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IDEA Survey Highlights Diverse Programming, Equipment

SAN DIEGO -- Fitness program directors and facilities managers report that while the fitness market may not be booming, it is stable, according to the IDEA Health & Fitness Association, which released results from its 14th annual IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends Report this week.

IDEA also said the number of respondents with positive attitudes toward programming and equipment growth was generally higher than the percentage of them expecting declines in those categories.

Another positive aspect of the results is that the diversity of fitness classes, equipment and programs respondents offer has continued to increase.

“It’s apparent that fitness program directors and managers have found interesting ways to respond to the shifting desires and needs of fitness consumers,” Kathie Davis, executive director of IDEA, said in a statement. “This may mean finding new ways to use existing fitness equipment or trying new programming for personal training, group exercise and mind-body activities.”

The survey’s 10 fitness programs with growth potential were:

• Mind-body fusion (16 percent offer; 81 percent believe it will grow)
• Teen fitness (30 percent-61 percent)
• Social activity groups (45 percent-55 percent)
• Seniors classes (55 percent-55 percent)
• Small-group classes on machines (32 percent-55 percent)
• Combination/Hybrid classes (36 percent-54 percent)
• Dance (39 percent-52 percent)
• Small group boot camps (47 percent-52 percent)
• Boot camp classes, indoor (51 percent-49 percent)
• Group activities, outdoor (32 percent-49 percent)
• Small-group classes, eight people or fewer (58 percent-49 percent)

Pilates has steadily increased as a mind-body offering over the past nine years, IDEA noted, growing from 47 percent to 70 percent. Pilates equipment has also enjoyed an increase in usage in the eight years IDEA has tracked it, growing from 29 percent to 44 percent.

The most widely used equipment in fitness centers is equipment that is small, portable and versatile, the survey found. The following are offered by most facilities surveyed: resistance tubing or bands (94 percent), stability balls (92 percent), barbells and/or dumbbells (91 percent), foam rollers and small balls (81 percent), balance equipment (80 percent) and medicine balls (79 percent).

IDEA said the results reflect a desire for portability and versatility, as well as a shift to more functional exercise and less emphasis on big, bulky pieces that emphasize one-dimensional movement.

Balance equipment and suspension training apparatus are expected to gain in popularity, with 55 percent and 52 percent of users respectively, anticipating growth in their usage. These were the only two categories in which more respondents expect growth than expect no growth or a decline in usage.

In this year’s survey, respondents were less supportive of equipment growth than in past years, IDEA said. Just two of 10 pieces garnered more than a 50 percent vote for growth. Last year’s survey posted seven pieces above 50 percent.

The 10 types of equipment predicted to grow were:

• Balance equipment (80 percent offer it; 55 percent expect it to grow)
• Suspension training apparatus (25 percent-52 percent)
• Foam rollers and small balls (81 percent-48 percent)
• Pilates equipment (44 percent-43 percent)
• Child-sized machines (5 percent-40 percent)
• Computer training programs, interactive (10 percent-40 percent)
• Elliptical trainers (67 percent-39 percent)
• Cycles, for indoor classes (45 percent-38 percent)
• Computer workout tracking (17 percent-37 percent)
• Medicine balls (79 percent-36 percent)

Other areas that IDEA says saw notable year-over-year growth from 2008-2009 included exercise programs for chronic medical conditions, which was up six percentage points to 46 percent offering it; fitness assessment (up five points to 81 percent); lifestyle coaching (up five points to 38 percent); Pilates or yoga training, one-on-one (up eight points to 56 percent); seniors classes (up four points to 55 percent); step aerobics (up seven points to 53 percent); and weight management classes (up seven points to 38 percent).

The survey was conducted by the IDEA Health & Fitness Association, a membership organization of more than 23,000 health, wellness and fitness professionals worldwide.

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