Power points from the 2002 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey.
At the heart of fitness are the programs and leadership that inspire people to exercise. With powerful programs, you can change people’s lives while doing what you love. How do you harness that power? Use the results of the 2002 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey to select programs and equipment that will create a buzz in your business. You already know what your customers want, because you’ve surveyed them, tracked their attendance statistics and reviewed the feedback from lots of talking between them and your staff. Now take that information and layer it over national trends to determine what will be powerful for you. This year’s survey shows five main trends.
We all learned in school that strength, flexibility, cardiovascular conditioning and body composition are the four components of fitness. Interestingly, fitness consumer habits teach us that virtually all of the old and new methods for achieving these components are still desirable. Even when a program’s popularity decreases, it rarely goes away, generally indicating a plateau. For example, martial arts-based programs have declined in popularity, yet plenty of these classes are still offered.
Look at the top programs. One-to-one personal training is as popular as small-group strength training. Step is offered almost as frequently as yoga. Kids’ programs are as popular as indoor cycling. This trend simply reflects a wider array of programs from which clients can choose.
Who would have thought that the step with which Gin Miller rehabbed or the big ball that a couple of physical therapists brought back from Sweden would spur an equipment revolution?
Nowadays, it seems that no one would dare market a new equipment offering without a complementary program designed by reputable well-known fitness professionals who had figured out how best to use it. Later, these pros figure out a few more interesting moves for the piece, and somebody else inevitably figures out even more.
Experts have even surrounded large, stationary pieces of equipment with functional capabilities, circuits and program training. In addition, equipment for balance training and other functional goals is joining the field as professionals learn to apply functional techniques to athletes and the frail elderly.
New to the survey this year were questions about the use of software that links equipment to the people using it. A few years ago, it seemed that every piece of equipment was loaded with programs and LED light shows, even though fitness people and consumers reported that they did not always see the advantage of these additions. Today, electronic training programs on large pieces of equipment (such as treadmills and bikes) are a given. Software for workout or nutrition tracking has also made inroads as fitness pros figure out how to integrate it into a hands-on business. It will be interesting to see how this type of software progresses.
Yoga, Pilates, t’ai chi and meditation are obvious modalities that emphasize composure, concentration and a whole-body experience. Particularly, yoga and Pilates have vaulted in popularity. However, consider the visualization used in indoor cycling or the awareness required for agility drills and stability ball balancing. Aren’t these also mindful exercises?
The concept of a whole-person approach to exercise has shifted from being a separate segment of fitness to being its “fifth component.” An emphasis on mind/body exercise is very appealing to older adults and nonexercisers not particularly interested in developing hard bodies. An increasing number of fitness veterans looking for an effective but gentler path are choosing yoga, Pilates, balance training and similar fundamentals for their own training.
The new approach to industry marketing features photos of real people of all ages above words that describe the benefits of exercise. This type of positioning has proven highly successful for individual health clubs and personal training businesses.
Perhaps it is one reason for the relatively balanced age spectrum shown in this year’s survey. Although most clients are 18 to 54 years old, 10 percent are younger than 18 and 29 percent are 55 and older. Considering that 44 percent of facilities offer kids’ fitness programs and that 61 percent offer programs specifically for seniors, the new marketing message seems to be having a positive effect.
Additionally, 89 percent of facilities offer programs to attract the inactive or new exerciser, and clients are estimated to be 34 percent beginners, 44 percent intermediate and 22 percent advanced exercisers. All of these estimates show that well-developed programs appeal to a variety of people.
Like gourmet cooking, fitness programs are emphasizing fusion. With 69 percent of facilities offering combination/ hybrid classes and personal training sessions likely to include a few Pilates or yoga moves, fusion is the name of the game. At World Fitness IDEA® 2002, group fitness offerings showcased this melding in combinations such as indoor cycling with yoga, step in water and t’ai chi integrated into warm-ups.
If you think about it, many fitness activities incorporate stretching with strength training or balance/agility drills with steady-state cardiovascular exercise. Mixing activities for training effect and motivation is now a staple.
Core conditioning and functional fitness are hot, as evidenced by the 72 percent of facilities that offer core conditioning and the 72 percent that offer abdominal activities. However, these classes aren’t the only ones that focus on the core. After all, what are Pilates, yoga and traditional strength training if not core conditioning?
What more can be said about these? Fueled by consumer press, good results, an increase in available instructor training and an attractive sensibility, yoga and Pilates keep buzzing.
The number of respondents offering water fitness has increased by 16 percent over the past 6 years; those facilities that have swimming pools definitely use them. Moreover, although only 49 percent have a swimming pool available for fitness classes, 56 percent offer water fitness programs, clearly indicating that even those without pools are finding ways to get their clients into the water.
Respondents filled in the blanks to tell us what programs were changing in popularity. Here are their lists of programs showing:
- Most growth: yoga, Pilates, personal training, water aerobics
- Most decline: step, kick/boxing, high- and low-impact aerobics
- Fastest-emerging: Pilates, yoga
Something magical about the one-to-one training format sustains its popularity and success. With a quality trainer, clients progress, word of mouth spreads, fitness pros earn more money and facilities can counterbalance other costs.
The past few years have seen a gradual increase in the number of personal training sessions, and it is even more pronounced in 2002. Not only is personal training highly effective for retention, but IHRSA statistics also show that it is the top revenue stream for health clubs.
IDEA Fitness Manager and IDEA Personal Trainer have profiled many businesses that have increased retention by wrapping individual attention into the membership fee. In fact, of the 69 percent of respondents who charge a membership fee to access their facilities, 40 percent include free personal training sessions. The catch? As always, the trainer needs strong people skills and technical skills to make a difference.
No attrition here. Group exercise stays on top because of both the amazing ability of fitness professionals to diversify their offerings and the attentiveness of equipment manufacturers that provide tools that fuel variety.
Cardiovascular exercise is an important part of many classes, as are strength, flexibility, proprioception and a whole lot more. This combination is a powerful draw for many exercisers who feed off group energy and support. Program offerings and fee structures prove that group fitness is the base on which most facilities stand.
Over the years, the majority of classes contained 10 to 19 participants, but there has been a jump to larger sizes this year. Time will tell whether this is a blip or a trend.
You can harness the power of fitness programming by using research and good sense. A secret weapon: Get feedback from your instructors and trainers. They undoubtedly have great ideas for new ways to help and appeal to your clients.
For more information on current programs and historical trends, turn to the 2002 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey on the following pages.