TOP HEALTH CLUB TRENDS - Health Clubs Respond to Strong Consumer Demand
IHRSA, The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association has announced its annual list of Health Club Trends. By working with its global membership base of over 10,000 club and fitness businesses, examining industry research, and monitoring consumer fitness behaviors, IHRSA has identified the most significant trends health club goers will see over the next 12 months.
Trend 1: More People Working Out in Clubs
While only 16% of the American population currently belongs to a health club, membership has increased more than 10% over the past three years to over 50.2 million members, despite the poor economy. With an improved economic outlook, clubs across the country are gearing up for more demand than they’ve seen in years.
According to results from the Physical Activity Council’s (PAC) annual participation study, over three out of 10 Americans plan to increase spending in joining or re-joining a health club. Also, IBISWorld reports that the demand for gyms and health and fitness clubs will continue to rise over the next five years, as the general public becomes more health-conscious and the aging population places a greater emphasis on staying fit.
Additionally, in an effort to protect and promote further industry growth, IHRSA is extremely active working in state capitals and Washington, DC promoting legislation that would create incentives for exercise.
This increase in membership is good news as it allows clubs to expand their offerings, suppliers to design and create new equipment, and more professionals to be attracted to careers in fitness.
Trends 2 and 3: Exercise is not one-size-fits-all. Clubs are providing age-appropriate and/or population specific programming.
Trend 2: Specific Programming and Certifications for Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers want to age well, and they are exercising for more energy and the ability to work and play longer. As people age, strength, balance and functional training become even more important, so the trend is that clubs are providing specialized programming and trainers that are specifically trained and certified to work with older adults. Since Baby Boomers are the fastest growing segment of the population, and they often have the time, finances and the motivation to exercise, this trend will only grow stronger over the foreseeable future.
Another corollary trend is that club goers will see more Baby Boomers and retirees as club employees and fitness professionals, as this group, already concerned with staying healthy and physically fit will be moving into this second-life career both to supplement income and to keep active.
Trend 3: Youth Programming
Health club members under the age of 18 grew from 3.8 million in 2007 to 6.1 million in 2010. The demand for sports-specific training for children from elementary school on up continues to be popular as this training helps boost attitude and confidence in all areas of life, whether the child becomes a superior athlete or is simply more comfortable in gym class or speaking up in math class.
And, due to the obesity epidemic among children, the White House’s focus on children’s fitness through Let’s Move!, combined with the continuing lack of structured physical education in schools, more training programs and equipment will continue to be designed around children’s unique fitness needs.
Trend 4: Social Exercise
Socially based exercise is up. People want to have fun while working out, they want to experience great music, learn new moves that can be incorporated into life outside the club, and they want to share the group “high” not offered by a lone treadmill. Therefore, more clubs are offering group exercise (of all kinds) than ever before. Based on IHRSA’s Member Census of 3,024 IHRSA member clubs, group cycling and boot-camp style programs are still popular, and group strength-training classes are still increasing. Again this year, Latin dance and nightclub-inspired workouts are appearing everywhere, generating a passion for aerobic dance not seen since the eighties. Also fusion classes that combine yoga, Pilates, ballet, dance and even surfing continue to grow in popularity, especially in metropolitan areas where trendy gyms strive to offer the newest, most unique exercise experiences.
Trend 5: Small Group Personal Training
In 1999, 4 million Americans were using personal trainers. Now that number hovers around 6.5 million. Over 91% of the IHRSA clubs surveyed offer personal training, however the growth in training has not come from one-on-one training but small group personal training or SGPT. SGPT offers the benefits and motivation of personal training combined with more fun and less expense. Reasons behind the explosion in SGPT programming are obvious, as SGPT is more economical for the consumer, more efficient for the club and trainer and offers the group experience “high” mentioned in Trend #4.
Trend 6: Technology
Whether you want to track your mileage, speed, number of workouts, calorie burn, or strength level, there is an app for that. New technology, whether on a hand-held device, or incorporated into the club’s equipment is not only keeping club-goers motivated by providing interactive workout programs and tracking the effectiveness of the workouts, but it is helping exercisers avoid injury and burn-out by providing tools that let the exerciser know how far, fast or hard is too much. Popular technology includes gadgets that track mileage via GPS, calorie burn, heart rate, exertion, and specific workouts.
Trend 7: Convenient Fitness Options
As everyone knows, time is our most valuable asset. Gyms and fitness professionals have grasped the concept that everyone only has 24-hours in a day, and that a gym visit is not the only to-do on most people’s calendars and are therefore providing more convenient exercise options.
First, the explosion of health clubs that are open 24-hours from a couple hundred 5-years ago to over 2,000 today is the direct result of gym operators and franchisors responding to the needs of people in smaller towns that need access to quality fitness around the clock. Also, many larger multi-purpose clubs are opening express locations as a way to provide members with a quicker, “get in, get exercising and get on with life” option. Second, most gyms and fitness professionals are advising that shorter workouts of 30 minutes or less can be just as effective as longer ones.
Trend 8: Corporate Wellness Benefits
According to The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise, an IHRSA publication, researchers have found that the return on investment among companies that offer wellness benefits ranges from $1.49 to $13 for every dollar invested. Wellness-oriented services in both the health club and the workplace are proven to help address consumer health goals, reduce the impact of obesity rates, and improve business profitability. Employers, both large and small are focusing on and benefitting from investments in employee health. Employers are increasingly aware that a fitness benefit creates a happier, more productive work force, reduces employee health care expenses, lowers rates of absenteeism, reduces disability and workers’ compensation claims and helps to attract and retain talented employees. Studies show that employees who exercise at least once a week, regardless of their weight, have lower health care costs than their sedentary co-workers. One study, in fact, showed that active employees take 27 percent fewer sick days and report 14 to 25 percent fewer disability days than inactive employees.
At the federal level, IHRSA secured the reintroduction of the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act, which would reclassify employer-provided fitness memberships as non-taxable income. The WHIP Act is especially important to smaller businesses that lack the space to build an in-house fitness center, which is already considered a non-taxable benefit by the IRS.
IHRSA is also pressing Congress to pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which would allow employees to pay for various physical activities, such as gym memberships, using funds in a flexible spending account.
Trend 9: Body Weight Exercise
Suspension and gravity training is a popular trend with body-weight leverage equipment a must-have in many gyms. This was unseen up until a few years ago and is most likely due to the fact that functional fitness training has moved beyond the trend stage and is simply one of the driving forces for many of the 52 million current health club members.
Trend 10: Physician Prescribed Exercise
As the population ages, obesity rates rise, and healthcare costs increase; health clubs more and more become an answer to our nation’s health crisis. While doctors write more than 3.4 billion prescriptions per year and mention medications during more than 70% of office visits, physicians are just beginning to prescribe the real wonder drug — exercise. For 2012 and beyond, physicians and healthcare professionals will prescribe exercise at increasing rates and health insurance providers will structure more of their programs to reward healthy lifestyle habits.
Tried & True
While trends are interesting, it is important to note that tried and true exercise never goes out of style. The top 10 health club activities per IHRSA’s member census of 3,024 North American clubs are:
#10 stair-climbing machines
#8 low impact aerobics
#7 stationary cycling
#6 abdominal machines
#4 elliptical trainers
#3 resistance machines
#1 free weights (hand weights, dumbbells and barbells)
Data for the 2012 IHRSA Trend List is derived from the following IHRSA Research:
- The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise
- The Health Club Consumer report
- The IHRSA Trend Report: 2011 Quarter 3 Executive Summary (prepared by the Leisure Trends Group)
- IHRSA’s annual Industry Data Survey (Profiles of Success)
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) is the trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, racquet and sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA and its members are dedicated to making the world healthier through regular exercise and fitness promotion. IHRSA is the recognized leader on health club industry research. IHRSA’s annual reports provide a comprehensive, country-specific overview of the key fitness industry markets worldwide as well as a detailed view of the overall global market. IHRSA also tracks U.S. industry trends on club performance, consumer behavior, and employee compensation practices. Find an IHRSA club at healthclubs.com.