Programming Trends: Substance Meets Form
The No. 1 trend in programming right now is the functional training movement, experts said.
"The trends I'm seeing," Thomas said, "are clubs offering programming that delivers a wide audience, such as starter programs, new users, lose weight … while offering specialty programs that satisfy niche markets."
That's exactly right, agreed Fabiano. "People who run clubs have started to realize that group functional training—where one trainer trains 10 people—from an economics point of view is a winner," Fabiano said. "The challenge there is that existing clubs are struggling to find the space to bring functional or group functional training into their club. Because of its importance, some of the hardcore equipment is being phased out a little bit."
Weight rooms are shrinking, but the areas that we play in are growing, Fabiano said. "At the same time, group fitness has seen a huge resurgence."
For years, from a programming point of view, you'd have one large fitness room space. Now, in a typical club you'll have a large group doing hardcore training, a soft experience room, which might have yoga and spinning, a pilates room, and a cardio-cinema room, which is cardiovascular while watching a movie.
Poppler, of the IHRSA, said, "By working with our global membership base of over 10,000 club and fitness businesses, examining industry research, and monitoring consumer wellness behavior, I identified some of the most significant programming trends in health clubs for 2011."
These trends include the following.
Trend 1: Clubs and trainers are providing more age-appropriate offerings. In other words, exercise is not one-size-fits-all.
Baby Boomers: Clubs are offering specific programming and certifications for exercisers older than 55. Baby boomers want to age well, so they are exercising for more energy and the ability to work and play longer. As people age, strength and balance training become even more important, so the trend is for clubs to provide specialized programming and trainers that are specifically qualified to work with older adults on their exercise programs. Since the older adult market (baby boomers) is the fastest growing segment of the population, this trend will only grow stronger and will continue for the foreseeable future.??
Youth: Children ages 6 to 17 are the second fastest growing demographic of health club members, and there is a growing trend for sports-specific training for children from elementary school on up. Also, due to the obesity epidemic in children, more clubs, training programs and equipment will continue to be designed around children's unique fitness needs.
Generation X: Nearly 8 million Generation X'ers are current health club members, Poppler said, "with another 13 million once having been card-carrying members. Engaging this generation is a priority to clubs as this group's beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions are highly influential on American culture. Programs focused on wellness and cross-promotion with non-club activities (see trends below) will resonate with this group, as they are most concerned with frequenting health clubs for overall health and wellness and to engage in challenging activities that are of interest to them.
Trend 2: Cross-promotion with non-club activities and niche-specific facilities: Club operators and fitness professionals are increasingly offering workshops on functional training for sports such as tennis, training for triathlons or marathons and skiing. Also, more clubs are taking those programs even further and specializing as a niche business (i.e., boxing, rock climbing and mixed martial arts clubs).