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Taking Exercise Al Fresco in Spain

People living in different regions of Spain have opposing views on fitness. “Talking about new trends in fitness and working out at lunchtime or after work are normal in certain cities, for example,” says Alex Ventura, a Barcelonan who has been working in the fitness industry for more than 15 years as a group exercise instructor, a personal trainer, a consultant and an educator. “Being an instructor or trainer in Barcelona or Madrid is considered a respectable profession, but people in some other regions or small towns don’t see these jobs as ‘normal.’ Some individuals still think that fitness is spending the whole day in the gym to achieve a nice body or sweating in an aerobics class dressed in tight pants. But these views are shifting! The message that being active has a direct impact on health is making people look for different ways to change their lifestyle.”

Spanish fitness instructors have been well known for their creativity and complex choreography in aerobics and step classes, explains Ventura. “In the last few years, complicated classes have become less common. Except for exercisers who love dance-style classes, most people prefer classes that are easy to follow, such as indoor cycling, weight training and sculpting classes. Pilates is popular because of media exposure and the fact that celebrities do it.”

Personal training is becoming more prevalent, notes Ventura. “Typical training sessions are one-on-one and take place in fitness centers or homes,” he says. “However, some trainers are opening their own studios, offering partner or small-group training, reaching corporate clients or taking [sessions] outdoors. Core training, functional training, athletic conditioning and body weight training are the trends among the most knowledgeable trainers. Use of the TRX® Suspension Trainer™ is also growing quickly among trainers.”

Weather in Spain is pleasant, and citizens love outdoor activities that don’t depend on schedules, can be done on your own, and are easy and cheap, explains Ventura. “It’s common to see runners and walkers in the parks and avenues of the big cities, and popular races are always crowded,” he says. “That’s why many fitness centers offer their members running sessions led by a coach.”

While many people enjoy exercising, the difficult economy in the last few years has impacted all industries, including fitness. “Some fitness businesses are having to reinvent their business model or disappear,” says Ventura. “I think every crisis has its positive side and, in our case, it will make the professional businesses even stronger and the less professional ones close their doors. The direction for the future is specialization.”

Ventura is hopeful that Spain can reach people who are not already exercising. “We’re one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of overweight and obesity percentages among the population,” he says. “Central and regional governments are conscious of these facts, so they are running campaigns to encourage people to increase their physical activity levels and improve their nutrition. Some local councils are developing plans so doctors will make recommendations that patients join a public sports facility and follow an exercise program. This would be done with the supervision of the doctor and a trainer, for a low cost.”

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