Feature Article - March 2009
Find a printable version here

Shaping Up

Staying on Top of Fitness Trends

By Dawn Klingensmith


o you remember those side boards, or "lateral exercisers," designed to work the same muscles as inline skating? No? You're not alone. As far as fitness trends go, they were a flash in the pan. Or perhaps you do recall them—because your fitness facility invested in the equipment and now all those slide boards and slippery booties are stacked up in a storage room, gathering dust. I don't mean to suggest that slide boards were a bad Idea or that they are altogether obsolete. They are still being made and sold, and I can personally attest that they provide a killer inner and outer thigh workout. But group slide-board classes simply aren't a programming staple these days. That's OK. At certain fitness centers, in order to attract and satisfy customers, the latest trendy workouts and equipment must be offered alongside traditional, tried-and-true programming even if a facility manager suspects a trend won't last—provided it is safe and fields a return on investment.

However, few centers can afford to jump on every fitness bandwagon, and it is in every fitness center's best interest to accurately predict which emerging exercise programs and equipment have staying power.

With short- and long-term planning in mind, the American Council on Exercise (ACE), San Diego, Calif., annually surveys its worldwide network of wellness experts to compile a list of the coming year's top 10 fitness trends. ACE's latest survey, along with Recreation Management's own interviews with several industry experts, found there's a paradox in fitness trends anticipated for 2009 and beyond: Technology-based fitness methods are exploding, but at the same time, a "back to basics" approach involving simple movements, such as calisthenics, and minimal equipment also has a huge following. In addition to the diametrical trends toward technology-based or back-to-basics workouts, an emerging philosophy equating exercise with medicine is gaining traction. At certain types of fitness centers, this philosophy has reshaped the way classes are formatted and taught, and how members are recruited, retained and measured in terms of goal achievement.