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Fitness Feels the Burn

By: Katherine and Kimberly Corp
Posted: August 23, 2010, from the September 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

The recent economic climate has impacted consumers’ spending habits, leaving populations young and old seeking more bang for their buck. Overall trends are expected to show a return to the basics in regard to fitness, with boot camps and energizing, calorie-burning group classes becoming popular in lieu of personal training. Classes and training that offer event- and sport-specific exercise bring together people with similar goals, which fills both social and fitness needs.

Wellness programs and fitness centers providing lifestyle-enhancing services for older populations will continue to be an important niche market. Although sales of fitness DVDs are declining, websites offering personal training programs, fitness videos and interactive exercise programming that allow members to chat and motivate each other are on the rise. New technology, such as exergaming products with reality courses for bikes and treadmills, and sophisticated, interactive fitness training and analysis tools are further revolutionizing the fitness landscape.

Savvy fitness consumers

Today’s fitness consumers are far savvier and more discerning than those of years past. Although some gimmicks and fitness fads may arouse the attention of the media, today’s consumer recognizes the health- and lifestyle-enhancing benefits of exercise, and chooses programs and products that address their unique concerns. With the integration of fitness and technology gaining popularity, and wellness initiatives intensifying at the government and corporate levels, 2010–2011 is anticipated to present a wide spectrum of fitness products and services for all age groups. From baby boomers to Generations X and Y, individuals engage in exercise for reasons as diverse as fun, stress-relief, camaraderie, relaxation, wellness and preventive medicine—and all expect their needs to be met.

Baby boomers. Although baby boomers as a group have lost considerable wealth due to declining stock market prices, pensions, 401(k) values and housing prices, reports from Club Business International magazine, a fitness industry business publication, show more than 75% of them embrace active lifestyles in pursuit of health and longevity. The baby boomers know money invested regularly in a health and fitness regimen can help prevent more costly medical expenses due to injury or illness in the future. According to Club Business International, baby boomers are expected to spend more than $72 billion on products and services to help slow the aging process. “Physicians are, at last, strongly recommending exercise to their patients,” reports Bonnie Mattalian, president of the firm Club & Spa Synergy Group Consultants. “They have seen that medicine alone does not always work.” This commitment to health has given rise to niche markets, namely gyms and fitness centers that tailor programming specifically to older populations who are typically overlooked by larger fitness clubs.

Fitness centers and products that offer wellness programs and fitness regimens as preventive medicine remain top choices for baby boomers and even older clients. Forty percent of baby boomers feel they are more fit now than they were in their 20s, according to Club Business International. Because of this, the challenge for fitness professionals is customizing workout routines and programs to challenge—but not overstress—this population. Many of the mind-body systems of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates and tai chi, provide relaxing, safe ways to increase range of motion, strengthen muscles and improve balance, and thus are expected to remain popular. Other goals for baby boomers and their elders include managing stress; cross-training for recreational activities, such as golf, tennis and swimming; and staying healthy and strong enough to play with grandchildren. Fitness products and services that can capitalize on the needs of this population with functional-training and stress-management programs stand to benefit in the coming years.