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What trends to keep your eye on this year to improve your member experience. 

After two years of struggle and uncertainty, recreation centers are looking ahead on how to attract more members and give them the best experience. A great way to do this is to pay attention to the popular trends on the rise. 

According to the 2021 Les Mills Global Fitness Report, there are three main trends to keep an eye on: group fitness classes, at-home exercise, and an increased focus on mental health and well-being. 

According to Jason Stowell, the senior director of business development for the JCC of Greater Buffalo, the Les Mills findings certainly reflect the macro developments of the mid- to post-pandemic world within the health and wellness industry. 

“The reality is many people have continued to work out from home either out of fear or a newfound convenience/effectiveness with better and better at-home offerings,” said Stowell. “However, we continue to see a surge of prospective members who are seeking the creation of authentic connections with other members within our locations.”

Mandy Kelley, the program director for sports, fitness and aquatics at the Memphis Jewish Community Center (MJCC), agreed there has been an increase of members working out at home due to all the uncertainties that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. For Kelley, this directly relates to the focus on mental health in the industry. 

Learn More: Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2022

“I believe a large topic of choice through COVID-19 is mental health awareness,” said Kelley. “The pandemic has affected us all in different ways and finding out how to get back to a new normal has been a struggle. Not only is mental health a hot topic but so are home fitness and group fitness. We all had to find a way to stay active and healthy once gyms started shutting down. The MJCC was able to stream classes online for membership and keep the lines of communication open as we all tried to navigate through a pandemic. People crave interactions with others, and group fitness is the best way to achieve this while also getting a daily dose of exercise.”

The pandemic revealed the importance of social interactions and how being apart can be detrimental, especially for younger generations. In October 2022, study results by Making Caring Common — a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education — revealed that 36% of the 950 respondents reported feeling lonely frequently or feeling lonely “almost all the time or all the time.” Additionally, 61% of those ages 18 to 25 reported high levels of loneliness.

“It certainly doesn’t take a giant leap of faith to recognize people are accommodating their fitness goals around pandemic concerns while also seeking ways in which to combat loneliness,” said Stowell. 

Because of this, Stowell predicted another trend that will be popular in 2022 and help drive new revenue is robust small and large fitness programs — specifically programs that are geared toward specific solutions like fitness foundations, Rock Steady Boxing and Couch to 5K. 

Kelley, however, predicted a major trend for 2022 is focusing on a certain demographic — seniors. 

According to the International Council on Active Aging, by 2045 the number of people 60 or older will become one in every five people. Additionally, the American Hospital Association and First Consulting Group reported that by 2030 over 37 million baby boomers will manage multiple chronic conditions — including 25% with diabetes, almost 50% with arthritis and over 33% will be classified as obese. As this demographic and health shift unfolds, your facility can cater to their specific needs.

Learn More: 2022 Recreation Trends and Predictions

“I believe we will see an increase in senior fitness classes,” said Kelley. “Seniors are the demographic that have been disconnected the longest from us all through the pandemic. They want to see their friends and gain a sense of normalcy once again. This is why the MJCC has started to offer more senior programming and new classes to fit this need.” 

Regardless of what programs or trends you adapt in 2022, focusing on building relationships with your members will in return attract more members to your facility and will help give them the best experience.

“No program, offering, sales or marketing efforts will outperform authentic relationships,” said Stowell. “If you build strong member relationships, by design you will always outperform industry metrics.” 

Extra: 8 Trends to Watch in 2022 from URBN Playground, a full-service amenity consulting, technology and
staffing firm.

  1. Online Fitness. The flexibility and range of online classes suit the needs of just about anyone and everyone.
  2. Personal Training. Personal trainers can help to design tailored plans to the specific needs of the individual, in addition to serving as an accountability buddy in helping clients stay motivated to meet their fitness goals post-COVID.
  3. Workout Apps. The benefit of apps is convenience; users can take their phones with them wherever they go, and their workouts are already programmed.
  4. Bodyweight Training. As a viable alternative, bodyweight training has been an inexpensive and convenient method to exercise effectively. 
  5. Mindfulness. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness programs have seen a surge in popularity as well, with yoga equipment seeing 154% growth in sales throughout the pandemic.
  6. Wearable Technology. Demand has risen as health concerns intensified during the pandemic. Those who have become more health conscious now have a means to monitor and track basic health indicators as well as fitness levels. 
  7. Outdoor Fitness. Taking walks in nature has been shown to lower anxiety and depression and boost overall well-being, according to researchers at the University of Rochester. They found exposure to nature resulted in participants valuing community and connectedness.
  8. Versatile Gym Spaces. The demand in fitness will likely focus more on bodyweight and high-intensity interval training classes. Gym studios will evolve to be easily reconfigured, depending on the needs of different group classes.
Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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