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Top Trends: Small-Group, Boot Camp, Zumba

The first time we surveyed members for the annual IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends report, in 1995, personal training was just beginning to emerge as an affordable exercise option for most consumers and as a viable career choice for fitness professionals. Pilates had been around for decades; however, relatively few exercise professionals knew much about it. Zumba®? What-a? Never heard of it. The BOSU® Balance Trainer and Ballast Ball®, the TRX® Suspension Trainer™ and the full array of small, portable equipment that both group exercise teachers and personal trainers rely on so heavily today were nonexistent. How our industry—and the world—has changed!

Personal Training Trends Consistent With Equipment Trends

Over the last decade, there has been consistent growth in facilities offering all types of personal training. Among the various personal training formats, the greatest increases have been in shared sessions for 2 clients and small groups of 3-5 clients. Shared sessions were offered by 66% of respondents in 2002 and 90% in 2010, whereas small-group sessions were offered by 43% in 2002 and 76% in 2010.

A similar trend can be observed in the equipment offered by facilities. As small-group personal training sessions become more popular, more facilities are offering smaller pieces of equipment that can be utilized in this context. The most popular types of equipment are those that are suitable for small spaces, are transportable and can be individualized for clients. Stability balls (95%), resistance tubing and bands (95%), barbells and/or dumbbells (90%), balance equipment (87%), medicine balls (87%) and foam rollers and small balls (83%) are offered by the majority of facilities surveyed.

Group Exercise: Less Choreography
Group exercise classes clearly remain popular with the facilities surveyed, as 78% provide this service to their clients. The average number of group exercise classes on the schedule per week is 38, with approximately 16 people participating per class. Class duration varies, with 60 minutes (83%) and 45 minutes (42%) being the most popular lengths.

Group offerings that have seen the largest increases since 2002 include indoor cycling (44% to 59%), circuit (69% to 77%) and core-conditioning classes (72% to 80%); and over the past 7 years the greatest increases have occurred in indoor boot camp (28% to 67%) and small-group classes on machines (24% to 35%).

Pilates Still Growing

This year, the survey asked separate questions regarding the number of offerings and the number of participants in Pilates and yoga sessions. The average number of Pilates classes on the schedule per week is 10, with approximately 11 people participating per class. Yoga is offered about 8 times per week and draws about 16 participants per class. Sixty minutes is the most common length for both Pilates and yoga classes (81% and 87%, respectively).

Mind-body programming has made mixed progress. Meditation, tai chi and yoga have declined in prevalence, and Gyrotonic® or Gyrokinesis® exercise and mind-body fusion offerings have increased just slightly. The big areas of growth are Pilates, and Pilates and yoga fusion. Pilates is now offered by 90% of facilities (up from 63% in 2002), and Pilates and yoga fusion has seen a robust increase over the past 7 years (31% to 59%).

Top Three Program Trends
We asked our survey respondents—157 IDEA business and program director members—to write in what they saw as the top three programming trends for 2010. Small-group training was the number-one trend for 2010, followed by boot camp training and Zumba. Over the past 9 years, small-group personal training (3-5 people) has increased from 43% to 76%; indoor boot camps (28% to 67%) and outdoor boot camps (14% to 28%) have made gains over the last 7 years. Zumba, while not specifically surveyed, is a branded choreography program that has increased from 22% to 45% in just 4 years. As we look at these top trends, it is interesting to note that they all involve groups of individuals coming together to achieve their fitness goals.

Top Three Equipment Trends
We also asked respondents to write in what they anticipated would be the top three equipment trends in 2010. Elliptical trainers, TRX® Suspension Training® equipment and treadmills topped the list. Although a decline has been observed in other large pieces of cardiorespiratory equipment (stationary bikes and stair climbers), elliptical trainers and treadmills continue to be popular.

Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

The fitness industry continues to evolve and search for ways to appeal to a wide range of clientele. We provide a variety of options that enable members to set and achieve their fitness and wellness goals. Program directors continue to strive for ways to be innovative while still offering effective, quality programming. Each year we hear that facilities offer a wider range of group exercise formats to meet the interests of members. Currently, classes with uncomplicated or modest choreography are popular offerings, as they allow members to be successful in their fitness quest.

It is clear that personal training continues to be in high demand. Whether one-on-one, with a partner or in a small group, it consistently offers an opportunity for clients to reach their individual goals. Equipment trends are aligned with this sustained growth in personal training. Types of equipment that are easily transportable and can be individualized are very compatible with personal training sessions.

Fitness professionals have a professional responsibility to address the needs of our clients so that they can succeed themselves and also encourage those around them to adopt healthy routines and habits. The key is to provide a variety of different programming, supported by appropriate equipment. By doing that, the fitness industry will positively impact the health of this nation.

The complete results of the business member survey are available in the July-August 2010 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager. If you do not receive this digital publication and would like to, please contact IDEA member services at [email protected].

Jan Schroeder, PhD

Jan Schroeder, PhD, is a professor and past chair of the department of kinesiology at Long Beach State University. She coordinates and teaches in the fitness and integrated training undergraduate program and has written 60+ articles on exercise physiology/fitness. She is also a certified group exercise instructor who teaches weekly in the private sector. Schroeder is the recipient of the 2021 IDEA Fitness Leader of the Year Award.

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