This year the 14th annual IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends survey went to club owners, program directors and other fitness professionals in the midst of a financially unstable economy. While the fitness market may not be booming, it seems to be at least stable, which is great news when businesses all around the globe have been faltering. The really encouraging aspect of this year’s results is that the diversity of classes, equipment and programs offered has continued to increase.

The 130 IDEA business and program director members who responded to the survey can help us expand our perspectives on how we can best serve our clients in these financially unstable times.

Exploring New Ground in Personal Training

Personal training/adult/one-on-one again leads this category, with 89% of respondents offering it. Increases over the past 9 years have been demonstrated in all personal training categories, with the greatest improvements reflected in personal training/2 clients share, which rose from 56% in 2001 to 79% in 2009, and in personal training/3-5 clients share, which rose from 34% in 2001 to 60% in 2009.

Small-group boot camps and small-group circuit training were added to this year’s personal training category. Weighing in at 47% and 55%, respectively, they are offered by a good half of all managers surveyed—and with reason. Sherri McMillan, MSc, co-owner of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver, Washington, and Northwest Women’s Fitness Club in Portland, Oregon, has found that when a client gets laid off or if finances are tight, one of the first expenses he or she will look at eliminating is personal training. “Savvy managers prepare their business for these types of conversations and situations,” she said. “Many have found that incorporating small-group training, such as boot camps or circuits, into programming provides a more cost-effective option for clients. Clients don’t have to give up training altogether, and at the same time, training departments can generate more revenues during the same amount of time. It’s a win-win!”

Still Tops in Mind-Body Programming

Pilates has steadily increased as a mind-body offering over the past 9 years, going from 47% to 70%. On average, facilities offer 14 Pilates and yoga classes per week, with an average of 13 members attending each class. Pilates equipment has also enjoyed an increase in usage, from 29% to 44%, over the 8 years in which it has been surveyed, although the growth in equipment use has not been as robust as that seen in programming. This difference can be explained by facilities offering only mat-based Pilates programs as opposed to equipment-based sessions.

Yoga programs and equipment have both shown a slight decline over the years, from 69% to 62% and 73% to 70%, respectively. Interestingly, mind-body fusion programs have declined from 27% to 16% over the past 2 years, but the majority of facilities that offer these options believe the format is growing (81%).

Group Exercise Classes Attract Members

While group exercise participation remains steady, class formats are dynamic in their popularity. The past nine surveys have seen increases in abdominals classes, core-conditioning classes, indoor cycling and dance; however, aerobics classes (including high-, low- and mixed-impact), step aerobics, combination/hybrid classes, boxing-based/kickboxing sessions and martial arts-based aerobics have all declined.

More Survey Trends and Results

The complete report is available in the July-August 2009 issue of Digital IDEA Fitness Manager. There you will find the full list of programs and equipment being offered; growth trends; and multiyear comparisons. IDEA business and program director members receive this issue as a membership benefit. If you wish to receive a copy, contact IDEA member services for details at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.