By Christina | July 10, 2008
Over the past decades fitness has seen an impressive rise in participation. From a baseline or starting point of nearly zero people exercising in the 50′s to the over 50 million frequent exercisers in the early 21st century, it would seem we could predict a fitness paradise by the year 2050 where everyone exercises and those who don’t are looked upon as misfits. As wonderful a scenario as that is, there is another opposite possibility where no one works out and at last the billions of dollars spent in wellness related products are all put into the “magic pill” that finally actually gives us the perfect body.
As always, reality lies somewhere in between the two extremes. While there is certainly a sizeable demographic of people who would like to simply take a pill, more and more drug recalls make people shy away from such options. Unfortunately, there is not evidence that Americans are becoming more physical.
In 2002 there were 50.9 million frequent exercisers — nearly identical to the 51.5 million reported in 1990; on a per capita basis however, the percentage of frequent fitness participants in the U.S. has declined from 23.2% to 19.8%. Compounding the lack of increase in physical fitness is that American eating habits are spiraling out of control which is pushing the country into an obesity epidemic.
Those that have grabbed hold of the knowledge that fitness and exercise are critical have recognized their need for structure, information, stimulation and external discipline. In an economy which is (seemingly) struggling and in the midst of a stalled fitness movement — health clubs and personal trainers — the two groups that address the needs for structure, external motivation and information, are flourishing.
63% (the majority) of Americans accept the importance of being fit, but don’t get enough exercise. This group has been labeled ”Uninitiated Believers”, and represents the near-term future of both the health club industry and exercise equipment business. The fitness member of the future is overweight, unathletic, self-conscious, intimidated, and not surprisingly…requires easier exercise, user-friendly equipment and lots of handholding! This is where gyms, trainers and equipment manufacturers need to look to get the percentage and per capita numbers of the population working out and beocming well.