Top Group Fitness Programs

By Joy Keller
Dec 1, 2015

Group fitness programming—which includes class design, instruction and
sound exercise science—is the “magic sauce” for any thriving health
club. According to a survey from IDEA Health & Fitness Association, the average membership
demographic is approximately 25–60 years old, with some locational
variances. Program directors reported that they schedule an average of
65 classes per week. Attendance varies widely based on season, attrition
rates and other factors.

While lineups and schedules differ depending on locale and demographics,
we found some common threads in program and class popularity, detailed
below (in alphabetical order, not in order of popularity).

  • Core-themed classes. Programs that focus on strengthening
    the core continue to be a big draw, thanks to the fitness industry’s
    education on this topic over the past decade in particular. The rise of
    Pilates, which shares the message of injury prevention through
    strengthening the powerhouse, has also fueled this growth. Fitness pros
    have learned a lot about connections and interactions among core
    muscles, fascial lines and movement, and the general population is
    benefiting from this knowledge.

    Linda Webster, owner of Guru Fitness®
    LLC, says that core-focused classes help participants “light up, connect
    to the variety of movement and realize that the core is much more than
    ‘ab work.’”

  • High-intensity interval training. Members are still
    demanding intensity-oriented options, whether it’s Tabata, boot camp,
    circuit training or strict high-intensity interval training. These
    classes are popular partly because of claims they offer better metabolic
    conditioning and fat loss and partly because they take less time to
    complete than traditional classes. Abbie Appel, group fitness manager
    for Equinox, says HIIT is “hugely popular,” and cites “positive
    physiological results, including improved fitness level at every level .
    . . and the fast changes in body composition” as contributing factors.

    Fred Hoffman, MEd, owner of Fitness Resources Consulting Services,
    agrees that HIIT is popular but says it’s not for everyone. “I feel that
    the people who like HIIT and have embraced it generally [already] like
    to work out, and work out hard. It’s the ‘preaching to the choir’
    phenomenon. But in my opinion, this type of training is most likely not
    appealing to the majority of the population who are not working out and
    who have difficulty even getting started. If people don’t like to work
    out, a high-intensity training program or class is not going to be
    attractive to them. With time, that could change, but first fitness
    professionals have to help get these people started and provide them the
    means to enjoy fitness and stay motivated. HIIT may not be the right
    approach to take; however, it can be adapted for different populations.”

  • Indoor cycling. Indoor cycling continues to be a popular
    option among fitness facility members, and experts point to many reasons
    for its sustained position in the spotlight. “I think people see it as
    great motivation, and they can still have some control over their
    workout,” says Webster. Kimberly Spreen-Glick, senior director of group
    fitness, yoga and indoor cycling for Life Time Fitness—The Healthy Way
    of Life Companysm, attributes indoor cycling’s endurance in part to
    specialty studios that reignited an interest. “Indoor cycling received a
    breath of fresh air with the opening of all the boutiques, and we love
    it,” she says. Grace DeSimone, national group fitness director for
    Optum, says she believes members enjoy indoor cycling because the bikes
    are “easy to use, offer a great workout and require a small learning
    curve.”

To read more about how the insights from several industry experts will support and strengthen your group class offerings, please see “2015 IDEA Group Fitness Trend Watch” in the online IDEA Library or in the July-August 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

The New Express Class?

Although high-intensity interval training, which is typically completed in 30 minutes or less, is popular, group fitness experts report that the “30-minute express class” isn’t as much in demand as it used to be. Experts surveyed for this article say that, by and large, the 60-minute timeframe still remains popular among members. Of note: Many group fitness directors are compromising by adding 45-minute options to the schedule. The most popular time slots for express classes are, not surprisingly, during lunchtime hours.

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The New Express Class?

Although high-intensity interval training, which is typically completed in 30 minutes or less, is popular, group fitness experts report that the “30-minute express class” isn’t as much in demand as it used to be. Experts surveyed for this article say that, by and large, the 60-minute timeframe still remains popular among members. Of note: Many group

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Joy Keller

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