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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.

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Both baby boomers and Generation X have come to view the spa industry as an essential part of a healthy regimen. With stress relief as the No. 1 goal, one out of every four adults has visited a spa and, on average, 1,600 new spas have opened each year since 1999, according to Merriman Curhan Ford’s Fitness and Wellness Report, 2008. Spas today now offer fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga, as well as more traditional services, such as therapeutic massage for muscle fatigue and tightness, and body wraps and saunas for detoxification and rejuvenation. “Women and men of all ages always want to feel and look healthy, and feel and look younger, and spas will always fill that important need,” says Mattalian. From new moms juggling kids and career, to 30-somethings training for a triathlon, the benefits of spa services will hold the interest of the more-than-35 crowd in the coming years, predicts Mattalian.

Generation X. For Generation X, the 2009 bias toward workouts that provide multiple benefits is expected to endure. Due to time constraints, financial limitations and a desire to take on new challenges later in life, group fitness programs, such as boot camp-style workouts, dance-based aerobics classes and training groups for triathlons, marathons, rock climbing and other more extreme sports are gaining popularity. Boot camp-style workouts topped the list of predicted fitness trends for 2008–2009, and given their overwhelming success coupled with the uncertain economic future, industry experts anticipate this trend will continue in 2011. With the recent explosion of dance-based television shows, group classes with dance themes such as Zumba*, ballroom and even cardio striptease appeal to clients’ sense of fun—and their budgets.

Likewise, the Generation X crowd shows an interest in tackling fitness endeavors previously considered attainable only by elite athletes. Thus gyms, products and services that can address the training needs of this ambitious group through conditioning regimens, performance analysis tools or motivational programs stand to benefit in the coming year. The number of websites that maintain online communities for avid amateur athletes with similar interests to chat, exchange training tips and provide the accountability factor has soared. Similarly, there has been an increase in the number of computer applications—downloadable to cell phones and MP3 players, of course—offering comprehensive fitness and exercise analysis metrics far beyond the typical heart rate, calories burned and mileage completed. The technology available today to help consumers reach their fitness goals is unparalleled, and the Generation Xers are not afraid to learn how to use it.

Generation Y. Technological innovations are sculpting a new landscape for fitness, and the Generation Y crowd and younger lead the pack of eager users. Although video games were once maligned as a prominent factor in childhood obesity, exergaming uses the reality of video games to get people off the couch and moving. The introduction of games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Skywall, and snowboarding and surfing simulators into clubs has taken the negative connotation out of the word “exercise” and replaced it with the word “fun.” More recent breakthroughs include an exercise bike that steers and shifts along virtual reality courses and allows for real-time racing with other users over an Internet connection. Even traditional weight lifting has taken advantage of new technology. For instance, Afterburner Fitness designed a remote control weight stack that uses patented technology to adjust the weight automatically during exercise, so as the user fatigues, the weight gradually lightens.

Ironically, according to Recreation Management magazine, studies reveal that the average age of an exergamer is 35, and women comprise a little more than 40% of the group. These statistics may include parents who are purchasing video game systems for their children to use at home and then using the games themselves. If this is the case, exergaming and the merger of fitness with technology casts a positive, hopeful light on the childhood obesity crisis facing the nation. The Generation Y crowd and its younger counterparts grew up inundated with technology and video games, and the companies that can capture the imagination of this group and mobilize them simultaneously are poised to excel in the coming years. Although a number of companies have been hesitant to invest in interactive websites or products with a real-life appeal, Mattalian insists, “Technology is the wave of the future.”