Ellipticals, balls among popular equipment for clubs, trainers

Personal trainers and group-exercise managers at clubs have spoken up for ellipticals and stability balls as among the equipment that is most in demand with customers and clients in the results of an annual look at trends in exercise, equipment and programs.
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Personal trainers and group-exercise managers at clubs have spoken up for ellipticals and stability balls as among the equipment that is most in demand with customers and clients in the results of an annual look at trends in exercise, equipment and programs.

The annual "Trendwatch" survey done by IDEA Health & Fitness Association, a group representing instructors and trainers internationally, reflects that exercisers are looking for more than just a tough aerobic workout but multi-dimensional programs and equipment that train not only cardiovascular fitness and strength, but also posture, balance and agility. Plus, so-called "kindler, gentler" exercise forms such as stretching, Pilates and yoga are retaining their attraction with everyone from athletes to seniors.

The Trendwatch is an interesting supplement to broader-based surveys because it annually polls 20 respected and well-versed program directors, personal trainers and business owners from across the country who come from different segments, from health clubs large and small, to university fitness centers and spas.

The equipment trends picked out by those surveyed by IDEA for the annual report are listed in order of highest perceived popularity (note that not all of the 20 answered each question):

Stability balls -- 15 said they are very popular and increasing in popularity, while four said they were holding steady. None said the balls were less popular. "It seems like all balls are making a comeback," said Pat Ryan, IDEA's vice president of education, who oversees the report each year.

Elliptical trainers -- 11 said their popularity was increasing, while five said they were steady. Again, none said they were not as popular as last year.

Indoor cycles -- Only five said they were still very popular or increasing, while seven said they were holding steady. One said interest was declining. "The real issue is the space issue," Ryan said. "Where do we put X number of bikes?"

Weighted bars -- Six said they were still quite popular and five claimed steady interest, while three said interest was waning.

Core equipment like balance trainers -- Nine pointed to continued high popularity and increasing interest; only two said it was just steady and none said interest was declining in any way.

Pilates reformer and Pilates training tools -- Again, nine claimed high popularity with only two indicating merely steady interest. One said they were not as popular as last year.

In general, respondents said that exercisers these days seem to want:

  • Balance, agility and posture training, which crosses populations in its popularity among hard-training athletes and the very fit to new exercises and seniors.
  • Kindler, gentler formats like yoga and stretch, also remain popular with many kinds of exercisers. "What it tells us is we in the past used to stereotype but really in this reporting we find these appealed to all," Ryan said.

Other programs retaining or achieving high popularity included personal training, both one-on-one and small group, post-rehab training, and group strength training.

Some that are sliding from stardom include step aerobics, low-impact aerobics and martial-arts/boxing-based classes.

SNEWS View: More than anything else, this tells us that many more exercisers are learning the value of various activities and are likely doing many things rather than burning themselves out on one thing as in the past. No, this doesn't count thousands of noses then tally those results, but those who oversee all those thousands of noses can have a good finger on the pulse of what's in and what's not. To complement this report comes the IDEA group's broader equipment and programs survey, which will be out in the fall. Knowing what the instructors and trainers -- the influencers, if you will -- are seeing and teaching can show us where the industry is headed.

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