SAN DIEGO -- Fitness facility owners are focusing on building communities for their members, according to results from the IDEA Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey. The 13th annual survey also finds that although new pieces of equipment and group exercise formats are popular in clubs, the old standbys are holding strong in popularity as well.

Echoing the trend of building community within clubs, 58 percent of respondents reported offering small-group personal training, up from 44 percent last year. Forty-three percent of fitness managers say creating a fun environment is a key focus, and two-thirds expect this focus to continue to grow. Many of the surveyed IDEA members, who are fitness facility operators, managers or fitness professionals, mentioned that social activity groups, such as walking or running clubs and organized group activities, help strengthen client retention.

For the first time, the survey asked respondents to report which percentage of clients who served within their facility was either male or female. According to the survey, the average IDEA member facility was heavily female (65.5 percent), compared to male (34.5 percent).

Since 1990, personal training has been listed as the most popular type of programming, and it still is, with 89 percent of respondents offering it in their facilities. Personal training for youths 18 years old and younger was offered by 63 percent of respondents, and 36 percent of respondents offered children’s fitness programs. Classes for seniors rose from 39 percent to 51 percent.

Long-time mind/body favorites, Pilates (offered by 68 percent of the respondents) and yoga (61 percent) continued to climb in popularity. The average number of classes per week offered was 10.

Nutrition services also grew in popularity. More than half of survey respondents said they offer nutrition assessment and coaching, compared to 44 percent last year.

About 70 percent of fitness-only and multipurpose health clubs reported offering traditional aerobics, and 67 percent offer step aerobics. The survey found that newer formats, such as indoor boot camp, indoor cycling, core-conditioning and stability ball-based programs, increased as well. Dance classes also were more popular, with 40 percent offering them in 2008, compared to just 20 percent in last year’s survey.

Regarding exercise equipment, the survey found small and versatile equipment to be the most popular. Ninety-four percent of respondents said they offer resistance tubing or bands, while 87 percent favor barbells and/or dumbbells. Stability balls and weighted bars were offered by 88 percent and 70 percent of respondents, respectively. Although elliptical trainers have been around for years, 61 percent of respondents said this equipment area still has room for growth.

The survey is conducted by the IDEA Health & Fitness Association, which is a membership organization of more than 23,000 health, wellness and fitness professionals worldwide.