The survey showed a growing trend toward putting people first before choosing the mode of exercise, which is reinforced by the variety of programs now available to meet a wide range of consumer needs regardless of age or physical condition, says Kathie Davis, co-founder and executive director of IDEA Health & Fitness Association
"Fitness training is a choice that is open to people of all ages and capabilities," says Davis. "This year's survey shows more attention than ever is being placed on finding the proper programs and equipment to remove all impediments to achieving a healthier lifestyle."
More than three-quarters of respondents said they offer classes or programs specifically designed to reach inactive or new exercisers.
Some of the significant trends and findings revealed in the 2006 survey include:
• Personal training remains the most frequently offered program. One trainer working with one client is offered by 84 percent of the respondents. Optimism remains high that personal training will continue to grow, as expressed by 64 percent of those polled.
• Personal training sessions with two to five clients are emerging as a popular option as people seek greater variety or value from their workouts. With 68 percent sharing sessions with two clients and 44 percent working out with three to five clients, it's clear multi-client personal training continues to climb.
• While Pilates and yoga remain very popular (offered by 64 percent and 58 percent of the respondents, respectively), the survey revealed that after a brisk increase in availability over recent years, the number of these classes might be leveling out.
• Pilates and yoga appear to remain independent activities. Only 32 percent reported a fusion of yoga and Pilates, 24 percent a fusion of Pilates and traditional strength training and 23 percent a blend of yoga and traditional strength training-numbers that have not changed over the past three years
• Those who offer Gyrotonic® or Gyrokinesis® exercise feel it has significant growth potential. While presently only three percent of respondents said they offered these programs, 63 percent of those respondents expect this area to grow.
• Fitness assessments, while a low-profile activity, maintain a role among the most offered options according to 84 percent of those surveyed.
• Traditional "aerobics" classes continue to decline, with all types combined (high-, low- and mixed-impact) still being offered by roughly half of the respondents.
• Boxing-based and kickboxing classes dropped nine percent over the past year and now are offered by only 39 percent of the respondents.
As for data on exercise equipment, the 2006 survey revealed:
• Barbells and/or dumbbells as well as resistance tubing and bands are the most frequently offered equipment, provided to clients by 90 percent of the respondents. The number of personal trainers and the prevalence of equipment-based classes likely heighten the usage of free-weights.
• Stability balls were favored by 89 percent of respondents and 45 percent said they believed usage would continue on the upswing.
• Two-thirds of respondents said they expected the use of Pilates' equipment to grow.
• Over the past nine years, elliptical trainers have shown a 30 percent growth to where they now are close to the ubiquity of treadmills. Stair climbers and upright cycles, meanwhile, both have suffered 23 percent declines.
• The popularity of many pieces of fitness equipment remains stable, if not growing. This is an indication that businesses are probably using the gear and experiencing an advantageous return on investment for their purchases.
• Specialized balance equipment, foam rollers and small balls have continued to gain favor over the past three years, probably because more fitness professionals have learned how to use them and see applications for a wide variety of clients.
Nearly 300 IDEA business and program directors across North America responded to this year's survey. These fitness professionals represent a blend of small and large health clubs, specialty studios, personal training facilities, colleges, corporate and hospital fitness centers as well as parks and recreation programs.