Feature Article - March 2012
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Fit for All Ages

Reaching New Demographics Through Targeted Fitness Programming

By Chris Gelbach

The Senior Boom

Perhaps no group is becoming a bigger focus for health and fitness professionals than the baby boom generation—for a couple of good reasons. First, this group tends to have more discretionary income than younger demographics. Second, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, it's also the least active group of Americans, so it represents a huge untapped market.

"As the boomers and older adults need exercise more, they're the ones filling up gyms these days," Robinson said. "At the same time, they didn't grow up working out. A lot of them have spent most of their lives not working out and now are trying to in their 50s, 60s or beyond."

Because of this fact, Robinson noted that these exercisers are at increased risk of injury if they jump head-first into group fitness classes where they might not get enough individual attention. Instead, he prefers reaching the demographic through one-on-one personal training sessions. "I'd rather offer personal training services to them at a discount—at least for three to five sessions to give them a foundation—before putting them into a group setting."

In terms of group programming, the Chicago Park District has found success reaching this demographic with programs that include line dancing, chair yoga and swimming. Maldonado noted that the social component of these programs is critical in attracting and retaining older park district patrons. "I've been at parks where the senior participants have been coming for eight or 10 years and it's their social outlet. They go for their walking club one day, their yoga the next, their line dancing the next day. Some of them are also involved in our advisory councils and have a strong stake in the parks they go to regularly."