More health clubs are adopting diversified personal training programs, according to a survey by IDEA Health & Fitness Association. IDEA, a membership organization of health and fitness professionals in more than 80 countries, recently released the results of its 2004 IDEA Fitness Programs & Equipment Survey.

The survey also showed an increased use of small equipment, such as resistance tubing, stability balls and balance boards.

The ninth annual survey polled IDEA business and program directors across North America, representing a cross-section of large and small health clubs, personal training gyms, specialty studios, college campuses, corporate and hospital fitness centers as well as park and recreation programs. This year’s survey data disclosed an increase in the number of facilities in small towns and suburban locations that provide a variety of equipment and programs tailored for beginner, intermediate and advanced clientele. Regardless of location, IDEA members report 71 percent retention of their clients/members for one year or more.

This annual survey provides a valuable barometer of the most effective programs and equipment used nationwide, said Kathie Davis, executive director and co-founder of IDEA Health & Fitness Association.

“The [survey] pinpoints rising trends and creative ideas employed by fitness professionals nationwide to help people incorporate regular exercise into their daily lives,” she said. “As part of IDEA’s ongoing mission to ‘Inspire the World to Fitness,’ it’s critical that we take a leadership role in collecting important data on programs and equipment so we can offer useful insight and hands-on perspective on the driving forces in the ever-changing fitness industry.”

Among the most noteworthy programming trends uncovered during this year’s survey are:

-- Enhanced mind-body programs that combine yoga and Pilates with one another or with strength training. According to those surveyed, personal training is the ideal complement to these mind-body activities;

-- Diversified partner training involving three-to-five clients is also on the rise, with more than 65 percent of those polled engaging in partner or small group activities to improve social interaction, reduce customer costs and boost training efficiency;

-- Nutrition assessment and coaching is now offered by more than half of the survey’s respondents in contrast to about a third who offer formal weight management classes. Overall, formal weight management training has been on a downward trend, dropping 32 percent since 1998;

-- Boot camps and outdoor exercise is an expanding trend, even though the number of classes is limited. These type of exercises are gaining acceptance according to 51 percent of those surveyed;

-- Shorter class duration is also becoming more popular with adoption of 45-minute sessions on the rise;

-- A steady increase in very slow strength training with slow eccentric and concentric repetitions is taking place at health clubs and corporate wellness centers;

-- Basic aerobic classes remain stable overall, despite a continuing focus on varied programs tailored for special populations and individuals with specific requirements. This includes kids, seniors and those with post-rehabilitation as well as pre- and post-natal training needs.