From the looks of the third quarter financial reports of three fitness equipment manufacturers, one might be tempted to say that things are looking up. However, at least one of the company’s executives was cautious about reading too much into the numbers.

Precor, Matrix Fitness and Life Fitness all had higher third quarter 2010 sales compared to third quarter 2009.

“The confidence is returning little by little, but we can say that it’s still not at a reliable level where we can see that it’s clearly picking up,” Heikki Takala, president and CEO of Amer Sports Oyj, which owns Precor, said in a call with analysts last month.

Third quarter 2010 fitness sales for Amer Sports in the Americas were EUR35.3 million ($49.5 million), an increase of 1 percent from the same period a year ago. Despite the improvement, sales were still lower than the EUR55 million ($77 million) the company had in third quarter 2008.

Johnson Health Tech Inc., which owns Matrix Fitness, Vision Fitness, Horizon Fitness and Livestrong Fitness, had a third quarter increase in commercial sales of 33.5 percent compared to the same time last year. Nathan Pyles, president of Johnson Health Tech North America, attributed the growth in part to strong sales for the Matrix Fitness product line, specifically the T7xe treadmill and G7 strength line.

Brunswick Corp., the parent company of Life Fitness and Hammer Strength brand equipment, had a 9 percent increase in sales for its Life Fitness Division in the third quarter.

Even though the increases for Precor and Life Fitness are relatively small, they might be a sign that club operators are beginning to spend again, according to Michael Scott Scudder, consultant with Club Management Education & Training Online, Taos, NM. He says they might be spurred by some good deals offered by equipment manufacturers over the past quarter.

“We know that the profitable clubs ‘squirreled’ money from basically the second quarter of 2009 to now,” Scudder says. “That means that they got another year or so out of equipment and may be purchasing now to get the tax credits and/or full depreciation by the end of the year.”