is the largest privately owned health club group in the world with over 540 Fitness First clubs worldwide reaching over 1.7 million members in 21 countries. In the UK alone there are 160 Fitness First clubs with over 405,000 members.
In 2005 the company was acquired by BC Partners
BC Partners is a private equity firm specialising in buyouts and acquisitions financing in Europe and the United States. The firm invests across all industries...
, a European private equity group.
In Australia, Fitness First took over a number of Living Well Lady locations owned by the Hilton Group. Also they bought the 11-gym Healthland chain from an administrator, and now own 93 gyms across Australia.
In late 2006, Fitness First reached the milestone of 500 clubs worldwide, marked by the opening of the fourth club in Sydney, Australia.
Fitness First's clubs in Asia are usually located in Grade A commercial buildings targeting mainly the office workers.
It is behind the worldwide International Fitness Week campaign to encourage more people to find out what fitness regime works for them. The campaign uses former Spice Girl Mel B as the face of International Fitness Week
Products and services
Fitness First has a range of different products and services including BodyFirst, Group Fitness Classes, Personal Training, Team Workouts, cardio machines, and operates annual New You Achievement Awards to recognise the progress of members.
Fitness First is also the company behind International Fitness Week which takes place each February.
Initiatives in 2009 have included the launch of Strictly Fit in conjunction with BBC Worldwide - a low impact aerobics group class open to members and non-members.
Fitness First also announced that former Spice Girl Mel B will be the face of International Fitness Week in 2010.
The Asian arm of fitness first (with 71 clubs covering Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) in addition to offering the above products has recently developed their 'Lose Big Program' which was developed for the Biggest Loser Asia - Fitness First being anchor sponsors and the employer of the head trainers. The Lose Big Program is a 13 week weight management program designed for those with substantial weight loss needs.
Because Fitness First operates in so many different countries it has many different membership options around the world.
Fitness First (Australia) offers a number of membership plans on different terms. Some membership contracts have a minimum term of one year and incur a cancellation fee on exit. Others are billed on a fortnightly basis and can be cancelled with 4 week notice. On the "home" plan, members can access one Fitness First location. Other plans allow members access to any standard Fitness First gym within Australia. Limitations apply on access to international Fitness First gyms. Fees range from around $40 to $110 per month.
Historical cases exist where direct debit accounts are still debited after the member has cancelled their membership.
In a July 2004 study comparing Fitness First with other Australian gyms, Fitness First respondents were less likely to have been shown how to use equipment by a qualified staff member, offered a fitness assessment or advised on an appropriate exercise routine.
In August 2008, Fitness First took a club member to the Australian New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...
(NSW) Supreme Court to recover a $200 cancellation fee. The court ruled in favor of Fitness First, although she could not afford to pay and was no longer able to use the gym on medical grounds. The patient explained her medical condition before signing up and was instructed to sign the contract. Fitness First sought action to ensure that gym contracts with clients were still legally valid even if the court were to find that the client did not understand what he or she had signed. Fitness First's victory on appeal overturned a prior decision against the company by the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, which had found that a contract required a "meeting of the minds, in that they each fully know and understand the terms and conditions of the agreement". The Supreme Court found that the Tribunal had erred in a matter of law. The purpose of running the appeal was to correct an obvious mistake in law made by the NSW Consumer Trade and Tenancy Tribunal and in no way to punish or go after the member. No action whatsoever has or will be taken against the individual member involved.
In March 2009, a Fitness First trainer allegedly attacked a member after a dispute about closing times, pushing him down a flight of stairs. The member spent the night in hospital with a broken nose and seven stitches to the forehead from a deep gash. Police are investigating. The police investigation found that the allegations were entirely baseless and without foundation.
In May 2009, the Australian Consumer magazine Choice found Fitness First to have the most aggressive psychological techniques in getting customers to sign complicated contracts and not explaining what the cancellation policy is, in a test involving "shadow shoppers" visiting two gyms run by Fitness First, Contours, Fernwood, Curves and Virgin Active.
Fitness First worked with the Plain English Campaign to further refine its terms and conditions on January 8 to ensure they are both simple to understand and straightforward.
Fitness First employs a debt collection company called CARS in the UK which uses text messages and silent phone calls to collect arrears from members who have fallen into arrears on their payments or cancelled payments from their financial institutions without cancelling their memberships in accordance with their legally contractual obligations.