Fitness: Broaden Your Appeal With Cardio Equipment Variety


As information about the importance of exercise proliferates, more people are seeking workouts at their local recreation centers for their value and convenience. Among these new exercisers are beginners, teens, millennials, baby boomers and seniors.

To best serve this diverse group, recreation centers should offer a range of programs, services and equipment. With the growth of commercial health clubs, the popularity of boutique fitness centers and the expansion of fitness equipment modalities, exercisers' expectations have risen, and it is no longer sufficient to simply outfit the cardio floor with a few treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes. Today's recreation centers should remain competitive by capitalizing on the many cardio modalities available to meet the needs, goals and preferences of heterogeneous users, thereby better accommodating the community.

Some of the benefits of cardio machine variety include:

  • Greater interest: Fitness centers thrive on new equipment. Adding different machines generates buzz and motivation on the cardio floor, especially as recreation centers face more competition. New machines are a visible selling point to potential members and a valuable asset for existing patrons, who appreciate the novelty. And these pieces facilitate opportunities for staff to interact with exercisers, as well as options for personal trainers to use with clients.
  • Cross training: Many exercisers understand the need for cross training to deliver greater results, promote overall conditioning and reduce the risk of injury. While it's acceptable to have a favorite modality, incorporating other equipment into a workout regimen is recommended. Staff can remind exercisers that the body responds better to different stimuli andis less likely to plateau when faced with various challenges. Flooring a diverse selection of equipment inherently promotes cross training and makes it simple.
  • Increased motivation: Clearly, exercisers who enjoy specific modalities are more likely to be adherent, meet goals and see results. Even just a few new machines can provide that extra boost to drive individuals into the fitness center regularly. Plus, the variety of programs and coaching options on cardio machines help guide users and vary training, and built-in entertainment can keep them going longer.
  • Different preferences: Some fitness centers choose a single equipment manufacturer for simplicity of purchasing and maintenance, along with universal familiarity for patrons. However, offering different brands of fitness equipment gives users a noticeably broader choice of built-in workouts, entertainment options, display console interactivity, extra features like app interactivity, phone charging, console fans and more. Although some exercisers regularly select Quick Start, others appreciate various programs, feedback and features, which can improve adherence. With only one brand available, exercisers miss a valuable opportunity to benefit from the many advances and variations in programming and engagement.
  • Broad appeal: While young millennials may prefer to hit workouts hard, older exercisers, who may be coping with limitations and injuries, may need different machines to suit their individual needs. Some fitness diehards choose to go all-out on the stairclimber, but others may opt for a more moderate ride on a seated elliptical or recumbent bike. Those with lower-body injuries or wheelchair users can benefit from an upper-body ergometer, and others who want to run but reduce stress to the body can use a new zero-impact running machine.
  • Revenue opportunities: Equipment manufacturers may offer small group exercise programming with their cardio machines, thereby affording fitness centers an additional revenue stream, and providing trainers with supplemental options to add or retain clients.
  • Higher retention: If fitness center patrons have a variety of cardio equipment to choose from, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated and get results—all of which translates into better retention and referrals—and a healthier rec center business.


With numerous options for machine-based cardio workouts, rec centers first should evaluate usage of their current lineup to better understand demand. For instance, if patrons at peak periods typically must wait for an elliptical while many stationary bikes are idle, facilities should consider changing their mix of modalities.

Must-haves generally include treadmills, ellipticals, and upright and recumbent stationary bikes, which the majority of exercisers expect and can use. Beyond those, popular innovations include:

  • Incline trainers and lateral trainers: Incline trainers, like climbers or a cross between an elliptical and a stairclimber, challenge exercisers with varying levels of ascent and resistance. Lateral trainers combine linear and side-to-side movement patterns in a low-impact, variable format.
  • Alternate motion machines: New and unique, these machines allow total freedom of movement, without any fixed paths, where users define their motion for greater variety, customization and conditioning.
  • Rowing machines: For fabulous total-body workouts, working virtually every muscle group, in a non-impact seated position, rowers can be used at a leisurely pace or for high-intensity interval training.
  • Fan bikes: A timeless classic, fan bikes transform lower-body-only workouts into full-body experiences, are intuitive to use and deliver a welcome breeze to users. They equally accommodate leisurely rides as well as sprint intervals.
  • Upper-body ergometers (UBE): UBEs deliver effective workouts for those who have limited lower-body mobility, an injury or who simply want to focus efforts on a challenging arm regimen.

Recreation centers don't have to break the budget to add variety, but should consider which modalities best suit the needs of their members and fit into the existing floor space. Prior to purchase, flooring a demo unit for a period of time while soliciting exerciser feedback can help fitness centers select specific units that are most popular. Over time, a diverse mix of cardio equipment is necessary to remain competitive and offers a valuable return on investment.



Ryan Simat is vice president/general manager, commercial & specialty, at Octane Fitness. He joined the company in 2003. Simat manages global sales and profitability for Octane Fitness, overseeing 32 sales representatives and several hundred specialty fitness dealers worldwide. For more information, visit