Fitness facilities logged more than 5 billion visits in 2017, and the numbers are expected to climb even higher in 2018. It’s not just gyms and municipal recreation centers, but hotel fitness centers, fitness spaces at multi-family complexes, corporate headquarters, office buildings and schools. Consumers are feeding their fitness fixes where they live, where they work, where they go to school and in their communities – and they’re expecting more from those fitness experiences than ever before.
In 2017, the buzz around “wearable technology” peaked as technology continues to infiltrate the fitness arena and the equipment that fuels billions of workouts. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, and their annual worldwide survey of fitness trends, there are three main trends that are continually driving fitness enthusiasts to the facilities that are meeting current needs: the integration of technology; diversifying location options; and advancing the overall fitness experience.
Integration of technology
Some people wear activity trackers on their wrists, others use apps on their phones, still others may even sport smart eye glasses, but there’s no doubt that nearly every fitness facility end-user has technology as a “must have” right alongside their water bottle. The gamification of FitBit, Garmin, Nokia and other tracking technology options compete on a less-expensive platform as sales of the Apple iWatch alone are expected to exceed 400 million devices by the end of 2018.
Consumers are investing in integrated technology and they’re expecting their fitness facilities to do the same. With today’s online fitness platforms, you can log in virtually anywhere and bike the alps or the Sahara desert, tracking your performance against others across the globe, tracking every move you make (right from your local fitness center). Programs like Life Fitness’ free app, LFConnect and others like it, are connecting hundreds of thousands of workout experiences and keeping everything new and exciting from bikes and treadmills across America.
“We serve millennials and baby boomers alike in hundreds of multi-housing communities all across the country, and all of them gravitate towards technology that gives them a more impressive fitness experience,” said Bruce Schlagel, Sales Manager for Advanced Exercise. “As popular as free weights continue to be, there is growing interest in the benefits that technology can bring to a fitness experience and facilities are trying to make that available in as many ways as possible for their tenants.”
Technology has also been instrumental (all puns intended) in tracking outcomes and progress, keeping fitness accountability top of mind for users, and showing owners and operators of fitness facilities who uses what and how often (to determine if specific programs and equipment are cost-effective and sustainable).
Diversifying Location Options
Two of the top fitness trends have to do with the location flexibility for where people workout. Outdoor options have been gaining in popularity as studies show that “getting some fresh air” isn’t just an old wives tale. There are substantial health benefits to exercising and pursuing fitness options outdoors. An option growing in popularity in urban and suburban settings (where mountain hiking trails aren’t readily accessible), is to have outdoor fitness equipment available that can mirror some of the movements and benefits that users are used to indoors, with the added bonus of sunshine and birdsong.
Another location where fitness is becoming part of everyday routine is the workplace. Competition for quality employees is heating up with low unemployment rates, and workplace wellness is a compelling benefit for many who are spending more and more hours behind a desk. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal “Many worksite health promotion programs are physically housed within the company or corporation campus although many other programs contract with independent commercial or community-based programs. These programs are designed to improve the health and well-being of employees. Worksite health promotion is a trend for a range of programs and services that evaluate employee health, health care costs, and worker productivity. Once a need is determined, worksite health promotion professionals build programs based on the greatest need… Within the context of health care reform in the United States and rising health care costs everywhere, worksite health promotion programs may take on additional importance in the future.” Dedicating only a small space to fitness and wellness pursuits in the workplace results in improved productivity and employee morale, and decreased employee churn and absenteeism, creating an attractive ROI behind workplace fitness investments.
Even business publications like Forbes are pointing out the advantages of corporate wellness programs. “Corporate wellness programs have come a long way in the recent years. With growing popularity, it’s safe to say that corporate wellness programs are no longer just a ‘fad,’ and they are here to stay. The percentage of companies with wellness programs is estimated to keep increasing, as organizations now realize they need some type of wellness initiative to stay current and competitive.”
Advancing the Overall Fitness Experience
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), spurred on by CrossFit-type fervor, group training options, fitness programs for older adults and even yoga programs are seeing popularity increase due in part to the more social nature that many of these fitness options offer. Group programs are naturally refreshed with different participants and personalities, and offering options for a wider range of demographics is becoming the norm in fitness circles.
The social aspects of group fitness are even reaching the heights of celebrity in some areas, like the cult-following that some group fitness instructors have built just by energetically and charismatically leading fitness classes on a high-tech stage.
Fitness programs for older adults also tend to be more group-oriented as this once-ignored sector of the population is engaging in age-appropriate and safe exercise programs in numbers far greater than ever before. Today’s highly-active older adult population is more health-conscious than other generations and many are seeking out facilities and programs that offer strength training, team sports and high impact interval training when appropriate. Fitness equipment that is specially designed for easier access and use by aging participants are helping fill gyms and fitness facilities during the day when centers are less crowded. Many fitness trend reports cite retired populations as having greater sums of discretionary funds, the desire to spend those funds wisely towards their fitness and quality of life, and more time to engage in exercise programs. The baby boomer generation, the largest single demographic group alive today, is now aging into retirement and fitness facilities that don’t accommodate their particular needs do so at their own peril.
2018 Trends Ahead
The fitness obsession with technology is expected to continue into and through the coming year, with more apps, more integration and tracking, more artificial intelligence options (where your screen can take you wherever you want to get your workout in). You’ll likely also see more live streaming for group classes, made available via the wonders of technology. Anywhere, anytime, you can plug in and be part of the latest fitness craze – all through the availability of technology.
The expansion of fitness options to accommodate all fitness types, ages and levels is also gaining more ground in 2018 according to published reports. That means the kids can work out alongside mom and dad, or even grandma and grandpa, with the right equipment and approach to how fitness facilities should be put together. Anyone who worries that they won’t get a good workout in if the kiddos are along can rest easy with programming options that are being built to meet every participant at their own level. Families pursuing fitness together, as a priority, is increasing and “The best part is hearing the parents say they didn’t think it would be so difficult and are surprised how well the combination for the families worked!”
The same sentiment for all-access fitness options is pushing municipal recreation centers and programs to keep up with what private gyms and on-site fitness facilities are doing. Municipal associations like the one in Mt. Pleasant South Carolina are exploring the resource requirements to stay competitive with today’s fitness trends. According to a recent trend report from Mt. Pleasant: “For public recreation to meet resident’s needs, local leaders must offer programs that appeal to multiple generations, interests and abilities. It is important to understand that national trends may not be the same trends that we may see on the local level. Yet we cannot overlook these trends.”
The trends being referenced come from a national trend study indicated that more and more park and recreation agencies are being expected to be innovators for community solutions that involve conservation, health and wellness and social equity, among other imperatives (NRPA Trendwatch, 2016-17).
2018 challenges in public and community recreation are anticipated to include social equity opportunities, capital and operating finance management, infrastructure priorities, technology updates, encouraging safe play and community engagement.
There are several commonalities to the fitness trends that are engaging participants across the country, regardless of the facility they choose as their fitness hub. For facilities to continue to be competitive as a draw for these participants, many of the ongoing trends around technology integration, multi-functional use and group/social involvement should be well-heeded.
About Advanced Exercise
Founded in 1986, Advanced Exercise is a leading fitness equipment and facility design resource, representing more than 30 equipment brands to bring clients the best new or used equipment solutions to maximize the use of available space and meet the needs of a diverse community of fitness amenity end users. For more information on fitness equipment and facility design services, visit www.advancedexercise.com or call 800-520-1112 to connect with one of Advanced Exercise’s experts.