IDEA Fitness Trends

by Patricia Ryan, MS on Jan 01, 2004

The programs and equipment that are Inspiring the World to Fitness.

What programs are successful businesses offering? What are other fitness directors planning? How can you get new clients or more club members? IDEA is asked these types of questions every day. The answers are critical for your ability to field services that inspire people to start and stay exercising.

The 2003 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey lets you see what is working for others. For 8 years IDEA has collected information from members in many different types of businesses to help you predict what will work for your situation.

Most of these IDEA members (72%) retain their customers for 1 year or longer, so you know these activities are working! Perhaps one secret to this retention rate is a willingness to cater to the “back row”: 87% offer classes and programs to attract the inactive or the new exerciser.

Here are the key trends from the survey. How can you apply these popular programs to your unique audience?

1. The Strong Stay Strong

The programs we are accustomed to seeing at the top of the “most offered” list remain firmly positioned. Personal training and strength training, stretching and fitness assessment have maintained or increased in popularity. Rising stars such as yoga, core conditioning, stability ball exercises and Pilates are joining them.

Treadmills, free weights, cycles and elliptical trainers are equipment stalwarts, joined by portable pieces like resistance tubing, stability balls (the most recent star), yoga mats and weighted bars.

2. Retention Follows Strong Programs

The wide variety of programming and equipment offered is probably a strong factor in IDEA members’ high retention levels. So is each business’s savvy in targeting the “right” clients. It is unlikely that your programs will appeal to every possible interest. Instead, knowing which people you can attract is key.

For example, in corporate and hospital wellness centers, back pain prevention (51% offer) and weight management classes (83% offer) focus on areas that participants in these venues care about. In the YMCA/YWCA/JCC segment, programs for seniors (100% offer) and kids (74% offer) predominate, well within the mission of these types of organizations.

3. Efficiency Rules Space and Equipment

Many IDEA members, particularly those working in personal training gyms or group fitness rooms, are operating out of small spaces. Still, the variety of programs indicates that these professionals are doing a lot with a little.

They are making efficient use of equipment that can multitask in a number of applications. For example, portable equipment such as stability balls, resistance tubes/bands and steps service personal training, multiple group fitness formats and postrehab. Larger stationary pieces like treadmills and bikes are being used with the smaller pieces. Personal training, group strength training formats and combination/fusion formats are examples of where these items can work together.

4. Programs and Equipment Go Hand in Hand

Particularly apparent is the relationship between equipment and programming. For some years manufacturers have hired high-level instructors to build fitness programs around their equipment. These creative veterans now introduce many exercises with equipment, and of course instructors and trainers add more of their own.

Steps and stability balls feature in virtually every personal training gym and have given rise to entire categories of group training. Treadmills are programmed for everything from in-club promotions (e.g., running a marathon) to 5 minutes of slow rolling for a frail adult’s first exercise attempts. And virtually every group fitness format, from boxing-based aerobics to sports conditioning, is built around equipment.

5. New Kids and Old Kids Play in the Neighborhood

It’s easy to get the impression that the rising stars in equipment and programs are taking over the fitness world. These new programs and equipment are vital to providing the tools and diversity that will inspire people to fitness. But as new options rise, the tried-and-true are still players.

When you scatter newsmaking formats among the “old” programs that have been staples, you can see they all blend together. No one program or piece of equipment dominates, yet all have a following. While an “older” class may not appear on schedules as often as it once did, talented program directors have a knack for packing a lot into the time available.

Planning Your Programs— and a Career

A good rule of thumb is to promote the popular. Look at the top 10 most frequently offered programs. Are they on your schedule? What about the equipment?

You already know that a successful class needs an enthusiastic and competent leader. A good personal trainer has a waiting list. Often that’s because word of mouth among current clients is reaching potential newcomers. Help your clients spread the word by featuring the programs and staff who are making a difference.

If you are a trainer or an instructor, you can use these trends to plan your next step. Adapting personal training to 2 clients or 3 to 5 clients is definitely on the rise. Can you partner with a successful group instructor to learn the skills needed to work with more than one person? Many of the businesses surveyed offer fitness assessment (69%) and personal training (62%) to new clients for free or at a special discount. If you did the same, could you build your client list?

Instructors will see that fusion formats, classes using equipment (e.g., stability balls or indoor cycles) and adaptations of yoga or Pilates continue to rise. Should you expand your repertoire to include these formats? What about partnering with a personal trainer to learn the skills for working one-to-one?

About the Survey

How to Read the Numbers. The percentage (%) reflects the number of survey respondents who answered yes to a given survey question. All percentages have been rounded up at 0.5 and down at 0.4. Percentages may not total 100, because of multiple responses.

Methodology. In June and July 2003, three e-mails were sent to IDEA business and program director members who gave IDEA permission to contact them. Respondents linked to a Web-based survey. There were 276 completed questionnaires for a 17% response rate. At a 95% confidence level, the margin of error is +/- 5.4%.

Moving Forward

You can build your own success by modeling the success of others. Your expertise in integrating equipment and fitness activities is the key to attracting and retaining exercisers.

The more people are attracted to—and retained by—your programs and facilities, the more people will exercise. Your programs are a vital part of inspiring the world to fitness.

IDEA Health Fitness Source, Volume 2005, Issue 1

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© 2004 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Patricia Ryan, MS

Patricia Ryan, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

Patricia Ryan is the Vice President of Education for the International Council on Active Aging, which is headquartered in Vancouver, BC.