THE NEWEST TREND IN FITNESS FACILITY EQUIPMENT is mixing entertainment with exercise. Participants are no longer satisfied to just run or bike to keep in shape--they are looking to get their minds off everyday life.
"Exercise equipment today is vastly different than lo years ago," says Mike May, director of communication for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA). "Machines are more attractive, portable, and gender-neutral. They are also easier to use."
Though the equipment itself might have changed, the categories of fitness equipment have not. Treadmills have been the No. 1 fitness machine category for at least 10 years, accounting for 25.9 percent of the $4.22 billion industry. Elliptical machines are second, with $892 million in sales per year, and exercise cycles are $455 million in sales.
With these challenging economic times, fitness facility managers should be looking for the latest trends that will keep members coming back. Below are three big trends to look for to keep the fun in fitness.
Tried and True
May says the treadmill has its obvious advantages, and should remain a core part of any fitness facility. "It applies to different people, whether you are a walker or a runner," he says. "If you can put one foot in front of the other you can do a treadmill."
But that doesn't mean that the treadmill hasn't changed with the times just because it is king of the hill. These days, treadmill manufacturers are mixing entertainment with a qua]fly workout. Newer models have TV monitors that are cable ready-managers can just plug them in and they are ready to broadcast news and favorite shows. Many also integrate iPod or MP3 connections into the machinery so users can listen via speakers or their own headphones.
John Miller, executive director of the South Davis Recreation Center in Utah, agrees that the treadmill reigns at his fitness facility. With his rec center seeing a 28 percent increase in members from last year, he knows how to keep participation high.
"All our machines come with a TV and iPod connection--we make sure we had those here and the patrons really enjoy that," says Miller. "It was a little more money but we felt like it was going to be worth it to our users."
According to May, many treadmills today also give interactive information such as distance, time spent, calories burned, and heart rate. This information can be stored so the machine remembers users and can track their progress.
"Treadmills just appeal to so many people in so many ways, that I don't think it will ever be beaten," says May.
Bells and Whistles
But treadmills and their users can't have all the fun. Elliptical and stepping machines today are also trending toward giving users a fully interactive experience. "This category is just filled with machines that gives user lots of data," says May. "Some even act as a companion who is tracking your progress, and is always there for you. …