SAN DIEGO — Personal training is still the most successful program for retaining newcomers, according to a survey by IDEA Health & Fitness Association.

The survey showed a growing trend toward putting people first before choosing the mode of exercise, which is reinforced by the variety of programs now available to meet a wide range of consumer needs regardless of age or physical condition, says Kathie Davis, co-founder and executive director of IDEA Health & Fitness Association

“Fitness training is a choice that is open to people of all ages and capabilities,” says Davis. “This year's survey shows more attention than ever is being placed on finding the proper programs and equipment to remove all impediments to achieving a healthier lifestyle.”

More than three-quarters of respondents said they offer classes or programs specifically designed to reach inactive or new exercisers.

Also, the popularity of many pieces of fitness equipment remains stable, if not growing, according to the survey. This finding indicates that businesses are probably using the gear and experiencing a return on investment, the association says.

The survey of 300 business and program directors found that 90 percent offered barbells, dumbbells, resistance tubing and bands to their clients. Forty-five percent believed their use of stability balls would continue to increase, and two-thirds expected the use of Pilates' equipment to grow. Specialized balance equipment, foam rollers and small balls have continued to gain favor during the past three years, too.

During the past nine years, elliptical trainers have shown a 30 percent growth to the point that they are almost as ubiquitous as treadmills. Stair climbers and upright cycles, meanwhile, both have suffered 23 percent declines.