(Editors' Note: This article is part of Club Industry's report, "Trends That Will Affect the Fitness Industry in 2019," sponsored by TRX. You can download this report for free by going here.)
The new year is here, and the fitness forecast looks bright. Baby boomers are more active than previous generations, and younger populations see fitness, sports and active pursuits as an essential aspect of modern life. Nonetheless, tastes and interests are changing (as they will), which means that fitness facility operators need to stay ahead of the curve so their facilities can stay relevant and profitable for the long haul.
With that said, here are some of the top trends to take advantage of this year:
1. Full-body functional fitness continues to lead the pack. Functional training continues to trend up as organizations have placed a spotlight on the effectiveness of training styles that emphasize full-body movements over isolation-based exercises. This classic style of training uses tools such as kettlebells, medicine balls, conditioning ropes and body weight training. Also, mixing in aspects of cardio has become attractive to an increasingly time-starved customer base. When done safely and properly, functional training can fast-track fitness levels and keep members happy and loyal.
2. Wide open spaces. Enhanced focus on full-body movement programs is driving equipment popularity and changing the traditional gym landscape. Selectorized machines have been staples of commercial fitness centers for years as they allow members to work out with minimal guidance, but they also have a large footprint. Thus, as interest in functional fitness and bodyweight training continues, we’re seeing gyms eschewing single-muscle group machines and cluttered spaces in favor of tools and layouts that promote whole-body integrated training. Although machines will always have a place in fitness centers, we will likely see an increase in the usage of tools such as kettlebells, medicine balls, suspension trainers, etc. Ultimately, to remain competitive, gym owners will want to trade out some of the older, lesser-used machines to make space for—and expand—functional training services.
3. Performance-based tech, simplified. Years ago, the only fitness assessment tech available to us was step trackers and heart rate monitors. Today, the fitness tech landscape resembles the Wild West in that there’s a gadget to measure just about everything. However, there is not a lot of insight into applying that data effectively to reap the benefits. Tools that have the greatest overall impact are the ones that give a user objective measurements/data points and then deliver actionable steps for improvement. Gyms can certainly benefit from this trend in various ways—from gathering qualified leads for personal training sales, customizing their programming and even including metrics as part of their promo packages to attract new customers.
4. The rise of movement assessment tech. One of the most overlooked elements in fitness is quality of movement. Young and old consumers want to stay active for the long-haul, avoid injury, and move and perform better. Assessment technology that provides members (and their trainers) a clearer picture of how well they move — and what to do to move better — not only helps keep members healthy but it gives fitness professionals the information they need to make customized and purposeful programming decisions. Performing intermittent assessments with our clients can give us objective data points to ensure progress over time. Movement is the forgotten component of fitness and will be a vital way to achieve fitness goals in and out of the gym.
5. Staffing standards on the rise. The internet has given the average consumer access to an abundance of information about fitness and exercise. Consequently, many of our members are as informed about nutrition and exercise as their fitness professional peers. This more informed and educated consumer is driving our industry from the bottom up. In other words, there’s an embedded expectation for a higher level of professionalism and knowledge from fitness professionals. Thus, trainers and instructors will need to invest more in education and skill development to stay relevant (and employable). Health club owners and managers can support their staff by bringing in top-level workshops and courses and by sending them to quality industry conferences.
Overall, we are in an exciting transitional phase in our culture where the intersection of technology, information and our environment are converging with positive implications for what we do and where we go as an industry. Leveraging the aforementioned trends will allow us to deliver on our promises to our members/clients and continue to stay relevant in this ever-changing industry.
Chris Frankel is head of human performance for TRX and has been with the company for more than 10 years. He has more than 35 years of experience in the human performance field as a strength and conditioning coach, sport and exercise scientist, professor at undergraduate and graduate levels, and consultant to professional and collegiate sports teams. Prior to TRX, Frankel was an instructor in the health, exercise and sports science department of the University of New Mexico. Frankel continues to coach, teach and conduct research in the areas of strength training, cardiovascular/aerobic fitness, movement analysis, fitness assessment and injury prevention.