Feature Article - June 2007
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Fit Facilities

Facility Programs

The top issues of concern among health clubs and YMCAs tended to revolve around programming their facilities. For health clubs and sports clubs, the number-one current issue is fitness for older adults, followed by general fitness. For YMCAs and health clubs, the top issues were youth fitness and marketing and increasing participation. In the next three years, both types of facilities said their top issues would be creating new and innovative programming, followed by marketing and increasing participation. The third most common issue within the next three years for both facility types is youth fitness and wellness.

These issues are reflected in the top programming choices currently offered by both types of facilities. Among YMCAs, the top current programs include day camps and summer camps, active older adult programs, fitness programs, mind/body balance programs like yoga and tai chi, and swimming programming. Among health clubs, the top current programs include fitness programs, personal training, mind/body balance programs, active older adult programs, and nutrition and diet counseling.

Over the next few years, YMCAs are most commonly planning to add adult sports teams, therapeutic recreation programs, nutrition and diet counseling, teen programs and sports tournaments or races. Among health clubs, the most common programs selected for addition over the next several years included nutrition and diet counseling, teen programs, educational programs, adult sports teams, individual sport activities such as running clubs or swimming clubs, and programming for active older adults.

One respondent from a YMCA based in suburban Chicago said the need for creating new and innovative programming is affecting their facility due to community changes. "We are moving only one mile away from the current facility, but out of one community into another and closer to an underserved Hispanic population with different needs," the respondent said.

Others cite the need to better deal with youth fitness. But in this case, the YMCA has a leg up. According to a national poll conducted by the YMCA of the USA, 6- to 12-year-old children who belong to a YMCA are more physically active than the average American child. More than 80 percent of kids polled said they like play that helps them move their bodies, and only 1 percent said they don't like physical play at all.

"With all of the negative statistics about kids, obesity and inactivity, we were really pleased to find that kids engaged with a YMCA have positive attitudes about physical activity, and many are meeting or exceeding federal recommendations for exercise and active play," Nicoll said.

Several health club respondents cited the need to reach more youth with fitness, but said they were stymied by the fact that most facilities do not allow kids younger than 14 to work out without a doctor's order. This trend might be expected to change over the next several years, as more facilities look for ways to build their membership by creating creative new programs to get youth involved. In 2006, according to IHRSA, more than 10 percent of health club members were under 18.