Baby Boomers Are Back


Stan Reents, PharmD, is a certified personal trainer, a certified USTA tennis coach and a former health care professional. He is the author of Sport and Exercise Pharmacology and the creator of Reents can be reached at [email protected].

It is widely known that Baby Boomers fueled the growth in health clubs in the 1980s, and it appears that they are coming back. In 1993, there were roughly 1.3 million health club members who were 55 and older. In 2004, that number increased to 10.2 million. In 2005, nearly 20 percent of health club members were 55 or older, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

Baby Boomers are people born after the end of World War II between 1946 and 1964. There are nearly 80 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. today. The oldest members of this group are now nearing retirement.

Boomers are an important group in the health and fitness industry, not only because of their numbers but also because they are highly motivated. This personality trait shows up in their drive to exercise, stay healthy and compete. To understand how much Baby Boomers still love to compete, pick up a copy of Masters Athlete magazine. Several sports journalists in the Chicago area launched this magazine and the accompanying Web site in October 2004. They decided to focus on people 40 and older who still enjoy competing. Every issue profiles older athletes -- some are in their 90s -- who do amazing things.

But, of course, this competitive drive comes at a price: injuries. In fact, it’s so common that a new term has been invented to describe the injuries these older athletes suffer: “boomeritis.”

As an employee or owner of a fitness club, why should you care? Because Boomers are very motivated to exercise for health reasons. They don’t want to end up sitting in a wheelchair when they hit 70, or suffer a stroke or heart attack.

To attract individuals from this lucrative market to your club, consider the following six ideas:

1. Feed that competitive drive. Boomers are competitive, so consider programs like spinning classes and kickboxing. Create some type of recordkeeping that displays the performance of these members. For example, set a goal of 1,000 miles for members of a spinning class, and update it every week. For the less competitive, simply keep track of how regularly they exercise and if they are meeting the latest American College of Sports Medicine guidelines.

2. Offer training and conditioning advice. Because many Boomers might be preparing for an upcoming event, find trainers and coaches to give free talks on training and conditioning. Coordinate a membership drive with these talks.

3. Make sure you have ample cardio machines. Aerobic exercise is critical for warding off many chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Boomers know this.

4. Provide health checks. Find health care professionals in your community who can provide health talks at your club. If you can partner with a local hospital or clinic, offer blood pressure and cholesterol screenings periodically.

5. Establish flexible membership plans. Many Boomers have an “I can do it myself” attitude. Because it’s likely that many of them will have joined gyms in the past, they’ll appreciate the more options and choices you give them. Let them describe what kind of membership program they want.

6. Promote your personal training services. Personal training for Boomers is a good strategy. Boomers appreciate the special attention, and a knowledgeable trainer can help a Boomer from overdoing it.

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