(Editors' Note: This article was part of Club Industry's June 2019 "Making Space for Recovery in Your Health Club" report. You can download the full free report here.)
In recent years, high-intensity training has put a spotlight on the importance of massage therapy and recovery as our bodies need to recover before we can successfully complete another workout. The practice of massage has been around for thousands of years, and massage therapy has grown to be a $16 billion industry.
In health clubs, not only does massage therapy provide members with several wellness benefits, but getting a massage also feels good and it is an excellent complement to other fitness services. Fifty-two percent of people who received a massage in 2018 did so for medical reasonsm, such as pain management, soreness or stiffness, and 26 percent used it for stress reduction and relaxation, according to The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).
Although traditional hands-on massage therapy is wonderful, managing this service in your club comes with several new staffing and scheduling challenges. Cost can be prohibitive as well, with the average hourly rate for a massage therapist of $72.13 in 2017.
As a result, many health clubs have turned to water massage as an alternative and/or complement to traditional massage therapy, as water massage beds and chairs allow health clubs to fill the demand for massage without hiring and managing additional therapists.
Staffing aside, one of the biggest differences between traditional massage and water massage is the number of members who can enjoy this service. Therapists are somewhat limited by the number of massages they are able to provide. In contrast, water massage is an on-demand, 10-minute session at the end of a workout that is available at any hour, meaning hundreds of members can receive a massage each day. You’ll notice members will even stop by the club on their off day for a massage to help with sore, achy muscles after work.
Water massage also does not have to be located in a private room, as members stay fully clothed at all times. In fact, multiple water massage beds and chairs are often grouped together to create semi-private recovery or relaxation zones. This is significant because members who participate in group or social activities stay at clubs longer, according to the IHRSA 2018 Consumer Report, and member retention is higher for those involved in multiple services.
In addition to helping fitness clubs become more health and wellness oriented, club operators also use water massage to increase their revenue. Health clubs primarily either include water massage in a premium membership to boost their sales upgrades and monthly EFT, or they create an a la carte massage package for $10 to $20 more per month.
City Fitness in Philadelphia added water massage chairs to their clubs, initially packaging the service as a premium membership type for an additional $10 per month. When the program launched in January 2017, 70 percent of new members joined with the premium amenity, with that number growing to more than 82 percent by the end of 2018. Looking at the program's popularity, City Fitness raised its baseline membership prices $10, now including water massage chairs in all membership types.
"As a marketing guy, it's always a pleasant surprise when a product basically sells itself,” said Tom Wingert, vice president of marketing at City Fitness. “We added these chairs to our clubs, built them into our sales process as a pilot, and the response was so overwhelmingly positive that, administratively, we had no choice but to raise our prices. Especially in an urban marketplace where space is at a premium, most fitness operators don't dedicate precious square footage to ancillary products. As it so happens, water massage chairs were a far better use of space for us than, say, another treadmill or two.”
The health club industry needs to expand our reach to attract more new members. Recognizing more people of all demographics are seeking more preventive and self-care wellness services, water massage can help fitness clubs meet this demand with a more cost-effective and efficient solution for massage therapy.
Relax, recover and rejuvenate with HydroMassage. A great solution for the surge in demand for post-workout recovery, HydroMassage Lounges and Beds are innovative amenities that feel great on sore muscles. Successful clubs with the highest usage rates set up HydroMassage Zones that include multiple units in a semi-private space where members can enjoy a 10-minute massage every day.