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Selecting cardio equipment is an integral part of the member experience, and knowing the right brands to put in your facility can be a significant boost for engagement.

“The fitness room is the lifeblood of our facility, and the decisions we make on the type, quantity, layout, cleanliness and continuous maintenance of our equipment determine our membership retention and customer satisfaction,” said Kevin Mitchell, the director of parks and recreation at Grapevine Parks and Recreation in Grapevine, Texas.

There are several factors to weigh when picking cardio equipment for your facility, but a good starting point is finding out what members want.

“Quarterly, we bring out demo pieces from top commercial fitness equipment companies for a two to three-week period, and allow our members to try and provide documented feedback,” explained Mitchell. “We also track usage of our current equipment to identify the most popular pieces. We base future purchases on membership recommendations and hard equipment usage data.”

At the Decatur Family YMCA in Decatur, Illinois, the most popular pieces of cardio equipment are the ones that integrate interactive technology. “What has been very popular is cardio equipment with consoles that contain interactive courses, entertainment apps and wearable fitness device compatibility,” said Matt Whitehead, the CEO.

Virtual fitness is growing in popularity throughout the industry, so finding cardio equipment pieces that allow members to access live workouts has led to better engagement at the Decatur Y.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback when we do Facebook live workouts,” said Whitehead. “We also recently launched an app where members log their workouts and earn points to redeem prizes.”

Consulting peers and using various resources from around the industry is another way to get leads on new and innovative cardio equipment. This is how the Decatur Y got connected with its cardio equipment partners — Life Fitness, Precor and TRUE Fitness.

“Stay up-to-date on the latest trends,” said Whitehead. “We learn about a lot of the latest fitness trends and equipment from attending tradeshows, reading fitness publications and conducting online research.”

The quantity of your cardio equipment is another important decision, one that will look different for each facility. According to Mitchell, using a combination of a building’s square footage, product reps and any recommended Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards will help you plan your layout in a safe and effective manner.

“Rely on your regional product reps — this is their job,” said Whitehead. “They know what works best per square foot in certain demographics.”

Longevity is also important to consider, both during and after the buying process. With any piece of cardio equipment, there will likely be a few warranty options, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your facility’s needs. “Most companies offer extended warranties,” explained Whitehead. “Weigh the pros and cons before making the decision. Extended warranties usually add an extra three to five years to the warranty, but by the time three years is up, our equipment is ready to be traded in.”

Whether it’s under warranty or not, the best way to get the most out of your equipment and maximize your investment is to implement regular cleaning and maintenance.

“Schedule daily cleanings as well as weekly, biweekly and monthly deep cleanings,” said Whitehead. “Utilize your service rep to help ensure you are properly maintaining equipment.”

The key is to practice preventative rather than reactive maintenance. “We extend the life of equipment by performing regularly scheduled preventative maintenance and having our facility maintenance staff certified to service the equipment, so we control and manage our own speed of repair,” said Mitchell. “At the end of the day, cardio maintenance is one of the top determiners for the success of our facility.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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