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

Some Like It Hot
Popular Programming Picks

No matter how sizzling the design and decor, no matter how smoking the latest equipment, it is ultimately great classes and programming that keep patrons interested and coming back for more. The hottest fitness trends still include the ever-popular Pilates and yoga, while sport-specific training, weight-loss programs and packages including advice on nutrition, specialty classes like self-defense and group cycling, group personal training and spa treatments are also in the favorites lineup.

According to research conducted by Jan Schroeder, Ph.D., for the 12th IDEA Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey, fitness facilities are continuing to offer a wide range of fitness options, and that's a good thing. With the needs of consumers ranging from weight loss to addressing hyperkinetic disease, variety will provide something for everyone.

The hottest trends to note from the survey are the following:

OUTDOOR EXERCISE: Boot camps as well as standard classes like yoga are taking their members to the great outdoors for a fresh-air experience. Of facilities responding to the survey, outdoor sessions are reported to have increased from 26 percent to 60 percent since 2004. With more and more people confined for hours working in the office or at home, the desire to experience wind, sunshine and nature while getting in shape is a big attraction.

PERSONAL TRAINING: This ranks as the most frequently offered program, with personal training being most popular, followed by a growing number of small-group sessions to provide clients a more affordable alternative, while maintaining a personal touch.

PILATES & YOGA FUSION: These still highly popular classes are getting a slight makeover with the combination of mind-body formats like Pilates and tango, or yoga and ballet. Fusion is ranked among the top programs expected to grow.

SMALL EQUIPMENT IS BIG: Stability balls, resistance tubing or bands, and balance equipment are all up dramatically since 2005, possibly due to their variety of uses in both personal training and group exercise.

BABY BOOMER LOOM: While only 53 percent of respondents said their facilities offer classes geared specifically to older adults, more savvy clubs are recognizing that this fastest-growing demographic will be attracted to "senior-sensitive" programs that can accommodate all ages. Programs that attract older patrons include yoga and Pilates, exercise for chronic conditions, senior classes and water fitness.

GROUP FITNESS: The most frequently offered group exercise classes in order of popularity are strength training, Pilates, core conditioning, abdominals and yoga, with special attention being paid to growth in core-conditioning classes, indoor boot camp and dance-based classes.