Fitness Convention's Hot 50-Plus Trends

Article excerpt

Boomers have become more aware of the value of working out, and the fitness industry is becoming more aware of the value of the overdo market. That's the message from Julie McNeney, chief operating officer of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Speaking at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in Las Vegas in July, McNeney noted that a recent ICAA survey showed 85% of respondents ages 55 and older agreed that exercise is important to their health and longevity, and 64% said they would like to participate in fitness activities more than they do.

Meanwhile, gyms, health clubs and fitness centers increasingly recognize the benefits of attracting older adults: It's a huge market, and an active older adult maintains a fitness membership for 7.8 years-4.7 years longer than a younger adult. Therefore, many facilities are adding age-friendly programs and equipment to their offerings.


"Boomers looking for more natural ways to delay the effects of aging than pills, Botox and liposuction are turning to gentler types of exercise-yoga, Pilates and other mind-body approaches," noted Gwen Hyatt, president of Desert Southwest Fitness, a company that offers continuing education programs for health and fitness professionals. Hyatt, who gave a presentation on training athletes age 50 or older, stated that although boomers are concerned about their appearance, "their primary motivation for exercising is health." Most women age 50 or more didn't have many positive experiences in physical education classes in grade school, she says. Now, at 50plus, she said, "They are experiencing a reawakening-the kids have left home, they have more free time and see this as a time to do something for themselves."

That "something" includes joining group fitness classes, taking personal training sessions and using age-friendly equipment in the gym and at home. The convention attracted 3,500 professional members of the San Diego-based IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Here's a peek at hot trends that emerged during the IDEA convention for the aging boomer crowd:

Group Fitness: One of the fastestgrowing areas of group fitness evident at IDEA are prepackaged programs, such as those offered by New Zealand-based Les Mills. The company puts together various classes-aerobics, kickboxing, weight training, dance and so on-with catchy titles such as BodyPump, BodyJam and RPM (spinning). Classes are taught throughout the world-by more than 6,500 instructors in North America alone-and, just as with fast-food franchises, the company's quality-control program helps ensure that the sessions are essentially the same no matter where people take them, said marketing manager Vaughn Schwass. Because instructors are trained to adapt moves for all fitness levels, even the BodyCombat class is popular with older adults, observed MacKenzie Johnson, a group fitness instructor who teaches Les Mills classes at Gold's Gym in Ogden, Utah.

Similarly, Nia (an acronym for "neuromuscular integrative action"), based in Portland, Ore., is a globally distributed fitness program that emphasizes mindbody wellness. Nia "is a 22-year-old trend that is finally hitting the mainstream, largely because of boomers," says company spokesperson Kali Rose. The number of Nia instructors worldwide has nearly tripled to 1,300 since 2000, she said, "because it's easy on the body and because boomers now make up the largest percentage of participants."

At the same time, an array of fusion classes-Pilates and yoga, Pilates fused with traditional strength training, and yoga fused with traditional strength training-are becoming increasingly popular, with about one-third of facilities offering these choices, according to the 2005 IDEA Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey, which was released at the convention.

Personal training: One-on-one personal training emerged as the most popular program in fitness in the IDEA survey, with people 45 or older making up more than half the clientele. …