Did you hear?...Survey of fitness professionals reports popularity of small, portable fitness gear

Popularity of small accessories is rising among fitness professionals, while traditional cardio equipment use has been declining, according to the 14th annual IDEA Fitness Program Trends and Equipment Survey. IDEA is a global association of fitness professionals, including instructors, trainers, program directors and studio owners.
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Popularity of small accessories is rising among fitness professionals, while traditional cardio equipment use has been declining, according to the 14th annual IDEA Fitness Program Trends and Equipment Survey.

IDEA (www.ideafit.com) is a global association of fitness professionals, including instructors, trainers, program directors and studio owners.

"Although the growth statistics remain relatively flat year over year, probably reflecting the unstable nature of the economy," the survey in the association's July-August magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal, stated, "this data bears out that we as an industry do not believe we are in a decline. We also continue to explore ways to be creative with the resources we currently possess."

Cardio equipment use

This year, for the first time, the survey asked about two new categories -- arm ergometers and indoor rowing machines, which are offered by 24 percent and 42 percent of facilities who responded.

Still, treadmills remain king with 71 percent offering that piece. Next up in popularity are recumbent bicycles (68 percent) and ellipticals (67 percent). Even with the rather high use of recumbents, the survey noted that that category has had some of the largest declines in the past nine years (down 10 percent).

Small, portable, versatile

Even while many of the facilities that responded have large equipment, most note the focus on pieces that are small, portable and versatile. Tops are tubing and bands (94 percent), stability balls (92 percent), barbells or dumbbells (91 percent), foam rollers and small balls (81 percent), balance equipment (80 percent) and medicine balls (79 percent).

"Overall, these results reflect a desire for portability and versatility in our equipment, a shift to more functional exercise and less emphasis on big, bulky pieces that emphasize one-dimensional movement," the survey summarized.

Forecasting the future

Respondents said they expect both balance equipment and suspension training pieces to increase in popularity with 55 percent and 52 percent, respectively, making that prediction. In fact, these are the only two areas where respondents forecast growth and not stable use or a decline.

Mind-body programming

Of the two most popular mind-body programs, Pilates is still sweeping the rankings. It continues to steadily increase over the last nine years, going from 47 percent to 70 percent. Equipment used in Pilates offerings has experienced similar increases.

Yoga, on the other hand, has begun to indicate a slight decline in both program offering and equipment (69 percent to 62 percent, and 73 percent to 70 percent, respectively).

Growth programs

Of programs offered, so-called "mind-body fusion" types are expected by the most respondents to grow, with growth also expected in classes for teens, online reminder and communication systems, social activity groups like walking or running clubs, senior classes, small group classes on equipment, hybrid classes, as well as dance such as hip-hop and small group boot camps.

--Therese Iknoian

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