Western” diets and lifestyles are contributing to the rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases like cardiovascular conditions (hypertension, heart attacks and stroke), cancer and diabetes.
Into the world of business Mrs Nyemba, a successful businesswoman running a reputable sports shop — Betta Ball Sports — a factory, several salons and a gym said she then discovered a significant potential for the gym business in my capital.
“I’m not surprised by the turn out. Every morning and evening, it’s common to see young and not-so-young men and women taking a brisk walk, jogging or indulging in some form of physical exercise.
“I realised that there was a trend and growing demand for physical fitness and weight loss services in town.
“I asked myself: How large is the market? Who are the best potential customers to target? And what are the important things to consider in order to succeed in the fitness business in Zimbabwe?
She added: “Our gyms typically charge a membership or subscription fee to use the equipment and facilities.
“These fees could be charged on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. There is a wide range of simple and complex equipment that exist on the market for the gym business. Free weights (dumbbells and barbells), treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers are some of the most popular gym equipment available,” she explained”
“We provide group exercise classes (like aerobics) and personal training to its members. Some of the classes include yoga, self-defence classes, spa/sauna services and we are ambitious to offer sports facilities (like swimming pools, basketball and tennis courts).”
Mrs Nyemba said location makes a huge difference and determined the success of many gyms.
“All successful gyms and health clubs are situated close to their target customers. The ideal location for a fitness centre should be located in a residential or office area of a major city. It should also be easily accessible and convenient for customers to visit. Depending on their schedules, most people prefer to work out before or after work hours, or over the weekend. Your location should help potential customers keep to their schedule.”
She also admitted that setting up a gym is was capital intensive business whilst maintenance is key to its survival.
“Any business that requires a significant investment in machinery and equipment usually needs a lot of capital. Every successful gym, fitness centre or health club has to continue buying equipment to keep up with the latest trends, and this can require a significant capital expense.
“Machines and equipment require regular maintenance to keep them in good and safe working condition.
Celebrity fitness trainer, Mugove Muhambi said there are a couple of additional facts and drivers responsible for the growing demand for fitness and weight loss services in Zimbabwe.
“These days, an increasing number of individuals are going to gyms so as to counter the side-effects of their hectic urban lifestyles.
“To satisfy the need to stay fit and healthy, fitness clubs (or gyms) and weight loss programs are setting up within and around neighbourhoods, residential and office areas where people who need these services can easily access them,” he said.
“Earlier, only the men showed interest in the gyms, but today even women are hitting the gyms. Thanks to the access to the internet, TV and growing education levels, there has been a paradigm shift in perspective of everyone, including women, who now consider exercising a serious affair,” Muhambi said.
Muhambi, a professional karateka said people often need a source of commitment and motivation hence the need to converge at the gym
“Many people lack the self-motivation and commitment to exercise or lose weight on their own. They need a community, personal trainer or gym subscription to stay motivated and committed to their fitness and weight loss goals.
“Most people need inspiration, encouragement and support in order to achieve the fitness goals they want.”