Feature Article - November 2015
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A Wider Field for Fitness

New Trends Expand the Reach of Fitness Equipment

By Deborah L. Vence

Since Jack LaLanne opened what's believed to be the first U.S. fitness club in 1936 in Oakland, Calif., the fitness industry has continued to evolve at warp speed, with workout videos and the next best exercise gadget turning up at every corner.

That evolution continues with fitness equipment as more innovations take place, including a connection with wearable fitness technology and growth among the aging population that is exercising more and living longer than ever before.

"Today, fitness and technology go hand-in-hand, and the growing trends of greater personalization and customization have a significant influence on how exercisers work out, and how we design our equipment," said Anthony Morelli, senior product manager for a Rosemont, Ill.-based manufacturer of fitness and exercise equipment.

"There are thousands of apps out there for tracking fitness stats, and depending on their goals and habits, users may prefer some over others. From a manufacturer's perspective, it's important to design equipment that can provide data and metrics to any tracking app, not just a select few," Morelli said, adding that his company has opened its platform for developers to incorporate into their own products without restrictions.

Besides technology, experts also say that small group training, including programs that are developed specifically to help increase fitness levels for outdoor activities, such as hiking, skiing and golf, is emerging as well.

"Small group training has proven to be an increasingly effective motivational experience to increase repeat visits and overall gym retention," said Dan Albaum, director, marketing, Americas, field marketing, for a Woodinville, Wash.-based fitness equipment manufacturer.

Albaum added that the fitness wallet, which involves having a certain dollar amount spent per month on fitness, and spending it on a combination of gyms, studios, training and apps/wearables, is growing in popularity as well.

"Retailers are shifting toward being transactional or experiential, regardless of pricing charged," he said. "Functional and group training are so important because they create fitness experiences, which drive engagement and retention."