From 2007 to 2008, Pilates participation dropped nationwide for the second year in a row, according to the 2009 SGMA Sports & Fitness Participation Report released by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. Participants decreased by 3.3%, to 8.9 million—but those figures still reflected a 471% growth rate from 2000. When analyzed by segment— casual, regular or core participant— the greatest decline (21%) was among regular participants, those practicing 50–99 times per year.
Mike May, SGMA spokesperson in Jupiter, Florida, suggested that these numbers showed Pilates stabilizing. “Anything that is relatively new will shoot up initially in popularity because it’s new and exciting,” he said. “Not everyone will stick with it.”
IDEA’s own statistics bear this out. For the same time period (2007–2008), the 2008 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey found Pilates programs leveling off in facilities owned or managed by IDEA members: 68% of survey respondents offered Pilates in both 2007 and 2008. This followed a steep growth curve from 2000, when only 33% offered the program. Interestingly, the 2009 survey shows a slight uptick in Pilates, with 70% of respondents now offering it. (Editor’s note: For full details of the 2009 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends report, see July– August Digital IDEA Fitness Manager; for an overview of the highlights, see July–August IDEA Fitness Journal.)
For the first time, the latest SGMA report split yoga and tai chi into two separate categories. Yoga participants now number 17.8 million nationwide, whereas tai chi claims 3.4 million practitioners.
“The categories are split apart because tai chi is now large enough that it can stand on its own,” explained May. “It’s another example of a sport that is spinning off. Pilates, yoga and tai chi are popular because we’re an aging population that is looking for things we can do that give us less pounding but still challenge us physically.”