Feature Article - November 2005
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Fit Facilities

Mixing old and new ideas to fulfill fresh niches

By Kyle Ryan

Perhaps no other business in the world is more endorsed than the fitness industry. Any company would love to have doctors, academics and public officials in its corner. No lucid person would advise people not to get in shape, which explains why those doctors, academics and public officials implore people to stay fit. That only can benefit the industry that facilitates health.

The numbers more or less reflect that. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the health-club world has grown in 2005. IHRSA's most recent data (for the first quarter of 2005) shows a 5.3 percent in revenue (to $13.37 million) from the last quarter of 2004. The National Sporting Goods Association's (NSGA) data shows that 52.2 percent of Americans worked out with equipment last year, making it the fourth overall in terms of sports participation (behind exercise walking, camping and swimming). Also up: aerobic exercising (to 29.5 percent), weight lifting (to 26.2 percent) and yoga (to 6.7 percent).

Flipping those numbers around, though, the picture changes: Roughly 70 percent of those who responded don't get any type of aerobic exercise, which actually placed below billiards for sports participation. According to IHRSA, the nation's 26,830 health facilities have 41.3 million members—but of that 41 million, how many actively and consistently exercise? After all, working out at a club ranks below fishing and bowling on NSGA's list. These days, health facilities have to adjust their approach, and these clubs have mixed old and new ideas to fulfill fresh niches.