Sales of Life Fitness and Hammer Strength fitness equipment grew 14 percent year-on-year in third quarter 2011, according to financials released by the brands’ parent company Brunswick Corp., Lake Forest, IL.

Life Fitness this week reported sales of $157.2 million for the period, up from $137.7 million in the third quarter of 2010. The growth came despite a 1 percent decrease in international sales, which account for 49 percent of the brand’s total sales.

Life Fitness operating earnings of $22.6 million for third quarter 2011 also showed a marked improvement compared to the $17 million reported for the same period last year and are at their highest levels since 2006, Dustan E. McCoy, Brunswick chairman and CEO, said in a call to analysts on Thursday.

Peter Hamilton, Brunswick chief financial officer, said the bulk of the company’s recent sales increase was coming from health clubs and fitness facilities now replacing equipment after several years of deferring such investments due to the economy, but that the company also is benefiting from new club openings.

Although the economy shows signs of improvement, club owners still are being very prudent with where they choose to invest, Hamilton said.

“Life Fitness is at the present time one of the most significant suppliers of choice because it is an extremely stable company, it’s got a very, very known and well-recognized management team, and it is under the umbrella of the stable larger holding company, with a stable capital structure,” Hamilton said. “For health club proprietors, I think they want to do business with an entity where the management team and everything about the business looks like it’s going to stay there.”