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Latest Trends on Health and Fitness

Oct 17, 2007

IDEA Health & Fitness Association, the leading membership organization of health, wellness and fitness professionals worldwide with more than 21,000 members in over 80 countries, has announced the findings of its annual IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey. In its 12th year, the survey revealed an increasing range of activities and gear that are specially targeted to meet the diverse needs of consumers of all ages and physical capabilities.

The results were compiled from the responses of 225 IDEA members who are health club owners, fitness center managers and/or exercise program directors. The respondents come from a cross-section of the fitness community, ranging from small to large health clubs, personal training facilities, specialty studios, corporate and hospital fitness centers, colleges as well as parks and recreation departments. The survey provides valuable insights into how fitness professionals motivate people to become active as well as how they keep their existing clients faithful to ongoing regimens. Across all health and fitness facilities, the most common exercise programs offered free or at discounted fees to new clients are fitness assessments and goal setting, according to half of the survey respondents. Respondents also report that on average, 73 percent of their members/clients stay with them for one year or longer, which is up three percent from the 2006 results.

According to Kathie Davis, co-founder and executive director of IDEA Health & Fitness Association, this year's fitness programs and equipment survey reinforces the ongoing innovation in the industry that is transforming training activities, class formats and exercise equipment. "The latest IDEA program and equipment survey reveals there is an important evolution underway in the fitness industry," she says. "Our members have told us there is new importance placed on simplicity for gaining strength. Using smaller equipment and participating in outdoor activities such as boot camps—as well as the undeniable growth of mind-body classes—proves it does not require large, expensive tools to help people get and stay fit."

Additional noteworthy fitness program trends and statistics detailed in the 2007 survey include:

--While adult one-on-one personal training continues as the most popular training format (provided by 80 percent of respondents), more respondents than ever (71 percent) said they are offering training sessions shared by two clients.

--For the third year in a row, the trend of exercising outside the four walls of a gym or facility has gained popularity. Since 2004, the number of respondents offering outdoor personal training sessions has risen from 26 percent to 60 percent while outdoor boot camps have increased from 16 percent to 30 percent.

--Seventy-four percent of respondents said they offered classes and/or fitness programs specifically designed to attract the inactive or new exercisers.

--Pilates and yoga retain their prevalent status in the fitness industry, offered by 68 percent and 56 percent of respondents, respectively. The fusion of the two mainstays has risen to 38 percent.

--For the first time, the survey included a mind-body fusion "write in" category and 27 percent of those surveyed said they offered classes of this type, including Pilates and BOSU® Balance Trainers, Pilates and tango, yoga and ballet or yoga and stability ball combinations. This highly popular fusion category ranks top among the mind-body programs expected to grow.

--The most frequently offered group exercise classes are strength training (74 percent), Pilates (68 percent), core conditioning (65 percent), abdominals (62 percent) and yoga (56 percent). The average number of class attendees (15) has changed very little over the past several years.

--Dance-based classes are the fastest growing group exercise activity, up by 11 percent over 2006.

--Twenty-seven percent of respondents said their facilities offered water fitness classes.

--Fitness programs are no longer just the domain of healthy individuals who want to increase their fitness levels; 78 percent of respondents' facilities have members with chronic or temporary injuries while three-quarters have clients with special needs, such as diabetes, obesity or arthritis.

--Lifestyle coaching, currently offered by 27 percent of the respondents, was tabbed by 72 percent as the program most likely to grow.

--Sending clients online reminders and information is another feature on the rise. While about one-third offer this service now, 68 percent said they expected this segment will grow.

--One-third of respondents said their facilities offered some kind of fitness programs for kids, either classes or after-school camps.

--Senior citizens, the fastest-growing segment of the population, also represent the largest segment (29 percent) of the membership base within IDEA members' facilities. So it is curious that only 39 percent of respondents said they offered classes geared specifically for older adults, down from the 47 percent reported in 1999's survey.

--The popularity of step aerobics has declined from 71 percent in 1999 to 44 percent this year. During the same period, traditional aerobics has fallen from 72 percent to 47 percent.

Regarding data on exercise equipment, the 2007 survey revealed the following:

--Stability balls (85 percent) and resistance tubing or bands (84 percent) topped the list as the most frequently used types of exercise equipment.

--Providing interactive computer training programs as part of an exercise routine showed the second-highest growth potential. While only five percent of respondents currently offer computer-based training, 73 percent of those who use it believe the offering will grow.

--Even though balance equipment, such as BOSU® Balance Trainers, disks, wobble boards and balance boards, are offered by 79 percent of respondents, 61 percent pledged that this category still has ample room to grow.

--Treadmills remain the most popular pieces of fitness equipment, offered by 65 percent of respondents. Elliptical trainers and recumbent cycles tied for runner-up with 60 percent.

"It's clear from this year's survey that fitness center owners, health club managers and program directors are leveraging advancements in exercise coupled with highly creative approaches to create new fitness opportunities for consumers, regardless of age or physical condition," adds Davis.

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