Adherence to physical activity in an unsupervised setting: Explanatory variables for high attrition rates among fitness center members

Published:January 28, 2016DOI:



      To evaluate the attrition rate of members of a fitness center in the city of Rio de Janeiro and the potential explanatory variables for the phenomenon.


      An exploratory, observational study using a retrospective longitudinal frame.


      The records of 5240 individuals, members of the fitness center between January-2005 and June-2014, were monitored for 12 months or until cancellation of membership, whichever occurred first. A Cox proportional hazard regression model was adjusted to identify variables associated to higher risk of ‘abandonment’ of activities. This study was approved by Southern Cross University's Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number: ECN-15-176).


      The general survival curve shows that 63% of new members will abandon activities before the third month, and less than 4% will remain for more than 12 months of continuous activity. The regression model showed that age, previous level of physical activity, initial body mass index and motivations related to weight loss, hypertrophy, health, and aesthetics are related to risk of abandonment. Combined, those variables represent an important difference in the probability to abandon the gym between individuals with the best and worse combination of variables. Even individuals presenting the best combination of variables still present a high risk of abandonment before completion of 12 months of fitness center membership.


      Findings can assist in the identification of high risk individuals and therefore help in the development of strategies to prevent abandonment of physical activity practice.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • World Health Organization
        Global recommendations on physical activity for health.
        WHO, Geneva2010
        • Kubo K.
        • Ikebukuro T.
        • Yata H.
        • et al.
        Time course of changes in muscle and tendon properties during strength training and detraining.
        J Strength Cond Res. 2010; 24: 322-331
        • Dishman R.K.
        • Sallis J.F.
        • Orenstein D.R.
        The determinants of physical activity and exercise.
        Public Health Rep. 1985; 100: 158-171
        • Ready A.E.
        • Naimark B.J.
        • Tate R.
        • et al.
        Fitness centre membership is related to healthy behaviours.
        J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2005; 45: 199-207
        • Jones F.
        • Harris P.
        • Waller H.
        • et al.
        Adherence to an exercise prescription scheme: the role of expectations, self-efficacy, stage of change and psychological well-being.
        Br J Health Psychol. 2005; 10: 359-378
        • Vieira M.C.
        • Sperandei S.
        • Reis A.
        • et al.
        An analysis of the suitability of public spaces to physical activity practice in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
        Prev Med. 2013; 57: 198-200
        • Vlachopoulos S.P.
        • Neikou E.
        A prospective study of the relationships of autonomy, competence, and relatedness with exercise attendance, adherence, and dropout.
        J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2007; 47: 475-482
        • Arikawa A.Y.
        • O’Dougherty M.
        • Schmitz K.H.
        Adherence to a strength training intervention in adult women.
        J Phys Act Health. 2011; 8: 111-118
        • Silva M.C.
        • Rombaldi A.J.
        • Azevedo M.R.
        • et al.
        Participação atual e passada em academias de ginástica entre adultos: prevalência e fatores associados.
        Rev Bras Atividade Física Saúde. 2008; 13: 28-36
        • Costa B.V.
        • Bottcher L.B.
        • Kokubun E.
        Aderência a um programa de atividade física e fatores associados.
        Motriz, Rio Claro. 2009; 15: 25-36
        • Garay L.C.
        • Sperandei S.
        • Palma A.
        O impacto das características individuais na permanência em programas de atividades físicas numa academia de ginástica.
        Motricidade. 2014; 10: 3-11
        • International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association
        The IHRSA global report.
        IHRSA, Boston, MA2010
        • Kaplan E.L.
        • Meier Paul
        Nonparametric estimation from incomplete observations.
        J Am Stat Assoc. 1958; 53: 457-481
        • Harrington D.P.
        • Fleming T.R.
        A class of rank test procedures for censored survival data.
        Biometrika. 1982; 69: 553-566
        • Bendel R.B.
        • Afifi A.A.
        Comparison of stopping rules in forward stepwise regression.
        J Am Stat Assoc. 1977; 72: 46-53
        • Sperandei S.
        Understanding logistic regression analysis.
        Biochem Medica. 2014; 24: 12-18
        • Aaltonen S.
        • Rottensteiner M.
        • Kaprio J.
        • et al.
        Motives for physical activity among active and inactive persons in their mid-30s.
        Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013; 24: 727-735
        • Arikawa A.Y.
        • O’Dougherty M.
        • Kaufman B.C.
        • et al.
        Attrition and adherence of young women to aerobic exercise: lessons from the WISER study.
        Contemp Clin Trials. 2012; 33: 298-301
        • Masuki S.
        • Mori M.
        • Tabara Y.
        • et al.
        The factors affecting adherence to a long-term interval walking training program in middle-aged and older people.
        J Appl Physiol. 2014; 118: 595-603
        • VanWormer J.J.
        • Linde J.A.
        • Harnack L.J.
        • et al.
        Is baseline physical activity a determinant of participation in worksite walking clubs? Data from the HealthWorks Trial.
        J Phys Act Health. 2012; 9: 849-856
        • Ekkekakis P.
        • Lind E.
        Exercise does not feel the same when you are overweight: the impact of self-selected and imposed intensity on affect and exertion.
        Int J Obes. 2006; 30: 652-660
        • Hall E.E.
        • Ekkekakis P.
        • Petruzzello S.J.
        The affective beneficence of vigorous exercise revisited.
        Br J Health Psychol. 2002; 7: 47-66
        • Smits J.A.J.
        • Tart C.D.
        • Presnell K.
        • et al.
        Identifying potential barriers to physical activity adherence: anxiety sensitivity and body mass as predictors of fear during exercise.
        Cogn Behav Ther. 2010; 39: 28-36
        • Fermino R.C.
        • Pezzini M.R.
        • Reis R.S.
        Motivos para prática de atividade física e imagem corporal em frequentadores de academia.
        Rev Bras Med Do Esporte. 2010; 16: 18-23
        • McCabe M.P.
        • James T.
        Strategies to change body shape among men and women who attend fitness centers.
        Asia Pac J Public Health. 2009; 21: 268-278
        • Tahara A.K.
        • Schwartz G.M.
        • Silva K.A.
        Aderência e manutenção da prática de exercícios em academias.
        Rev Bras Ciência E Mov. 2003; 11: 7-12
        • Desharnais R.
        • Bouillon J.
        • Godin G.
        Self-efficacy and outcome expectations as determinants of exercise adherence.
        Psychol Rep. 1986; 59: 1155-1159
        • Sears S.R.
        • Stanton A.L.
        Expectancy-value constructs and expectancy violation as predictors of exercise adherence in previously sedentary women.
        Health Psychol. 2001; 20: 326-333