Current Trends in the Health and Fitness Industry


1. Have it your way. The proliferation of ‘‘express’’ health and fitness clubs (e.g., clubs that are relatively small in size, are focused upon convenience, have minimal equipment and amenities, and are purposely designed to be non-intimidating) will continue. Most of these clubs will attempt to carve out a specific membership niche for themselves (e.g., women-only facilities or kids’ clubs).

2. It isn’t your grandfather’s country club. In many areas of the United States, mega country clubs are being developed that offer a wide array of recreational and wellness activities for the entire family—but not golf. These sport resorts (also referred to as urban/suburban athletic clubs) are designed to take the place of the traditional country club.

3. Going for the gold. Sports performance-based coaching centers will continue to grow in both popularity and number. These centers are geared to individuals aged 8 to 18 years who want to improve their ability to compete in athletic-type activities.

4. Functional to the core. More and more clubs will rechannel the primary emphasis of their training efforts from simply offering basic aerobic and resistance training activities to focusing upon core conditioning and functional fitness.

5. Looking for the keys to commitment. Given the fact that statistics indicate that the number of individuals who have given up their club memberships exceeds the current number of 39 million club members by almost 8 million, member retention will remain an ongoing problem for the health and fitness industry.

6. Bigger is not necessarily better. The trend toward industry consolidation of health and fitness club chains apparently will continue until the industry is dominated by a few ‘‘mega chains.’’ This consolidation will result in fewer choices for consumers (which is seldom a positive occurrence).

7. Exercise is medicine. Health/ fitness clubs will continue to have an even greater medical orientation for several reasons. First and foremost, as the public becomes even more aware of the positive impact that sound exercise has upon health, the demand for such an orientation will increase. Furthermore, as the diversity of health and fitness club members continues to expand (e.g., more aged and obese individuals), the inexorable need to provide appropriate services to these ‘‘special’’ populations will necessitate a heightened medical orientation by clubs.

8. Recipe for success. In the future, the program offerings of health/fitness clubs will change as efforts to identify and develop even more popular and effective activities will continue. For example, a trend currently exists where two or more exercise modalities are blended into  a single exercise activity (e.g., pilates kickboxing or yoga spin).

9. No quick fix. Unfortunately, the rush to sell nutritional supplements to unsuspecting individuals who are looking for quick and effortless solutions will continue unabated (until the time when the federal government finally decides to take action in this area). Too many clubs view the sale of these supplements as a relatively easy way to generate revenues, despite the fact that most of these supplements are simply a waste of money and are being ‘‘peddled’’ by individuals who have neither the knowledge nor the credentials to do so safely.

10. The definitions, they are a changin’. The concepts of what constitutes being ‘‘fit’’ and ‘‘fat’’ will continue to be redefined in many health and fitness clubs. Rather than looking at VO2max as the accepted indicator of fitness, club members are encouraged to use an assessment of their ability to perform selected tasks in a functional manner as a meaningful benchmark of how fit they are. By the same token, individuals concerned about their fat are evaluated to determine not only how much fat they have on their body but where it is located, as opposed to simply looking at a standard percentage body fat assessment.


James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.


Copyright 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine.

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