PT on the Net Research

Emerging Trends in the Personal Training Industry


You may not realize this, but the personal training industry is positioned for tremendous growth. The question is – are you ready for it? The public's interest in exercise and fitness has never been stronger. A survey commissioned by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity and Health (NCPPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that more than 30 million American adults are thinking about starting an exercise program. This poses incredible opportunity for personal trainers in the U.S. This interest is fueled by the demographic and aging trends our society is undergoing. Lauren Rublin, in a recent issue of Barron's, forecasts that Americans will begin to spend more on personal training, perhaps because Baby Boomers can now afford it and because it can help them stay healthy in a way that maximizes their available time.

Our hopes are that the future of personal training is extremely promising. Gone will be the days of personal trainers having to work 60+ hours a week to make ends meet. No more having to be at the gym at 5:30am and not getting home until late in the evening after your last client. No more working 50 hours but only getting paid for 20. No more minimum wage. Personal training will actually be considered a viable career and not just a part time job until you get a “real” job. Personal trainers will get the respect we deserve – after all, aren’t we making huge, significant differences in people’s lives? We may not all become millionaires, but we will be able to pay the mortgage, put our kids through college and have some extra discretionary income to take vacations and maybe even hire a personal trainer for ourselves! Wouldn’t that be nice?!

However, only personal trainers who position their businesses in a way that will manage current and future opportunities are in for this exciting ride! So what's going on in our world?

Aging Population

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people over age 65 reached 380 million in 1995, 29 percent of the world's population is over the age of retirement, and by the year 2020, approximately 16 percent of our citizens will be above the age of 65. These trends, if our older population remains sedentary, will put an incredible strain on our society and our medical system.

As Baby Boomers age it will drive the growth of the personal training industry. These individuals will embrace fitness in order to stay in shape physically and mentally, maintain their youth and live longer. They are health conscious, disgruntled with the current medical system, have the money to afford our services and are noticing their bodies are changing and don’t like the changes. They are taking their health into their own hands. They are a generation that are not going to just accept the aging process but instead, will not go down without a fight. They have many role models and examples in the movie industry - Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Sophia Loren, Ann Margaret, Mel Gibson - of individuals who are getting older, but still look and feel amazing.

The interest from this population will demand that a personal trainer fully understand the changes that a person experiences as they age and what can be done to prevent, reverse or manage these changes better. A trainer will need to learn how to design programs that focus on muscle strength, and integrate balance training, torso stabilization and full body movements. Trainers will need to know which exercises and stretches will help counteract many of the postural deviations this population is experiencing. They will need to know how to explain Kegels, Menopause, and Osteoarthritis. This population will require programs that are effective and results-driven but yet, gentler on their bodies. They will flock to trainers who have training in water fitness and mind body disciplines such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates.

Price will be a not be as great of a concern for this population. Fifty year olds used to be the poorest members of our society, but they are now the wealthiest. They have discretionary income and are willing to spend it on their health. They are now looking value. If a personal trainer focuses on customer service and an attention to small details, they will experience great success.

Take a look at the general characteristics of people as we age:

20s-30s:

30s-40s:

40s-50s:

50s-60s:

65+:

If we market our businesses from a hard-bodied perspective, we’re going to appeal to the 20-somethings but they’re too busy partying and would rather spend their money on a nice car anyways. If we try to attract the 30-somethings, they’re tied down to the kids and paying the mortgage. But if we focus on addressing the needs of the 40+ group, they clearly could benefit from our services. If we want easier financial success, we have to ask ourselves what might someone who is 40+ be experiencing? Ways to manage weight gain, back pain, menopause, high cholesterol, deteriorating bone density, and joint aches will need to be addressed in everything from our marketing materials to our programming.

Sedentary Population

Technology is proving to be both a blessing and a curse. The International Journal of Obesity estimates that we expend 500-800 calories less per day than we did 30 years ago. Technological advances - by continuing to provide labor-saving devices at work, home and during leisure time - will maintain the downward trend on daily energy expenditure. With one-third of Americans obese and 25% of adolescents considered overweight, we have to recognize that something is seriously wrong with the way people are living their lives.

But in order for personal trainers to appeal to this market, we need to analyze their needs. They want a non-intimidating environment, equipment that is easy to understand and use, a back to basics approach, simpler exercise programs, an atmosphere where they feel included – they want the Cheers phenomenon where ‘everybody knows your name”. They will appreciate trainers who organize parties for clients, group outings and get-clients together to participate say, in a fun-run as a group. They want personal attention from a caring, positive trainer. They want results but they don’t like the pain associated with exercise. They need accountability – a trainer who will make regular motivation calls or send inspirational emails and call them when they haven’t been making it to the gym or for their appointments.

Faith Popcorn Summary

What does Faith say? According to futurist-author Faith Popcorn, she also agrees that the personal training industry is positioned for growth. For example, she explains that baby boomers will begin to cocoon, or huddle close to home, (this is even more true since September 11th) suggesting that in-home personal training will become more popular. Also since people aren’t traveling as much, they have more funds to spend at home on things that are important – like their health. She discusses Fantasy adventure, a desire to experiment while assuming little risk, indicating that trainers who organize hiking, snowshoeing, cycling and other outdoor active adventures will do very well. She also makes mention of a baby boomers desire for Small indulgences and pampering, suggesting that trainers should join forces with local spas and massage therapists. Faith also predicts the growing need for spirituality, reaffirming that personal training businesses that offer Yoga, Tai Chi, Relaxation or Meditation programming will appeal to this need. Finally she discusses the vigilant consumer trend which demands that all personal training businesses make customer service and convenience a priority.

We will need to pay attention to the small details ensuring that our clients entire experience will exceed their expectations. Our systems must be efficient from telephone contact, check-in to client correspondence. We must eliminate line-ups for clients, establish systems that save time, provide At-Home-Training, free parking, convenient hours, and offer a one-stop fitness shopping experience. Water bottles and towels waiting for clients when they arrive, and soaps, lotions and shampoos in the locker rooms will resonate well with this market. We will also have to consider the aesthetics of our location. This population will not frequent a low-end, dirty, poorly maintained business where the equipment is consistently out of order. Trainers will need to invest some money into their business – gone will be the days of making your own business cards and brochures on your computer. No more scrap pieces of paper to write down clients future appointments. Clients will expect that all of our materials are professional and business-like from client forms, appointment and business cards, promotional fliers and letterhead. It will become very difficult for a new trainer to just “open up shop” without making a more significant financial investment like many trainers have gotten away with up to this point. We must also all consider that computer integration will become an even more important part of our daily lives. Clients will expect us to have a website that they can visit to schedule their appointments, purchase sessions, complete client forms and nutrition logs, access their fitness program and monitor their progress. We will need to begin developing our computer systems now to ensure that we are ready to provide this type of service. Clients will also pay for the best of the best. If you are perceived as the expert in your area, they will come to you for you rather than looking for the lowest personal training rate. So trainers, more than ever, will need to budget to attend conferences, read trade journals and stay on the cutting edge always offering progressive programming. Clients will be looking for excellence in everything we do. We must recognize that we are going to have to offer more than just an exercise program!

Overall, we should all be very excited. We have chosen a career that is both personally rewarding and should allow us each to make an income that can maintain a good standard of living. However, only trainers who clearly take their business seriously and are not just training “until they get a real job” will reap the benefits. Good luck and we wish each of you tremendous success!