A whopping 9 million people in the UK, over 9 million people now have a gym membership - that’s 14 per cent of the total population! Yet, it’s estimated that 67 per cent of gym memberships go unused, and that brings us to apps, Adrian Hon from Six to Start takes up the story.

It’s great that so many people are using gyms to exercise and stay healthy, but it seems that most of us just simply aren’t inspired to keep coming back. We want something more fun than grinding a treadmill and watching MTV Base.

But fitness apps are shaking things up.

Scores of health and fitness apps hit iTunes and Google Play stores every day, some gaining millions of downloads. Take the Zombies, Run! app, for example, it’s got almost four million downloads across the two stores to-date making it one of the most popular apps on the market. Yet, accessing the premium content also make it one of the pricier apps.

Why are so many people willing to pay for a fitness app?

  1. Apps have Options
One of the big reasons apps are proving so popular is they’re engaging, whatever you’re into. Zombies, Run! uses stories set in a zombie apocalypse to keep you running, for example. The Walk combines fitness tracker with a mystery novel.

Or perhaps you’re interested in data or specific training regimes. There’s apps for that too. Or maybe you’d be motivated by an app that sync music to your workout?

Whatever works to keep you motivated, there is probably an app out there. If there isn’t, there will be soon.

Gyms add new equipment and features from time to time, but they don’t add entire narratives to your workout.

  1. Apps are Always Available
Like to start the day with a workout? Or perhaps you’re a midnight runner.

Whenever you feel inspired to exercise an app is there, ready. As long as you have your phone and some trainers you’re always good to go with an app.

Gyms have the specialist equipment, but you’ll have to go when it’s quiet if you want instant access.

  1. Apps are Still Cheaper
Yes, £17.99 for full content is pricey for an app. But the cheapest of gyms usually charge about that for a monthly membership. Most cost much more.

And to get started on most of the apps is free anyway. Extra content costs around £1.99 upwards for most apps which is still a hefty saving and there’s no commitment with a free demo.

With such low barriers to entry, is it surprising that so many people are downloading fitness apps? They’re designed to entertain, keep you motivated and engaged, are always available, and a fraction of a gym membership.

What can gyms do to keep up?

There will always be a place for gyms, so don’t expect them to disappear. Yet, as the number and variety of fitness apps grow, gyms could see their memberships taking a hit – unless they change.

Gyms actually have a great opportunity to build on the success of fitness apps. By working with app developers, gyms could design their own unique ways of engaging users.

A gripping story, revealed chapter by chapter every time you went to the gym. Or a virtual yoga class run by an expert yogi, beamed directly from the banks of the Ganges. The possibilities really are endless.

But until then, keep an eye on the app market. Rising popularity means there are sure to be tons of exciting new fitness apps hitting app stores in the near future.

ABOUT THE AUTHORAdrian Hon is CEO of Six to Start (c-creators of Zombies, Run!), author of ‘A History of the Future in 100 Objects’ and a former neuroscientist and tech writer. Six to Start are co-creators of Zombies, Run! - the world's most popular smartphone fitness game with 250,000 active players, 30 million km logged online, and 200+ epic missions.