Feature Article - March 2005
Find a printable version here

Fresh Fitness Checkup

Fitness equipment and programming: One doesn't work without the other, and both are changing

By Kyle Ryan

Kids and seniors actually share similar fitness goals. For example, a preteen kid will do fitness squats on foam pads to strengthen his muscles and improve his balance and coordination. An 80-year-old could do the same regimen to stay strong for day-to-day living.

Seniors and kids do not necessarily need special equipment to work out, but that may not be the case for the disabled, particularly those bound to wheelchairs. Many health centers lack something like an exercise machine that lets wheelchair users work their upper bodies.

In one regard, facility managers are neglecting an entire market—but it's a very small one, so there's less incentive for them to install special exercise equipment for the disabled. Instead, Holland thinks those machines will be used in physical-therapists' offices rather than become fixtures in traditional fitness facilities.

"As far as gym chains, you know, it's all about the numbers," he says. "I think the cardio equipment and the stuff most people can use will always win out."

Equipment may not be the answer, though, when programming can address the needs of not only the disabled but kids and seniors as well. Although IDEA's survey lacked any information on disabled programming or equipment, it showed 47 percent of facilities have senior programs and 40 percent have classes for kids. Kids' programs jumped 15 percent since 1998.

  Calming The Storm

When a New York court ruled that Pilates, like karate, was a method of exercise and not a trademark, half the world rejoiced, and half the world got nervous. Now anyone, anywhere could claim to be a Pilates instructor. Quickie seminars promised participants they could learn in a weekend the method of exercise Joseph Pilates spent a lifetime crafting. Not surprisingly, reports of injuries followed.

"People have expressed concern because they have seen many different varieties of injuries, just simply because the instructor was so uneducated that they just didn't know," says Kevin A. Bowen, president and CEO of the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), a nonprofit professional association based in Florida. "Unfortunately what happens is you don't know who really to blame: the instructor or the instructor-training program."

Not long after the court ruling, the PMA began developing a Pilates instructor-certification test, which debuts this August. The test will have third-party accreditation through the National Committee on Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which is part of the National Organization on Competency Assurance (NOCA). Basically, that means the test underwent a rigorous creative process to make it effective, comprehensive and unbiased.

The exam, which will cost $295, will have two levels. The entry-level test will have 150 questions testing different areas of knowledge that a Pilates instructor will need to know. People will take the test on secure computers at CompUSA classrooms nationwide.

The second level will be an advanced instructor test, the format of which hasn't been determined. One possibility includes watching a video and answering a series of questions based on the video.

All of it's designed to bring some order to the sometimes confusing world of Pilates.

"There are instructor-training programs currently out there that don't know that Joseph Pilates was a human being," Bowen says. "They just think it's a name of a method of exercise."