Health and Finance: The “January Effect” for Fitness and the Associated “Failed” Statistics

One of my earliest posts this month was about the “January effect” for stock investments.

It seems that there is also this kind of phenomenon when it comes to fitness. Here are possible reasons why people care more about their physical fitness during January:

  • Many people eat a lot during the holidays and they will want to shed the extra pounds gained.
  • The start of the year also brings about “new year’s resolutions”. To be more physically fit is a popular goal.
  • Many gyms and fitness related companies offer discounts and various promotions at the start of the year. Of course, they may be doing that to take advantage of the higher fitness interest among consumers; a chicken or egg situation perhaps.
  • For some reason, many of those who want to get fit but have been putting it off for months, will choose to start in January.
  • Gym newcomers will prefer to be in the company of newcomers. January is the best month for this purpose.

Like investments though, the highs in January may not necessarily be sustained for the rest of the year, and Facebook has the answer.

To estimate the number of people who are working out, Facebook tracked check-ins from its users in the US. Here are the results for 2014:


So there’s a “January effect” for fitness as well. Image from using Facebook data


The wall street journal article about this topic also focused on tips on how to continue on with one’s fitness routine. There is a reason for giving out those tips. Many of those who start the path to fitness in January, will eventually quit. In other words, many fitness “startups” – I’m talking about persons here not the fitness related businesses – will eventually become “failed” statistics.

For many gyms and fitness centers, the drop-off in users are not a cause for concern. Many gyms charge fees many months or a full year in advance. The drop-off in users may even be a blessing for those who charge in advance, there will be fewer clients to deal with – and less costs as well – for most of the year.

January will be a busy month for gyms. There might be chaos. There might be long lines in treadmills, prompting calls from members-in-queue to buy more. They may run out of towels and lockers. However, gym owners realize that the chaos is just temporary. As the year progresses, many members will no longer show up; until the next peak of course – the start of the beach season.

Gym owners need not worry about those who will quit, as many of them will sign up again to start this cycle of charade come next January.

There’s an upside to newcomers though. The newcomers are more vulnerable to upsells by the gyms. A gym veteran wouldn’t be enticed to pay for an in-house trainer, especially if he knows that the trainer is not that knowledgeable based on observing regularly how he deals with clients. A veteran will also already know how to exercise. A gym veteran will most likely source his own supplements and bring his own “healthy” snacks, preventing the gym from earning additional revenue from him.

A gym newcomer will most likely be intimidated, not just of the equipment but of the other gym goers as well. A newcomer will probably need the services of an in-house trainer to teach him to exercise and how to use the machines. A trainer also helps a newcomer to blend-in in a gym full of already fit people. A newcomer may also be easily convinced to buy supplements, outfits and other products sold by the gym – probably to convince himself that exercising will be for the long term.

How about me? I have a gym membership as well. Proof? Here’s my card:

Yes that's really my gym card. It's not card-shaped because I cropped the pic.
Yes that’s really my gym card. It’s not card-shaped because I cropped the pic. My Starbucks card gets way more swipes though.


I haven’t gone to the gym, not even once this new year. Actually, I haven’t been to the gym in months. Let’s just say I’m another one of those “failed” statistics. I just failed earlier than most.


– Finance MD





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Finance, M.D.

Finance, M.D. is a practicing physician who dabbles in finance and investment. He has passed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, all in his first attempts.

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