However, it took 25 years for these larger multi-purpose health clubs in the U.S. to reach today's roughly 27,000 clubs. The express gym industry started in 1995 with virtually zero gyms, and although there is no official census, shot up to over 10,000 club in the U.S. today. With nearly double the growth rate, the number of express gyms could eclipse the number of multi-purpose health clubs by the year 2010.
Cutting Edge Products
One of the missions of the conference is to introduce cutting edge products that would be a fit for express gyms. Last year, Gin Miller of Reebok Step fame, displayed the Ramp which has been proven to be an ideal recovery station that is much safer than the previous jogging squares.
This year, Reed Hanoun, the inventor of the MYTRAK intelligent feedback system for fitness equipment wowed the audience with his leading edge invention. Now, novice exercisers, with little knowledge of exercise protocols, merely have to keep the feedback lights green and they will be working optimally for fitness and weight loss.
New Integrated Programming
As the express gym industry matures, new programming has been introduced to offset the dangers of plateau and boredom by exercisers. Helen Racz of the Fitness Zone displayed the novel Power Workout, an intense workout using not only the hydraulic circuits but interspersed with balance balls and weighted hula hoops for all-round fitness.
Previously gym operators would alter the components of the recovery stations for freshness, but now they are actually incorporating the programming into the circuit itself.
Overcoming Barriers to Exercise
A central theme in this years conference was how to help members and prospective members to overcome barriers to exercise. There were the usual discussion on overcoming boredom with variety in recovery stations to avoid plateaus.
Symanthia Harper, founder of the conference spoke of "perceived" vs. "actual" exertion. If the actual exertion is too low to gain the benefit the members seek, yet they feel a level of discomfort, then they may be at risk of dropping out of an exercise program. One has to address this issue on a "member by member" basis.
Harper also spoke eloquently on intrinsic and extrinsic self image among members and the need to find their original motivation to join a gym, "The women entering a club for the first time are motivated by something, we just need to find it. And once they're in an exercise program, they'll feel some discomfort and not see immediate results. Because exercise is delayed gratification, they have to constantly be reminded how much they're benefiting their health and bodies, until exercise becomes a lifelong habit. "
Helping Obese Children
A big topic at the conference this year was how express gyms could expand its role for not only deconditioned women, but for men, seniors, and most especially, children.
Attendees were in overall agreement that the industry must tackle the burgeoning problem of childhood obesity. John Gunter, of Hydraulic Fitness & Rehab Equipment, a manufacturer of hydraulic strength training machines, informed the attendees that hydraulic equipment for kids is not new, it has been around for 10 years, but just hasn’t found a market. "Perhaps by increasing awareness with schools and parents, habits can be changed", Gunter said.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are 17.6 million overweight children worldwide under age 5. According to The American Obesity Association, the prevalence of obese children, ages 6-11, was 7% in 1976 and has more than doubled to an alarming 15.3% by the year 2000. Childhood obesity is now referred to as an "epidemic" by the CDC.
The conference adjourned with a pledge to focus more on this critical segment.
About the Association of Hydraulic and Fitness Clubs
The Association of Hydraulic and Fitness Clubs (AHFC) was formed in September, 2004 to address the specific needs of 30-minute circuit training health clubs, commonly referred to as express gyms. These clubs target the deconditioned fitness market and have entirely different needs than larger multipurpose health clubs. The AHFC conducts the Harmony Workshop, an annual conference where top speakers and consultants are addressing the contemporary issues facing circuit-training clubs. For further information contact AHFC at (800) 258-4059, or visit:
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