Fitness trends 2007: What's in store?

A new year has begun and you know what that means: Everyone comes out of the woodwork with a press release proclaiming insider knowledge on what's on tap for the coming year in fitness. Oy vey!!!!
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A new year has begun and you know what that means: Everyone comes out of the woodwork with a press release proclaiming insider knowledge on what's on tap for the coming year in fitness. Oy vey!!!!

Many of the trend predictions we've seen posted and postulated from various people and organizations really only serve as flackery for their own products or missions. Really, do you honestly expect an organization with a focus on group fitness instruction to predict anything other than group fitness instruction will experience a boom this year? And then there's the association for senior fitness saying that senior fitness will be big. Well, duh.

With that in mind, SNEWS® is going to take a stab at boiling down what we've seen and heard combined with what we know to sum up a few trends. (Pssst…If you look closely, you may find these are also wishes deftly disguised -- or perhaps not too deftly.)

Finding time
Let's face it, the three-hour aerobic classes of yore are really so way yore it ain't funny. These days, it's about getting it done, getting it done right to get results and getting on with life. But most people really don't know where to start, so they may do their 20- or 30-minute workout, but it's at such a slow and ineffective pace that they may as well stay home if their goal is weight-loss or muscle-toning. You've seen 'em: The folks on the recumbent bikes pedaling mindlessly while they shovel through that morning's paper, afraid to break a sweat for fear the paper will melt in their hands.

So the fitness industry needs to find a way to teach folks how to do that 20- to 30-minute workout better. That doesn't mean claims that are bogus about zapping more calories in 30 than if you ran a marathon. Oh please. Can we cut that out? What we need are programs that help folks through interval-type workouts at their appropriate paces that can truly rev up their metabolic motors. That might mean hill intervals too. And although some say 10 or 20 minutes is enough; really, it's not -- not for weight loss. But that doesn't mean someone has to do overwhelming amounts. We as an industry just have to show the masses -- and I suspect we will start doing it more and more -- they can get what they need in two to three hours a week spread over seven days, especially if they incorporate that with lifestyle activity.

Oh, and this applies to all ages and abilities. An "interval" pace or length can be relative.

iPods don't pass us by
Be it iPods, flashdrives (USBs), PDAs or other megabyte-carrying devices or means for wireless transmission, including web workout downloads, it's time for the industry to step up and join the current electronic century. We've seen a couple of players make some headway with downloadable programs, music or workouts, but there is a long way to go.

Now, we know there is a lot brewing. We know the likes of Apple and Nike aren't going to sit idly at the sidelines with the opportunities available in partnerships with some of the fitness industry players. In fact, we know there are big players in fitness taking some behind-the-scene actions. Who wants to miss this wave? This will be the year -- it better be the year -- that more in this realm happens. We await it.

Forgetting the Fear Factor
We hope that this too will be the year that more "competing" entities that promote physical activity -- think health clubs, retail stores or yoga studios, as well as bike shops or outdoor stores -- will realize that we're all in the same boat. If we work together (i.e. get more folks active), we'll all benefit. We scratch our heads when we see health clubs and their association act as if that's the only way to get fit, when outdoor stores don't want to partner with fitness retail stores, or when fitness retail stores can't figure out how to align with bike shops or yoga studios.

Not only could we refer people back and forth and increase everybody's revenues and participation, we could work together to promote getting the public fit. Honestly, there is enough to go around. In fact, there is too much. We've seen a few businesses pop up here and there that are combinations of personal training studios and retail stores. We'd love to see clubs and retail combined too. Think time-saving (see No. 1). If the person can lift weights, take yoga, and then go ponder the purchase of a treadmill and snap up a new set of weights for the home, that could be the ticket.

Let's not be afraid of each other.

Integrating fitness and life
Aside from that minute slice of the public that is a true athletic enthusiast, fitness isn't what we live for, but we live healthier and better because of fitness. That means the more a company can do with its equipment to make it look better in the family room so it's convenient to use (who wants to slink away into a cold basement to work out?), the more people will work out. The more we can integrate equipment into what we do (we love the treadmills that count steps too since that meshes a user's daily activity with their fitness walking), the more people will make it a part of their life. The more compact and simply user-friendly gear can get, the more it will fit into someone's life and be used.

We know we are all geeks. Admit it. Many of us in this industry train religiously, develop and invent this stuff for the fun of tinkering, or sell the features and technology. But the 80 percent to 90 percent of the public that isn't fitness geeky and doesn't workout enough for results wants real-life fitness. Aesthetics, compact, easy to use and understand, integrated.

Making it easy
Why can't fitness have something like an EASY button a la Staples office supplies? Or you know that silly phone you see advertised in the Sunday newspaper magazine supplements that drops all the schmantzy features and just has a few simple buttons? The fitness industry needs to dumb itself down. On-off, up-down, stop, with a few blinking lights for the effect. OK, we geeks may not get excited, but all those millions of people out there who can't program their coffee machines and cell phones will eat it up. That doesn't mean the end of the cool new elliptical or bike with great features. But we are preaching to the choir with most of that stuff.

Making it fun
We've said this before and ever year we say it again since every year more and more "fun" stuff surfaces. No reason why working out doesn't have to be fun. TV screens on a piece aren't exactly entertainment. They are a distraction. OK, distraction now and then ain't bad, but it'll get tedious too. How about games like dancing, bowling, VR stuff where you're so wrapped up having fun that you don't realize till afterward you're getting a workout?

We aren't really just spouting wishes. We truly believe this year will be a turning point for time-efficient, technologically enhanced, accessible, easy, entertaining and fun fitness. See you there.

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