Feature Article - March 2011
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Fit To Be Tried

Top Trends in Fitness Programming

By Deborah L. Vence

Age-Appropriate Classes

Classes for youth and seniors made the list of top fitness trends as well, with classes targeting children and obesity, as well as fitness programs for older adults.

ACSM's fitness survey stated that, "As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active."

Meredith Poppler, vice president of industry growth for IHRSA, said senior fitness is not only the fastest growing element of the entire fitness industry, but given the looming economic crisis in healthcare, it is arguably the most important.

"As baby boomers age, they are focused on staying healthy, active and in control of their lives. The health concerns of obesity, rising health care costs and age-related illnesses are significant factors in the increase in awareness of physical activity," she said. "In 2009, the average age of a health club member was 40.7 years. Members over the age of 55 are 23 percent of the total membership, or almost one in four. And those numbers will get older every year as the baby boomers age."

Members over the age of 55 increased from 8 million members in 2005 to 10.3 million in 2009, Poppler noted. However, this does not account for people who belong to a park and recreation facility, a YMCA or a small studio.

"Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of older adults are inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)," she said.

To boot, trainers are receiving certifications specifically to assist older clients in developing personal exercise plans and conditioning regimens including aqua training, seated exercise and indoor/outdoor walking programs. These programs are designed specifically to preserve cardiovascular health, strength and balance, and energy levels.

Meanwhile, one of the most significant efforts in fitness over the years has been the fight against childhood obesity, a continuing epidemic in this country.

"For kids, the trend toward childhood obesity will continue. No change in kids who are overweight. More kids are overweight than five or 10 years ago," Thompson said. "There is no state legislature that is legislating required physical education. We used to have it every day."