Feature Article - February 2020
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Fitness for Life

An Expanding Audience, and Other Fitness Trends

By Rick Dandes


Meanwhile, Poppler said she is often asked about the impact of high-end home interactive fitness products, such as Mirror or Peloton. "Thus far," she said, "at-home fitness programs and products have been feeders to clubs, rather than competition. With the early-adopter products like Mirror or Peloton, those early adopters are also more likely to have a gym and a trainer as well."

It remains to be seen, however, if an Uber-like fitness delivery product or service will have an impact on clubs, she cautioned. "Clubs are, and position themselves as, not only places to exercise but places of community and connection. People visit their club, gym or boutique studio for much more than equipment and a good workout. There's the social aspect of a club, whether that club caters to families, millennials or seniors. The camaraderie of being with your tribe is why boutiques are the fastest-growing segment of the market."

Poppler urges programmers to understand that even the most dedicated exerciser is only in the club an hour of every day, "so be ready to serve them when they are not at the club. Most clubs embrace the idea and technology around connected workouts. Many clubs are providing apps that measure and track exercise and its results regardless of where the member performs the exercise."

2020 & Beyond

Mind-body wellness and attention to fitness throughout the lifespan is a trend that will continue to be strong, said Kercher. "This applies to all demographics—kids, adolescents and older people. The need to focus on children is a trend that will be huge," she said. "For a programmer, it comes down to treating a person's lifespan, working at promoting physical activity. It is important to provide different programs that are tackling that lifespan. There is functional fitness stuff for kids, strength training as they get older, resistance training or movement, all the way to the older adults." Older adults could have balance problems, or you might need to focus on posture.

Another future trend is what ACSM calls "the coach approach," Kercher said. "Wellness coaching is conducive to helping with behavior change, sustainable behavior and a lifestyle change approach."

Wellness coaching can be associated with functional fitness programs, kids' programming and weight loss. "It is the answer to making sure a client is meeting their goals, doing the right thing and sustaining new behaviors," she said. "People need to talk to a coach for positive reinforcement. This is important for programmers to think about. People need to be held accountable and feel competent, and to feel a sense of mastery. At the same time, people want to relate with others, either within a group or working with a coach.

"The idea of coaching is coming," Kercher said, excitedly. "I feel it. I know it. It is where we need to go for people to stay active. In order to keep helping people with their mind-body-spirit, a coach is great. A coach is a teacher. In the fitness industry, we need coaches. And it doesn't matter how old the client is: An older person needs a coach, and a younger person needs a coach."

Inclusivity will only increase into this new decade, Poppler added. "Clubs are looking to be more accommodating of populations that have special needs." While physical inactivity is a global problem, she said, the outlook is often worse for those living with disabilities who face additional barriers to exercising, such as perceived negative attitudes, discrimination and lack of inclusion. While clubs alone cannot address every single barrier those with disabilities face, the fitness industry is working to create an environment where no one feels unwelcome or intimidated.

Since experience and community are key drivers, Poppler continued, clubs and studios should be putting more into efforts to keep their fitness communities connected, whether in person or via apps and social media. Many of the chains and larger club companies are heavily investing in branded apps to keep their clubs "sticky." Trainers need to be great at training and communicating their services, but now, many clubs are encouraging their trainers to be active on social media to gain a following. RM