Feature Article - November 2017
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Fitness on the Move

Equipment Evolves With Programming Innovation

By Rick Dandes

Technological advances, combined with a greater understanding of the science of exercising, is exerting a strong influence on how people work out and the equipment they use to achieve their goals.

"Core cardio products such as treadmills and ellipticals are as hot as ever around the globe," said Kelli Mocherman, senior marketing coordinator with a manufacturer of fitness equipment based in Woodinville, Wash. "What we see changing is the way exercisers are using the equipment. Gone are the days of hitting the Quick Start key and pedaling without purpose for 30 minutes."

Exercisers are looking for more dynamic and adaptive equipment, Mocherman contends. They are looking for machines that adjust to them and provide more workout options and variety. Workout programs have become more adaptive and personalized, allowing exercisers to tailor workouts for their specific goals.

Cardio workouts are still the most used and popular form of exercise, said Erin O'Brien, senior marketing manager of a Vancouver, Wash.-based equipment manufacturer. Meanwhile, "facilities are split on high-tech entertainment features vs. basic simple displays, and all are looking for quality product that will hold up under heavy use at an economical price."

Technological advances, combined with a greater understanding of the science of exercising, is exerting a strong influence on how people work out and the equipment they use to achieve their goals.

Traditional cardio equipment, including treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, is still the most used equipment, according to O'Brien, but group cycles and stair mills seem to be growing in popularity. In addition to the cardio area, the trend seems to be heading toward more functional training and free weight items such as half racks, platforms and suspension rigs.

High-tech isn't as important as durability and reliability, O'Brien said. Many facilities are looking for additional revenue space and might offer functional training, group cycling with power, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and modular suspension systems.

Everything Old Is New Again, With a Twist

Millennials make up a growing percentage of users at fitness facilities, "and they don't necessarily want to be tied down to one specific concept, philosophy or way of training," said Tony Maloney, trainer and fitness center manager at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport, Indianapolis.

"Millennials want different things all the time," Maloney said. "And they want to be able to drop in and out of a routine whenever they want to. So a regular, or traditional, gym membership doesn't necessarily work for those people. Because fun and adventure—that is what they want to see in their fitness programs."

Everybody else, he said, "people in their 30s to 60s in our National Institute facility still want a show; that is, they want fun and they want an experience, but they are a little more tied down to routine. They prefer to know who their trainer is going to be, and what the workout is going to be like. They like knowing what to expect every time they work out. But they still want that experience, and want to be entertained as well as having the workout. Overall, when it comes to fitness, you'll see that's why the big adventure runs like your Spartan races are still doing well. It's mainly that: an adventure, fun, and it's usually in a group setting."

Most people want to be in group, Maloney said. "You don't get many solos anymore, even those people who free-lift weights. That person still wants to be either with a workout buddy or in a setting where they are sharing each other's successes, and ideas on how to lift. Across the board, most people want to be working out with other people."

There is really not much deviance from that group-workout mentality based on age or how people are training, Maloney said. "They usually want to be with somebody. Let's take someone who works out to improve their strength. Someone who just wants to get stronger. They will use barbells and free weights. Power lifting is trending these days after falling off in popularity a little bit. Now it's back. It's a popular way to train."

People working out in groups has also become a profitable business model, said Matthew Januszek co-founder of an international fitness company, with a U.S. office in West Chester, Ohio, that among other things, provides fitness facility design and marketing.

"There is a move by facilities to get more people within a smaller space in order to make their financials work," he said. "So with that, workouts tend to be shorter. That makes sense because people have less time in their day—a 30-minute workout is more appealing to club-goers than an hour or 90-minute workout for most people these days."

For recreation facilities re-inventing their offerings, frame-based functional training is popular today, added Michelle Moore, a public relations specialist for Januszek's company. "And that is so for numerous reasons: maximizing usability of floor space, training that mimics the movements of everyday life, which is easy to program and allows for small group dynamic training."