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Class-Based Fitness Is ‘All the Rage’ at U.S. Health Clubs

Date: 7/25/12

Diversity of Workout Options Drives Fitness Industry


SILVER SPRING, MD – July 25, 2012 – There are strong signs that the U.S. fitness industry is vibrant and on the upswing. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s (SGMA) 2012 edition of Tracking the Fitness Movement, the biggest trend is that five of the top ten fastest growing fitness activities in the U.S. are class-based fitness activities. Those growth categories are yoga, high-impact aerobics, cardio kickboxing, stationary cycling (group), and stationary cycling (recumbent). It’s also worth noting that the new class-based activity known as boot-camp style cross training has attracted 7.7 million participants – of which 2.9 million are ‘core’ participants, who are engaged in the activity at least 50 times a year. The figures from this report indicate that class-based fitness activities are the ‘hottest’ attractions for people who are members of health clubs. And the health club membership numbers are on the upswing, too. In 2011, 51.4 million Americans were members of health clubs in the U.S., slightly more than the 50.2 million members in 2010 and 45.3 million in 2009.

There are other key findings within Tracking the Fitness Movement, America’s premier report dedicated to fitness trends and insights, that are driving interest in fitness activities – both at home and in the health clubs:

  1. 18 out of the 30 fitness and exercise activities covered in this report actually had some increase in participation from 2010 to 2011;
  2. More than 50 million Americans are using a treadmill;
  3. The number of runners/joggers is up 7% from 2010 to 2011; and
  4. Nearly 60% of all new fitness participants are women.

“For the legions of Americans who work out, exercise at a health club, or utilize a home gym, they understand the value of fitness in their daily lives – personally and professionally,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “By getting everybody in this country on the same ‘fitness’ page, we will reduce the burden on the health care system, reduce absenteeism in the classroom, improve productivity in the work force, and enhance the quality of everybody’s lives. It’s an issue which is affecting all aspects of American life – the private sector, the public sector, academia, and even the military. And SGMA is busy on Capitol Hill supporting legislation that will play a role in getting America fit and healthy.”

Industry Observations:

“Some large employers in the U.S. and in Europe have begun to reward employees for working out—workouts must be tracked as proof,” said Chris Clawson, president of the Life Fitness division of Brunswick Corporation. “People who have good lifestyles should be rewarded for them and there should be incentives for others to change their behavior.” Clawson did mention that Life Fitness, which is known as a producer of cardio and strength training equipment, is joining the list of companies producing items and accessories for class-based fitness activities.

“In boot-camp (style cross training), you don’t do one movement for 45 minutes. Instead, you go from running to weightlifting to gymnastics moves to working with a partner,” said Chris Froio, the head of fitness and training for Reebok. “It’s more exciting and it can be changed up every day. You work your entire body and you may be doing things that you’ve never done before, in a group setting. This constantly varied functional training is really the biggest trend. Doing things in different combinations gets people results.”

“The obesity crisis is driven by a combination of inactivity and poor eating habits. As an industry, we need to get better at motivating people to exercise by making our facilities more fun, more social and more educational,” said Phillip Mills, the founder and chief executive officer of Les Mills International. “As part of the latter, we need to educate our users about how to eat better via newsletters, seminars and direct staff counseling. On a larger scale, we as an industry must lobby the government to tax junk food (sugars in particular), to create incentives to exercise, to create healthier cities with cycle and walking facilities, and to drive exercise as a part of the educational curriculum.”

“We should continue to offer short-term memberships that are program-driven, as well as programs that are not intimidating. We should constantly “up skill” our staff on the concepts of wellness coaching, communication, empathy and world-class customer service,” Lynne Brick, the co-founder and owner of Brick Bodies Fitness Services, Inc. “We can work with the medical community—physicians, hospitals, and nurse practitioners. We can join with businesses in our community to improve their employees’ wellness. We can, and should, become advocates for the industry.”

“The missing element in the growth of the (fitness) industry is the lack of sincere and significant support and involvement from health insurance companies, HMOs, corporations and the federal government,” said Rick Caro, president of Management Vision, Inc., a consulting firm which provides management expertise to health clubs. “Any substantive change from one of those categories would have a materially positive effect on the club industry.”

“It is amazing how participants and instructors in group exercise classes continue to use all forms of social media -- especially texting, YouTube and Facebook -- to stay in touch and communicate with one another regarding upcoming classes,” said Delinda Clemons May, a group fitness instructor in Delta Junction, Alaska. “My smart phone is an invaluable resource for me. It’s my link to an active life, as odd as that may sound.”

Notable News on Fitness:

Listed below are some of the other highlights of the 2012 edition of SGMA’s Tracking the Fitness Movement:

No Place Like Home. The top five fitness activities which people tend to do more at home than in the health clubs are: (1) home gym exercise, (2) stretching, (3) other exercise to music, (4) low impact aerobics, and (5) yoga.

What’s ‘Hot’ at Health Clubs. The top five fitness activities which people tend to do more in the gym than at home are: (1) rowing machine, (2) weight/resistance machines, (3) stationary cycling (group), (4) stair-climbing machine, and (5) abdominal machine/device.

Popular Purchases. In the $4.49 billion (at wholesale) fitness industry, the two fitness machine categories which generated the most sales in 2011 were treadmills ($1.146 billion) and elliptical machines ($1.056 billion).

The Fitness Indicators. The five most popular fitness activities in the U.S. are (1) walking for fitness, (2) treadmills, (3) running/jogging, (4) using hand weights, and (5) working out on weight/resistance machines.

Fittest Cities. The top five cities in the U.S. with the highest rates of individual activity (per capita) are: (1) San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, (2) San Diego, (3) Las Vegas, (4) Austin, and (5) Birmingham (Alabama).

Home of Healthy Hearts. The top five cities in the U.S. with the highest rates of cardio machine activity are: (1) Denver, (2) Austin, (3) Salt Lake City, (4) St. Louis, and (5) Boston.

Centers of Group Fitness. The top five cities in the U.S. with the highest rates of group exercise activity are: (1) Salt Lake City, (2) Raleigh-Durham, (3) West Palm Beach, (4) Denver, and (5) Chicago.

Tendencies of Father Time. Generally speaking, the number of active Americans does tend to increase as people get older – up to the 45-54 age bracket.

The Statistical Source:

Within this report, there’s a ‘Data Bank’ which provides demographic details on 22 aerobic, strength, and conditioning activities ranging from aerobics (high impact, low impact, and step) to treadmills to yoga. Within each activity, there are charts and graphs which list total participants; participation by gender; the average age of the participant; the participant’s average annual household income; and the participant’s average number of days of play in any given activity. Those figures are available for both total participants and ‘core’ participants. Finally, there’s an analysis of the participation based on age groups and on ‘core,’ ‘frequent,’ ‘regular,’ and ‘casual’ play.

Et Cetera:

This report, which provides readers with a closer look at specific fitness trends in terms of participation habits in America’s fast moving fitness industry, is available free of charge to full members of SGMA. Click Here to order the report. Members of the news media can obtain a copy of SGMA’s Tracking the Fitness Movement (2012 edition) by contacting SGMA’s Mike May (mmay@sgma.com). Members of the editorial media are encouraged to reproduce and reprint any portion of Tracking the Fitness Movement, as long as SGMA is listed as the source.

The SGMA, the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. SGMA helps lead the sports and fitness industries by promoting favorable public policies, fostering participation through research, thought leadership and product promotion. More information about SGMA membership, SGMA public policy platform, and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com.

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