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Discover 2023 tech trends for community recreation centers. 

At the end of 2022, canfitpro released its Fitness Trends Report for the year. Among other findings, the survey of over 1,500 Canadian fitness professionals found hybrid fitness offerings both in-person and virtual are here to stay.

In fact, findings from the study showcased roughly one quarter of businesses have now moved to a 50-50 in-person and online model. These results showcase while much of the population is navigating the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic by returning to face-to-face interactions, many still enjoy popular virtual trends from the last few years.

That’s one reason why the Greater Wichita YMCA is continuing to push its popular digital programs.

Ronn McMahon, the CEO, said the Y’s 190,000 members and program participants want flexibility and a mind-body-spirit approach to staying fit.

“This has led to the creation of the YMCA360 digital platform — an added benefit of membership that also elevates the relevance of the Y brand in an increasingly crowded health and wellness space,” said McMahon. “Available through mobile, TV and web, YMCA360 allows members to take the people, places and programs of the Y with them wherever they go.”

McMahon added it’s not just Greater Wichita YMCA members who are benefiting from this platform. He said the development of YMCA360 started a movement that is being embraced nationally.

“Through a cost-sharing model, 129 YMCA associations across the country representing 570 total branches and 148,570 active users are now YMCA360 partners,” said McMahon. “Right now, YMCA360 has a dynamic library of on-demand videos that continue to redefine the way we connect with our audiences 24/7.”

Beyond simple group exercise, he said the platform has grown to provide guided meditation, martial arts, youth sports, creative arts, nutrition and cooking classes along with wellness programs targeted toward cancer survivors and individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

But when it comes to advancing member experience in-person at community rec centers, the Henderson County Family YMCA has found an extremely beneficial vendor in Technogym.

Hannah Alvey, the fitness center coordinator at the Henderson County Family YMCA, said adding the cutting-edge fitness equipment has helped the facility in many ways.

With the assistance of the Mywellness app installed in each piece, member engagement increased by allowing the Y to run competitions among members.

“We had several competing in our distance challenges where members would walk, bike or use the elliptical to try to get the farthest distance in a month-long period,” said Alvey. “The cardio pieces allow for members to sign into their Netflix or Pandora account, play games, or watch our normal TV channels.”

Technogym also lets members connect their Bluetooth headphones to the equipment. Alvey said while wired headphones are still an option, the Bluetooth connectivity has been a large hit among members. The power of music in fitness should not be overlooked.

In fact, one of the top seven takeaways in the 2022 U.S. Mindbody Wellness Index was “workout classes are the new Spotify.” Specifically, the study found 71% of Americans are strongly motivated by music during fitness activities.

In addition to the above, the index also discovered Americans who agree music is strongly motivating during workouts report exercising more frequently each week and for longer durations than those who aren’t motivated by music. Creating an ideal environment for enjoying tunes while working out should be a top priority for centers.

“The cardio pieces also offer the option to set the screen to an outdoor scene while the equipment automatically increases and decreases the incline through the mountain or hilly terrain,” said Alvey. “Technogym is really great for beginners.”

Alvey said Technogym’s strength equipment offers “waves” containing a ball that turns red or green based on the performance of the lift. Following these waves gives beginning users more time under tension, allowing for a more effective lift.

“If you follow the length and pace of the waves, the ball will remain green showing you that you’re performing the lift correctly,” said Alvey. “This makes it easier for our youth and new members coming in for the first time to learn how to lift without risking injury.”

Increasing accessibility for all members is another strength McMahon said YMCA360 possesses.

He noted the program is scalable so it could evolve alongside members’ health habits and lifestyles. Also, recent additions to YMCA360 have brought the virtual experience inside physical YMCA branches/community locations through InStudio streaming kits.

“InStudio is designed to work with an Apple TV and iPad to bring YMCA360 videos and livestreams into fitness studios and other community spaces for groups of all sizes to enjoy,” said McMahon. “We plan to continue to add new features to build on what we have recently introduced, such as challenges, select Spanish-language content and a daily live-streaming schedule.”

McMahon said they are currently working on incorporating member profiles so they can serve tailored content based on the preferences of everyone. The continuing goal is to create as unique an experience as possible for users to further increase the value of the Y in their lives.

2023 tech trends

From using YMCA360, McMahon said they have learned a digital presence can be a valuable contributor to increasing in-person traffic — especially for Gen Z, millennials and Gen X.

The future of fitness will be a mix of in-person and virtual,” said McMahon. “Our thoughts are supported by the 2022 Wellness Index study of 16,000 Americans from Mindbody that found millennials are most likely to attend in-person classes they first tried virtually, followed by Gen X and Gen Z.”

Even if rec center leaders don’t believe virtual offerings will stick around, Mindbody’s study also found 35% of Americans started going to an in-person fitness class because they discovered it through virtual fitness. Simply having the second option brought attention to the other.

Like McMahon, Alvey also believes appealing more toward younger groups like Gen Z is another way to boost the Y’s reach in the community.

“When it comes to marketing, our YMCA tends to use more social media to promote our events and sports teams,” said Alvey. “Facebook tends to work the best in our area along with our billboards, newspaper ads and YMCA commercials on our local TV stations.”

With youth obesity on the rise more and more each year, Alvey added she believes the Metaverse could be one way to use modern software to create a fun avenue for getting kids moving.

At the Henderson County Family YMCA, providing contemporary recovery options using state-of-the-art technology is another key area of focus. Alvey said one such vendor they use for this purpose is HydroMassage.

“We offer all our members the HydroMassage Lounges,” said Alvey. “These massage beds are a major asset to our facility and have stayed busy from the day they were installed.”

But moving forward into 2023 and beyond, McMahon said the Greater Wichita YMCA will be looking for innovative ways to make the digital platform stronger and more robust to build their user base.

“Then, we can develop new content encouraging repeat visits,” said McMahon. “It’s particularly important to use technology to learn more about our members, their habits and particular interests in such categories as fitness, nutrition and mental well-being.”


Photos courtesy of Shutterstock. 

John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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