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CindySays: Exercise industry's top 10 trends

By Cindy Boggs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The fitness industry loves to identify global trends in terms of activity -- what's hot and what's not. Actually, it's not so much that they love it, but rather they must be able to make accurate predictions for their industry to thrive.

The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association looks at fitness businesses, assesses the behavior of consumers in this industry and issues a list of trends that have made a significant mark and continue to attract interest.

Because I enjoy this kind of insider information, I thought you might too. Here are the top 10 health-club trends:

1. More people are working out in health clubs and fitness centers. Even though nationwide those who belong to a gym are far fewer than those who work out on their own, health-club and training memberships have grown more than 10 percent, despite the poor economy.

2. Programming specifically designed for Baby Boomers. This rapidly growing demographic is steering the industry. They are demanding functional training and more specialized club offerings with their age group in mind. They are also looking past the typical instructors and searching for instructors/trainers who are specifically certified to teach those who are 55-plus. Another interesting trend is that these Baby Boomers are retiring and looking for second careers in the fitness industry.

3. Programming specifically designed for youths. In the past five years, the number of health seekers in fitness centers under the age of 18 has doubled. With the alarming rise of childhood obesity and the federal focus on ways to get children moving, there is a huge demand on structured physical activity for this age group. Parents are desperate for safe places for their kids to play as well as programs that boost self-confidence.

(Note that Nos. 2 and 3 prove that age-specific programming is both popular and essential as one size does not fit all.)

4. The desire for the social aspect found in group exercise classes is on the rise. Variety in workouts is a must. People want all forms of exercise, and they want to do it together. They want to have fun, and they need the social support that comes from sharing their fitness experience with others. Many are stepping off the treadmill and stepping into dance classes, boot camps and group cycling.

5. Growth in small-group personal training is significant. While the numbers for one-on-one personal training have stayed fairly flat, group personal training has exploded. It's cheaper and usually lots more fun.

6. The demand to track everything is up. Technology has become everyone's best workout buddy because we all want instant feedback and information on our performance. You can bet that when a suitable gadget isn't available, there will be an app ready and waiting to be downloaded. Health seekers want to know how far, how fast, how strong they are getting. Motivation in their pocket or at their fingertips helps them avoid injury and boredom, which makes them worth their weight in gold.

7. Exercisers want gyms to cater to their calendar. They want convenience, and they favor health clubs that offer one-stop shopping. This desire has spawned fitness centers that are open 24 hours a day. The "get in and get out" mentality has popularized express classes and shorter, more-intense training sessions with members.

8. Corporations are paying close attention to return-on-investment statistics like never before. With the obvious deterioration of the nation's health, workplace wellness services have become more than a nice thing to do for employees. Fitness benefits create happy, healthier employees, which reduces absenteeism and compensation claims, makes their ROI very attractive. Complimentary gym memberships and flexible spending accounts are some of the newer perks seen more and more in benefit package to help recruit and retain talented employees -- especially those interested in staying healthy.

9. Functional fitness training is here to stay. Suspension and gravity training using one's own bodyweight is no longer a fad, it's a driving force in many health facilities. Because it's challenging and interesting, it's being incorporated into countless classes and personal training sessions.

10. A focus on prevention is introducing physicians to a new kind of prescription. A prescription for exercise -- this is just what the doctor ordered. Hopefully, this will drive home the fact that physical activity is better than any pill we can ever take. Exercise, a true wonder drug, is beginning to show up on the prescription pad, and some savvy insurance companies are starting to see the light in terms of rewarding healthy lifestyle habits.

Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified instructor/trainer since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to her at YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email cindysays@aol.com. Look for Cindy's award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World," at www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.


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