Feature Article - November 2019
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Ready for Action

From Functional to Ninja-Inspired, Fitness Continues to Evolve

By Deborah L. Vence

Changes in Fitness Equipment

In looking at how fitness equipment has changed over the years, continued developments and advancements in technology certainly have been a driving force.

"Product development is one of the most exciting aspects of fitness," Hackney-Williams said, "and with more operators embracing technology and driving innovation in fitness spaces around the world," his company "has been lucky enough to speak to many entrepreneurs on the subject" as part of the company's podcast, which shares success stories of influencers in the fitness industry as well as other entrepreneurs.

"Through conversations between guests and host, Matthew Januszek, we've learned why design plays a much bigger part in equipment decisions than it used to, how programming is key to both retention and attrition, and why some of the biggest innovations in well-being equipment development that will change the industry have actually been outside of traditional fitness," he said.

"The biggest changes that we've seen in-house have been in the development of … an education station that not only gives members workout inspiration and advice on safe form, but provides operators with a reliable PT resource that never sleeps," he said.

"Operators are embracing innovation," he added, "driving change and implementing a new approach to functional fitness that engages more people more often, and it's a constant source of inspiration for everyone to bring their A-game."

Adam Hubbard, director of product management for a manufacturer of premium fitness equipment in Washington state, said that "From the exerciser's standpoint, the equipment choices are more versatile and adaptive to accommodate different training methods and individual fitness levels. Customers are expecting more personalized products in everything they buy and use; fitness equipment is no exception. There is a greater attention to detail with modern fitness equipment. Gone is the clumsy and utilitarian equipment from the '90s. In its place are more modern designs with greater fit and finish, and ease of use."

Since the beginning, fitness equipment has come a long way, Haberman said.

"No longer square tubing and simple interfaces, many equipment suppliers are now offering equipment that reaches the cutting-edge in terms of technological integration," she said.

"Additionally, the level of customization available to facilities continues to increase—from the frame and upholstery color all the way to the ability to brand the interface and experience on cardio consoles," she added.

What Users Want

In terms of what exercisers really want to get out of fitness equipment, regular gym-goers want "physical and mental wellbeing results!" Hackney-Williams said.

"However, research, opinion and results all show that experience and environment are the two key factors in what customers want," he said. "Create exciting spaces through innovative gym design, install brand-led fitness frames that act as a real talking point of any space, and stock the gym with equipment that's accompanied by … education and programming—that's a seamless fitness experience for anyone."

He added that "Great gym design from concept to completion provides the incentive for members to work hard because the gym or studio is an exciting, efficient and effective place to be."

Meanwhile, Geer noted that "Customers are looking for efficient workouts, preferring ones that serve many muscle groups."

In addition, exercisers and fitness facility operators alike will appreciate machines that are reliable—"something that is durable and high quality, and won't be out of commission when they arrive at the gym first thing in the morning," she said. "Something that is easy to use; customers don't want to waste time getting set up or connected," she added. "Equipment that is backed by a community—whether real or virtual, these are ways to connect in our busy lives."

On top of that, Haberman suggested that customers want "Customization, [and the] ability to connect. They want simplicity. The entire experience should be intuitive and non-intimidating."

For facility operators, "Product reliability is at the top" of the list, Hubbard noted.

"It goes beyond making equipment that simply doesn't break. Operators want equipment that looks good for the period of time they are going to own it," he added. "They don't want equipment that looks good on the tradeshow floor, but begins to squeak and rattle after the first year of use."

He also said his company "focuses on keeping designs very simple with fewer moving parts and more proven materials and technology. Operators want products that are thoughtfully designed for not just their members, but also their service technicians and cleaning crews."