The number of people training at gyms has soared in the last few years – and this is reflected in the number of venues now open in Douglas.

Indeed, there are at least two more planned for the town.

We have talked to five of the biggest gyms in the town about how business is going.

What has led to the rise in gym membership?

Stefan White of Elite, a 1,000-member gym that recently moved premises to a bigger site in the Isle of Man Business Park, said: ‘Social media had a massive impact in terms of people’s awareness – from the younger person’s point of view in terms of aesthetics, but from an older point of view people are becoming more aware of the benefits of strength training in relation to the old-fashioned view of cardio preference.’

He added that Covid had had a massive impact in terms of people being aware of their own health, how important general fitness was in terms of the immune system and coping with everyday life.

Richard Delaney of Carrefour, which is on Wellington Street which is now in its 24th year, said: ‘Simply put “health matters” and, despite the growth in home gyms during and following the pandemic, thankfully the momentum seems to have turned back to commercial gyms and group fitness again.

‘We are seeing a high number of individuals prioritising their health and fitness much more and we are happy to provide them with the facilities in which to achieve their fitness goals.’

Is there room for all these gyms in Douglas?

The newest big gym, Prime Performance, opened in the old Lloyds Bank building on Prospect Hill 12 months ago.

It has 600 members, which is more that it was expecting a year after opening.

Paracise class at Carrefour gym

Founder Jack Grace said: ‘It’s a tremendously competitive marketplace and ultimately if all the gyms that have been talked about did open, then I have my doubts that all would survive.

‘That said, it’s a fast growing market internationally, and what I expect you will see are different gyms trying to appeal to different groups.

‘Some people like to train in a big warehouse gym, some people like CrossFit, and there will always be a place for the small bespoke gyms run by individual trainers.’

He added that the investment set ‘an incredibly high bar’ for anyone else to compete with. He was confident that the gym would be ‘here for the long term’.

Richard Delaney of Carrefour said: ‘When you ask about if the market is big enough for more facilities then of course as a gym owner I have to say no but likewise if you asked a coffee shop or deli owner that question for their business then they would also say the same.

‘The reality is that competition is good for the consumer in all industries as it keeps prices competitive and quality high so we have to be at the top of our game in order to retain our existing membership base and of course to attract new

‘Unfortunately the biggest challenge we face at the moment is the spiralling increase in operating costs across the board but we are not alone in this. We of course would welcome any new and returning members to the club anytime.’

Orla Griffin of Nautilus said: ‘Although the market for gym users is fairly small in the Isle of Man compared to the United Kingdom, I think exercising and living a healthy lifestyle appeals to more and more people and as a consequence the local market is growing.

‘In the current economic climate everyone has pressures on their income so to succeed a gym needs to be affordable to attract and retain its members.’

Stefan of Elite said: ‘There has to be a slight shift in what gyms will offer.

'From our perspective, space has been one factor for which people come here.

‘The quality of the equipment is paramount but the space to work out without feeling hemmed in is important.

‘Members don’t want to be right next to somebody or feel intimidated. Having that personal bubble space – again post Covid – is important as well.

‘In this environment there’s more call for it.

‘I think possibly the Isle of Man might have to think about following the UK trend and using more warehouse gyms and not making them too small, like a town office for example.’

Guy Templer of Elite added: ‘Most of the gyms fit certain niches. The one proposed for Summer Hill [the old L’Experience site] is very much catered to people who don’t necessarily want to work out in a big gym.’

They said that Elite’s membership grew so much that it simply wasn’t big enough, hence the move to the new premises.

One point of differentiation is whether classes are available. Elite decided not to introduce them to keep membership fees down. But they are available at Carrefour, Nautilus and Prime, for example.

So different gyms have different selling points.

Prime Performance opened a year ago on Prospect Hill

One of the advantages of Elite and Nautilus is that they have parking spaces.

At Mount Murray Comis’s gym is similar. They might appeal to people going to and from work or who drive from elsewhere.

The town centre gyms – Nuno’s, Prime Performance and Carrefore – might appeal more to those who’ve already driven to work and workout during before or after work.

Jack Grace of Prime described his gym’s location as amazing.

One big change in gyms is the number of women who are now members.

When Elite opened 10 years ago, 70% were men. Now it’s 50%. Orla Griffin of Nautilus on Peel Road said it was even at her gym too.

Nuno Figueira, who runs Nuno’s Fitness on Kingswood Grove, also reported a big rise in women at his gym.

Some of the gyms are moving from exercise into more social settings, with cafes now being added at Elite and Nautilus, for example.

But many members simply chat between sets and forge friendships at the gyms – something that certainly happens at Nuno’s Fitness on Kingswood Grove.

Until 2021, it was the Body Worx gym, which Nuno Figueira then managed.

Since Nuno bought the business and renamed it, he has extensively redecorated the premises, installed a number of new machines, renovated older machines and installed a sunbed – with another on its way soon.

The sunbeds are available to people who aren’t members of the gym.

He said: ‘Nuno’s is a no-nonsense gym with good equipment and a great atmosphere.

‘Everyone tells me it’s the friendliest gym in the island.

‘There’s no doubt that more and more people are interested in health and fitness, which is why we are attracting more members.’

He added: ‘The fact that there are more gyms means that there is more competition and that can only be good for the customer.

‘I love to talk to our members to ask them what they like and constantly upgrade our facilities as a result.’

He and staff member Vasi Temeian also offer personal training sessions at the gym, which prove popular.

Richard Delaney of Carrefour said: ‘Attracting and retaining members is very difficult but we believe that we have always brought a “best of breed” approach to Carrefour.

‘Offering the industry-leading Life Fitness brand in the club along with the largest number of fitness classes on the island and taught by the best instructors is what we strive to offer both our club members and our pay as you go customers.

‘In the last 23 years we have of course evolved with the industry and its technology and our simulated Schwinn spinning studio is a great example of that. We will of course continue that trend of improvements and we try each year to bring something new and fresh to our members to show our commitment and continued investment.’

The Nautilus, originally owned by George Mitchell, pioneered gyms in the island. It began life in the 1980s in Onchan Park. It is now on Peel Road.

The history of the Nautilus stretches back to the 1980s

Current owner Orla Griffin said: ‘Since taking over the gym in November 2019, the number of members at the Nautilus Gym has increased significantly. We currently boast a very sizeable number of members.’

New members have been attracted from high schools and they go there from 4pm.

‘Our members make our gym,’ Orla said. ‘Without our members we have no business.

‘With this in mind we provide a safe and comfortable environment for members to exercise, where they are greeted by friendly and helpful staff.

‘All machines are maintained on a regular basis and it is very important to the Nautilus team that the gym, its equipment and facilities have a very high level of cleanliness.

‘The members appreciate the little “luxuries” we provide, such as the hand soap and hand cream and shower foam. We are often complimented about how spotless the gym is.’

A variety of classes are now offered in its new studio and after a workout or attending a class, members can relax over a drink in the coffee room.

Orla added: ‘Our membership rates are very competitive, one of the cheapest on the island. Every January we offer reduced prices to encourage new members wanting to set their exercise goals for the year ahead.’

Since Orla took over the gym in 2019, the entire gym, the shower rooms and toilets have been refurbished. The facilities have been extended to include a large studio and the coffee room.

Some hotels also have gyms. The one at the Palace Hotel is open to the public and includes a pool, which is one of its biggest selling points.

Prime Performance has an eye on further expansion.

Jack Grace said: ‘Our philosophy is to eventually build out a “Victory House Wellness Centre” providing a one-stop shop catering for all your physical and mental wellbeing needs.

‘We already have the wonderful Kathryn Toohey hypotherapy and performance coaching practice operating from within the gym; and the amazing Kate Stobart Rehablab physiotherapy clinic, who work alongside us on level 4.

‘Beyond them, we still have lots more ideas for other activities and clinics which will hopefully all become a reality in the months to come.’

On a smaller scale, Christine and Andy Mills have taken over the Fitness Pod on White Hoe Industrial Estate.

The Fitness Pod doesn’t just work as a place for personal trainer sessions, it also gives people who don’t like the idea of a big gym full of people a place to get fit and not have to worry about whether anyone is judging them.

It has six rooms, three focussing on cardio, two of the other rooms focus more on muscles and there is also the hit pod.

The public sector has also muscled in on the gym business. The National Sports Centre has a gym and classes, while the new headquarters for Braddan Commissioners near the hospital.

So will gym membership continue to grow?

Kevin Furlong and Stefan White of Elite

Guy Templer of Elite said: ‘In the US one fifth of all adults have a gym membership. In the UK, that’s 15 or 16 per cent. Here it’s definitely a lot lower.

‘There has been a longer term trend from the late noughties [in the UK]. Gyms were David Lloyd centres (which have squash courts and pools) where they were “health clubs” and a lot more expensive. You can pay hundreds of pounds a month and use less than a quarter of the facilities.

‘It wasn’t until you had the warehouse gyms with very low price points, gym membership took off in a big way.

‘That’s been about getting the right trade-off between the service provided and what people are prepared to pay.

‘We have been able to provide the facilities people want at a low price point.’

Prices for all the gyms vary between different types of membership.

There are often special offers. It pays to shop around.