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Age-appropriate exercises gain ground in 2011

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Health clubs, aware that the fitness needs of boomers, people in their 30s and 40s and youths differ, will be offering more age-appropriate workouts in the new year.
/ Source: Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Health clubs, aware that the fitness needs of boomers, people in their 30s and 40s and youths differ, will be offering more age-appropriate workouts in the new year.

Group exercise classes, both traditional and novel, will continue their upswing in 2011, as will personal training, sports-specific workouts and wellness programing, according to IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association), the global fitness trade organization.

"Clubs are being very specific to their demographic market," said IHRSA spokeswoman Meredith Poppler "They are realizing they can't be one-size-fits-all."

IHRSA identified the most significant trends in health clubs for 2011 through industry research and interviews among its 9000 member health clubs in 75 countries.

Many clubs and trainers will ride the silver tsunami of baby boomers, the oldest of whom will turn 65 this year, with programs tailored to the fitness needs of older adults.

"Baby boomers are obviously the fastest growing market for operators across the board," said Poppler. "They have more free time, and in many cases, more funds."

The second fastest growing demographic is, more surprisingly, children of ages 6 to 17.

"Youth programing is hot topic," said Poppler. "Obesity is a problem all over the world."

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Family-oriented clubs are programing everything from fitness-oriented play groups to sports specific training to curb the epidemic.

Typically in between are the GenXers, people born in the 1960s and 1970s. Nearly 8 million of them are current health club members, according to IHRSA, but even more, 13 million, are former members.

"You have to convince them exercise is important to them," said Poppler.

Clubs are specializing in challenging workouts and niche activities, such as boxing, rock climbing or martial arts, to lure them in.

"Group exercise was actually on the decline in late 90s," Poppler said of another trend. "Gyms were dismantling their aerobics rooms. But it's definitely back on the rise now due to better programing."

Latin and/or choreographed dance-type exercise, such as Zumba, or cardio striptease, are red hot, according to Poppler, because "it's new and different and fun and it doesn't feel like exercise."

Bootcamp, group cycling, and strength classes also popular, along with cross-training classes for sports such as tennis, triathlon and skiing.

Personal training, once exclusive to the super-rich, has gone mainstream. In 1999, 4 million Americans were using personal trainers. Now over 90 per cent of clubs offer some kind of personal training, according to IHRSA.

"Despite the economy, personal training is doing well," Poppler said. "It's not just one-on-one anymore."

She said the rise of semi-private and small group training has made it more affordable."

IHRSA said increasingly clubs are partnering with businesses and local health care providers to offer wellness services, such as nutrition coaching or personal training for people with special medical needs.

IHRSA research found that club members use their facilities an average of 102 times a year, and seven out of 10 say they're motivated by health and well-being.

"People are looking to health clubs for overall well being, not just for building muscle or losing weight -- because they feel so much better, rather than because they look better in a bathing suit," said Poppler.