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It’s the start of a new year, which is always a great time for gyms. People make resolutions to get healthy and lose weight, so they sign up for a membership and even take a class or two throughout January. Pretty soon though, all those great intentions get overwhelmed. Planet Fitness thinks the problem goes beyond just a lack of willpower though.

Instead, it found that among people who exercise, 71 percent considered gym memberships too expensive, and only 27 percent called the atmosphere of their gyms social or inviting. In addition, few people really believed they would ever look like the models in posters on the walls of their gyms. Why would anyone continue paying too much for a service they did not enjoy or an outcome they did not regard as realistic?

That’s exactly what sparked the notion behind Planet Fitness. The pricing plan is simple, at $10 per month, with no contracts required. In addition to weights and classes, it offers pizza nights on Mondays and bagel Tuesdays, because “we want to be the type of facility that people want to go to as opposed to, ‘Oh my god, I have to go to the gym today!’” And perhaps most notably, it promises to expel any “lunks” who display “gymtimidation” behaviors, such as excessive grunting, taunting, or judgmental attitudes.

The friendly, low pressure atmosphere seems to be just the ticket for millions of Americans. Despite the recession, which hit the fitness service industry hard, Planet Fitness has enjoyed continued growth. It reached the 4 million member mark in 2012, up from 3.2 million members in 2011. Furthermore, 60 percent of its membership consists of women, a long ignored target market for traditional gyms.

Maybe they appreciate the laid back atmosphere. Maybe they enjoy the free Tootsie Rolls. Or maybe people keep joining the health clubs in the hope that someday they will get to see the funny results when a lunk alarm goes off and a Planet Fitness manager steps in to ask a gym rat to bring it down a notch.

Source: Andrew Adam Newman, “A Gym for People Who Don’t Like Gyms,” The New York Times, January 2, 2013