Fitness Industry Trends from IHRSA 2018

For Gym Operators

Fitness Industry Trends from IHRSA 2018

Precor was on the move at this year’s IHRSA in San Diego, California. Not only did we unveil a new look and innovations in our cardio, strength, Queenax™, Spinning®, and networked fitness portfolios, but we also took some time to explore the industry. Here is a recap of the exciting trends we found at IHRSA 2018.

Good news for the fitness industry – it’s healthy and growing! This was very apparent at the 37th International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) Convention and Trade Show held the end of March. The annual event is an opportunity for facility owners and operators to sharpen their competitive advantages and make calculations on the effects of trends and innovations on their businesses.

Weeks prior to the convention, IHRSA released a report with the latest findings on the health of the U.S. fitness industry. Research showed more than one out of five Americans belonged to at least one U.S. health club or studio. There were 70.2 million U.S. health club consumers in 2017, a 33.6% increase since 2008. U.S. health club visits – 5.9 billion in 2017 – were up 31.5% over the same period. 

Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products stated, “Club operators continue to find innovative ways to engage consumers in order to meet their increasing demands for fitness programs, training instruction, and wellness services.”

Evidence of the event’s focus on innovation fueling fitness industry growth was the opening keynote address by Lisa Bodell, founder and CEO of Futurethink: “Kill the company: end the status quo and start an innovation revolution.” Bodell suggested organizations can innovate by fostering provocative inquiry – that in the future, asking the right questions will become more valuable than finding answers. She challenged leaders to simplify complexity in their businesses, strive for diversity and inclusion, to think beyond their facility walls and industry, and to become future-focused.

Here is a recap of some of the broad trends and innovations witnessed at IHRSA 2018. 

A Digital Tipping Point: Technology Pushing Fitness Programming

Changing and shifting interests among exercisers and demographic groups make it difficult for club operators, as well as industry experts, to predict fitness programming trends. However, if this year’s IHRSA convention and trade show is any indication, digital fitness, virtual reality and innovative technologies will continue to influence not only programming, but customer engagement, club design, payment methods, and management. 

Virtual programming, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) were all present at IHRSA 2018, demonstrating innovations in fitness programming. Suppliers showcased a mix of ways to engage exercisers with technology-driven programming. 

The fitness industry has offered digital on-demand and streaming fitness programming options for clubs for a few years: Fitness On Demand™, FitCloudConnect, Wellbeats™, and Wexer are a few of the players. Rob Barker, president of Precor and board member of Amer Sports, believes the industry has reached a digital tipping point. In a recent Fitness Business Podcast episode, Barker discusses the cost to operators in delivering affordable, quality user experiences. He sees digital as an advantage for operators and owners to capitalize on the user experience-led trend. Enabling the user experience through digital offers lower delivery costs and consistent quality.

Virtual Programming Increases Live Class Attendance

It might surprise facility operators to learn the impact virtual programming can have on live group exercise classes. According to the Wexer Global Consumer Survey, facilities experience a 12% average increase in live class attendance when offering virtual classes. Although it seems counterintuitive, Wexer Global Consumer Survey states that exercisers who experience virtual classes are 30% more likely to participant in a live group exercise class.

New Products in the Virtual Programming Space

Les Mills™ considers virtual programming a gateway to live classes. The company debuted their next generation of virtual fitness: Les Mills Virtual, a virtual 2.0 cinematic-quality of live version classes. This year’s Les Mills booth was an example of how digital fitness is influencing facility space planning with group exercise rooms looking like rock concert venues with large screens and dynamic lighting effects.

MyZone®, a wearable fitness technology platform, jumped into virtual programming this year at IHRSA. The company introduced MZ Instruct, a feature that displays video snippets of virtual instructors demonstrating functional movements in a boot-camp environment. 

A Virtual Reality Workout

Exhibiting for the first time at IHRSA, the team from Black Box VR introduced their VR resistance machine. An integrated cable pulley system controlled by the Black Box gives exercisers a 30-minute muscle and strength-building resistance workout. Black Box VR is a virtual reality gym experience that incorporates artificial intelligence to guide the exerciser’s arms, shoulders, chest, and back for perfect form.

Preston Lewis, Black Box VR co-founder, believes, “combining addictive gaming principles with immersive technologies and science-backed fitness experiences are going to drive the future of the health and fitness industry.”

Digital Software Innovations Impact User Experience and Facility Management

Digital software continues to enhance fitness solutions that support a shift to create more personalized experiences. Meeting exercisers’ expectations, digital fitness solutions must provide an integrated connectivity of entertainment, apps, device pairing, biometric display, and the syncing, tracking, and sharing of workouts.

Precor Innovations in Networked Fitness

The Preva® Partner Store at the Precor booth showcased the equipment manufacturer’s partnership approach to offer a frictionless solution of media entertainment, apps, data, and service features. The new Precor networked fitness capabilities give operators the options and ability to enhance their operations and user experience. Together with partners eGym®, Gym Farm, Clubcom®, RunTV, and EXOS, Preva networked fitness offers:

  • an enhanced level of user experience by offering the ability to have personalized cardio workouts from personal trainers, track goals, seamlessly share workout data, schedule fitness classes, and automatically receive incentives and rewards.
  • Bluetooth® sign-in using a smart phone and single account sign-on to automatically connect club exercisers to their entertainment apps like Netflix®, Spotify® and Hulu®.
  • inspiring, immersive exercise from extreme environments to challenging runs, rides, and climbs in some of the world’s most iconic and stunning locations.

The Fitness Ecosystem

Eyeing the future of the fitness industry, suppliers are looking at how they can impact the entire fitness ecosystem: equipment, technology, digital software, services, and finance. For owners and operators, this will mean the ability to choose the best-in-class solutions tailored to the brand of user experience they want to deliver to their customers. 

The customization of data will be key, particularly in how it is collected, aggregated, and delivered. The ability for the operator to use the information gathered from the connectivity between the exerciser, the equipment, devices, and software will allow for the design of more engaging fitness programs for an individual, as they will be built from their profile and workout history. 

Data-driven software integrated into equipment consoles can now evaluate the current state of an exercisers’ fitness and provide targeted interval strategies tailored to the individual’s needs across each piece of cardiovascular equipment. Through a partnership with EXOS Energy Systems Development Technology (ESD), Precor Experience™ Series 880 Line treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes can deliver a personalized, prescriptive interval cardio workout.

Now when an exerciser logs on to a treadmill, it will recognize them, know their workout history, and adjust the incline and speed to accommodate the type of workout to help the exerciser achieve their goals. This is edging us closer to the use of AI for predictive workouts.  

In the latest connectivity move by equipment manufacturers, cardio equipment will begin showing up on gym floors equipped with NFC (Near Field Communications) readers and Gym Kit® software, enabling the equipment console to pair with the Apple® watch. When an exerciser taps their Apple watch to the NFC reader on the gym equipment, the two will start syncing data. Precor has begun integration with GymKit that will sync data such as heart rate, distance, duration, calories burned, etc. between the console and the Apple watch. Release of the GymKit integration is anticipated in early 2019.

Innovating the indoor cycling experience, Precor introduced the Spinner® Studio Console which is compatible with most leaderboard solutions on the market. IHRSA attendees were treated to demo classes led by Spinning® Master Coaches Josh Taylor and Cesar Valera featuring SPINPower® programming on the Spinner® Chrono™ Power. During demo rides, attendees’ heart rate and performance data was shared via Spivi® technology onto a large leaderboard.

3D Imaging Technology: A Tool to Deliver Results-Based Member Experiences

Emerging technology in body composition assessing has created an affordable advantage in quantifying the benefits of fitness programs and delivering the value members expect. This means you can soon put away the calipers! Demonstrating member results is now a 35-second process of reproducing a 3D image. A powerfully visual tool, members get a picture of where they’re starting in their fitness journey, their state of health and fitness, and their progress. It helps to create a conversation between trainer and member that can provide meaning to the measurements and engage a member’s commitment.

Styku™, InBody™, and Fit3D displayed their 3D body assessment products, which use cameras and sensors to capture body image. Gold’s Gym installed Styku in its 150 corporate clubs and has implemented a program where franchisees can purchase the technology.

Looking Ahead…

So where will the next disruptive ideas come from? What new products could emerge in our industry as Al converges with current technology? The annual IHRSA Convention and Trade Show is a reinvigorating place of professional exchange, collaboration, and discovery. It’s a place where we witness possibilities; where operators can observe industry trends and better prepare and adapt their business plans to benefit from an innovation revolution.

Listen to the Fitness Business Podcast interview with Rob Barker, president of Precor, and hear his thoughts on 2018 fitness industry trends.