Feature Article - November 2007
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Survival of the Fitness

Adapt to Evolving Fitness Trends and Demographics—or Be Left Behind

By Kelli Anderson

Time crunch

Programming also appears to be shifting to the short and sweet, the ACE reports with its prediction of the growth in shorter workout experiences of 45 minutes or less. In some cases, users even cut corners by skipping the locker room in order to speed up their in-and-out time.

"We're seeing a trend toward a lot more people, particularly in the afternoon and evening, skipping the shower," said Mike Cassidy, district executive director of The Valley of the Sun Association of YMCAs and managing director of a Scottsdale, Ariz., branch facility. "I think it's geographic—people work out close to their homes and it's not so inconvenient," Cassidy explains of his patrons, despite the pristine conditions of private showers and stalls of the newly renovated locker rooms at the Scottsdale YMCA. Furthermore, he suggested that for people on the go (with the exception of those who exercise in the mornings before heading straight to work), locker rooms are simply not the amenity they used to be.

Even more significant, a paradigm shift is occurring in the manufacturing world as it tries to accommodate the growing numbers of people looking for faster ways to get fit. It's about efficiency and making the equipment meet the needs of the user.

"The number-one trend I think we're seeing is about balance," said Bryan Green, president and founder of consulting/design and fitness supply company, Advantage Fitness Products in Los Angeles, Calif. "Cardiovascular health has been prevalent for a long time. Then it was strength training for men and women. Now we're seeing a battle of working out smarter, not harder. Not only are people crunched for time these days, but we also need to understand it's just not as important to spend time in the gym. The prevailing direction is about quality and shorter intervals, more frequently in the way personal trainers work with clients and the way exercise manufacturers are beginning to target equipment toward needs."

One such example, which Green sees as the next evolution of exercise equipment, was on display at one of 2007's biggest trade shows. The concept of acceleration training—speeding up workout and modality—was greeted with raised eyebrows with the introduction of a vibrating plate based on technology developed to train Russian cosmonauts 30 years ago to retain muscle mass in space.

Users of the plate can either stand passively on the unstable plane while blood flow and circulation and the entire muscle system are stimulated, or the user can accelerate his or her usual training routine of, say, squats and lunges, to get an incredible workout in just 20 minutes.

Green believes this kind of equipment and its concept of more workout in less time will soon be incorporated across the fitness board.

"Consumers are more intelligent and educated than ever before," Green explained. "Manufacturers must find a way to accommodate the end user with low-impact and shorter time with equal-to-or-more benefit."

Evidence of some manufactures joining this movement can be seen in the functional training concepts in strength training where cables in equipment allow users to move in any direction, while other designs are creating simpler-to-use models no longer requiring adjustments between users, which shaves off more minutes from total workout time.