Many programs designed to attract new workout clients

Many programs designed to attract new workout clients

Five years ago, when Nicoline Richardson worked as a personal trainer at a women’s gym, she charged $30 an hour. In big cities, trainers can now command $60 an hour or more.

How people train is shifting too: "I have seen a change away from heavy weight training more toward Pilates, toward leaner muscles, toward dance classes," says Richardson.

Working out is here to stay. Awareness of aerobic exercise’s role in a healthy lifestyle and greater disposable income — along with the desire to look and feel good as we live longer — have helped fuel tremendous growth in the fitness industry.

Sometime after the 1970s, fitness training went mainstream and became accessible to everyone with the addition of aerobics classes, weight-training machines and affordable fees. And we discovered that the club was a good place to socialize.

"I think that people really do find like-minded people at fitness facilities," says Kathie Davis, executive director of IDEA Health and Fitness Association, the leading membership organization of health and fitness professionals worldwide. "It’s a great way to meet other people — and it will continue to be."

During March and April of ‘005, researchers at IDEA conducted its "’005 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey," which reveals the latest trends and fitness fads. The 10th annual survey polled nearly 300 IDEA business and program directors across North America.

"Fitness has grown to such a point that it’s being offered everywhere," says Davis. Survey respondents represent a cross-section of large and small health clubs, personal training gyms, specialty studios, college campuses, and corporate and hospital fitness centers, as well as park and recreation programs.

One of the most encouraging finds is that regardless of location, 85 percent of survey respondents say they offer programs designed to attract the inactive person or new exerciser.

"There has been an undercurrent in the industry that we haven’t been doing a good enough job of reaching out to newcomers," Davis says. "It’s exactly what we need to do with the obesity problem on the rise … if we want to make a dent." On average, managers estimate that 40 percent of their participants are beginners.

Some of the other key trends uncovered in the ‘005 IDEA survey are:

• The three most popular programs are group strength training, personal training and Pilates.

• Boot camps are hot, with indoor boot camps offered now by 35 percent of the respondents and outdoor classes by 16 percent of the respondents.

"I think people really like being outdoors, and the challenge of boot camp appeals to them," Davis says.

• Other programs on the rise include indoor cycling, kid-specific fitness, and boxing-based programs.

• Hybrid, or fusion, classes with two forms of exercise — participants do step for half a class, then cycle for the rest, for example — are available in great variety.

• Classes based on urban-street or funk dance have surpassed traditional ballroom dancing, probably because of the appeal to younger exercisers.

• More than half of those surveyed are merging yoga and Pilates with each other or a traditional exercise format. Davis is seeing many classes that combine yoga or Pilates with strength training.

"Personal trainers are realizing the benefits of yoga and Pilates and incorporating that into their sessions," she says.

• Nutrition assessment is another growing area with 55 percent of the survey respondents offering some level of evaluation. Lifestyle coaching, however, in stress management, weight management and smoking cessation, has declined steadily at fitness facilities since IDEA started keeping track in 1998.

• The No. 1 program offered is personal training. Eighty-eight percent of respondents say they offer all types of personal-training programs, up from 66 percent in 1996. Word-of-mouth and the media have spread the message: "People see friends having success with this kind of thing," says Davis.

• To keep the cost of personal training down, Davis recommends working in small groups. Two-client or three-to-five client personal-training sessions are all the rage. Two-client personal training rose from 4′ percent in 1998 to 71 percent of respondents offering it in ‘005.

"When you’re working out with a couple of other friends, it’s much more fun," she says, "and it keeps you coming back."

Copley News Service

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