'Tis the season once again when magazines, Internet sites and experts tell us what is hot in health and fitness for the New Year. This ranges from workouts and the latest diet to products that will finally make us skinny and fit. New products sell magazines, but what makes a product truly relevant? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Did we see it on “Oprah?” Did a company flood consumer-marketing channels trumpeting its virtues? At the end of the day--or workout--what matters most is whether the product will make a difference to you and your members and whether or not it delivers on its promise.

As dangerous as it can be for a magazine to try to list some of the hot products in the industry (someone is always upset that their product wasn’t included), we have taken on the challenge again this year and are listing five products. We chose these products after walking the exhibit hall floors of various trade shows and talking to the people closest to the consumers who use the products every day—club managers and fitness professionals. We wanted to know why they liked a product and what they thought their members would as well. This could mean products that offer a more motivating workout or a product that streamlines the way a trainer tracks a client’s progress.

We tried to remain true to a few principals for each choice: The product must be new and it must enhance the workout experience either by simplifying it, making it more effective, more comfortable and/or easier. In a word—relevant. Based on industry input and these requirements, here are our choices of hot products for you to keep your eye on in 2007.

A Little Gyration

The Gyrotonic Expansion System® consists of a new exercise platform using Gyrokinesis® principles as the basis to exercise the musculature while mobilizing and articulating the joints. The system simultaneously stretches and strengthens the body with minimal effort, while increasing range of motion and developing coordination.

The company claims that the system was specially conceived using the key principles of gymnastics, swimming, ballet and yoga through which major muscle groups are worked interdependently and in an integrated manner. It emphasizes multiple-joint articulations without compression, thus strengthening ligaments and each of their respective attachments. This system is served by a series of specially designed exercise equipment that are built around the premise of allowing total freedom of movement while enhancing coordination, strength and flexibility. The motion patterns are natural, turbulence-free and pure with no interruption. This creates a bridge between contraction and extension through the rotating movement of the joints, resulting in a balanced support system for the skeleton. The exercises are performed through spherical awareness and circularity of movement, enabling the user to perform under permanent guidance, variable- controlled resistance, and real sports simulation with no limitation to speed and impact.

Fitness professionals using the system say that involved muscle groups are maximized and evenly distributed between agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

The personal trainers we spoke to are using them as a total-body workout system and are even conducting small group exercise classes using the equipment. Instructors also told us that small group classes using Gyrotonics were quickly filling up, and that the more clients used them, the more they believed in them. Tony Swain, fitness director for The East Bank Club in Chicago, says his club doesn’t have enough of them.

We now have waiting lists for classes,” he says. “Our trainers and clients love them.”

Pros and Cons

Pros: We all know that a large part of our population has participated in exercises far too long that compress and stress the joints and musculoskeletal system. This, of course, is why Pilates, and yoga have seen such meteoric growth. Gyrotronics is worth checking out, particularly for your middle-aged populations.

Cons: The equipment is expensive and requires valuable floor space.


Painting a Body Composition

Body analysis systems aren’t new to the industry, but the time may have come for naysayers to realize that products such as these can be effective in motivating new members. The BodyView™, a software application that runs on BodyMetrix, is a health and wellness reporting and personal imaging software program that interacts with BodyMetrix to provide an analysis of health risks and recommendations based on BMI, body composition, circumference measurements and activity level.

Club managers and fitness professionals say the 3-D visualization program allows members to “see” their before- and-after bodies (that is, if they follow a successful exercise program). Even though in the past many fitness professionals have seen offerings like this as a gimmick, we were told that people are truly inspired by “how they can look” if they follow a successful fitness program.

This feature also can be a sales tool to attract and retain members. The BodyView program can be used in conjunction with skin-fold calipers if a club so chooses, as well as using BMI, circumference, etc. The system can also be customized to include your club’s logo, events or other marketing messages from your club. The BodyView system can be used in conjunction with other programming that your trainers or group exercise instructors might be using

The product is simple to use by plugging it into a computer's USB port, then touching the BodyMetrix™ device to measurement sites on the person’s body for a few seconds and then clicking. Personal trainers liked the fact that BodyMetrix was non-invasive and fast. More importantly, it doesn’t require the delicate issue of “pinching skin” (particularly with overweight populations) that other systems use. My belief that is in the long term, individuals will be motivated by seeing what they will look like after they start exercising.

Pros and Cons

Pros: With BodyMetrix we like the fact that it provides a non-invasive platform that also helps a member truly see their improved selves vs. traditional reams of graphs and data.

Cons: Does the industry really need yet another device to tell our members how out of shape they are?

The Nike+ Apple Project

In the past three months the Nike+ has been one of the most talked about entries in the hot category of merging music, motivation and tracking. In simple terms, the Nike+, created in partnership with Apple, includes a tiny transmitter inserted into a running shoe that sends wireless data to a Nano iPod to record speed, distance and just about everything else anyone would want to record. The real fun is in syncing up appropriate music with specific activities and being able to create challenges for users via the Web. The company has a Web site that creates real community between runners anywhere, anytime. Users can challenge friends or strangers in contests for miles covered, speed, and a host of other highly motivating games and contests. Nike+ also provides the ability to have audio coaching from fitness pros.

Pros and Cons

Pros: The first iteration of this product is elegant, simple to use and cheap. Nike has long-term plans to include more functions that are sure to be a hit with exercisers. You can bet that future generations of these functions will include the ability to communicate directly with the programs on your cardiovascular and strength equipment in your gym.

Cons: No real communication yet with club equipment, and you have to spring for a Nano.


New Stability Ball

Bosu balls have become a staple at most clubs around the country in the past several years. Fitness Quest, a company that markets Bosu, has just introduced a product called the BOSU® Ballast Ball , which includes what the company calls “the new school of stability ball training program.”

The BOSU® Ballast Ball—a weight-filled stability ball—is one of those tools that professionals quickly appreciate because they help them solve a number of daily training challenges. The ball is more stable and stays in place where previous balls did not, which allows for increased exercise versatility, safety and utility in a club setting.

The Ballast Ball is highly applicable in personal training, group exercise or circuit workouts because the ball doesn’t roll around. This eliminates any potential for chaos and disruption of class.

In addition to hundreds of exercises, the Ballast Ball can serve as a “bench” (work platform) or an extension to an existing bench set-up. Unlike non-weighted balls, using the Ballast Ball allows the trainer to put a client in a stable position with or without additional exercise platforms, e.g. cable trainers, single-station gyms, etc. Also, because it is stable, the ball can serve as a portable seat or dynamic work station with any type of strength or functional training equipment.

The Ballast Ball makes it possible to perform new exercises and allows for better execution of a wide variety of seated, prone, supine, side-lying and traveling exercises involving dumbbells, kettlebells, cable pulley systems and medicine balls. Another feature that group instructors liked is the fact that the ball stacks easily. No more chasing rogue balls around an exercise studio, which is comparable to herding cats. One of the most versatile characteristics of the ball was that with proper instruction, clients can perform throwing, receiving, lifting and shifting drills in a more dynamic manner than using weighted medicine balls.

Pros and Cons

Pros: Douglas Brooks, who is considered the father of Bosu ball programming, assisted in developing the BOSU® Ballast Ball and workout. Our trainers who used the ball personally and with clients were immediately impressed with the myriad of possibilities that it brings to their clients’ training programs.

Cons: You need to be able to invest in Bosu’s new training program to get maximum benefit.

Nautilus Apparel

Nautilus Inc. has broadened its reach to include fitness apparel designed specifically for the indoor user. Nautilus acquired the cycling and running apparel company Pearl iZUMi USA about a year ago with intentions to broaden the reach of its expertise in high-performance indoor apparel.

The new line of apparel features fabrics that actively keep sweat at bay and panels that move with the unique range of motion experienced when working out indoors.

“This signals the beginning of a new category of dedicated, purpose-built fitness apparel where apparel must work with and for the body of fitness enthusiasts who train indoors,” says Juergen Eckmann, president of the Nautilus Apparel and Footwear Business.

The Nautilus® Responsiv Fitness Apparel is manufactured using proprietary Responsiv Moisture Management fabrics and Responsiv Motion Engineering, which comes in four custom-fit collections: Responsiv Compression, for a tight body fit; Responsiv Active, for a trim and tailored fit; Responsiv Relaxed, for a loose and comfortable fit; and Responsiv Transit, for travel to and from the workout.

Clients and trainers we spoke with loved the clothing pieces offered so far. Many appreciated the fact that the company was sensitive to the needs of not just the highly fit fashion-forward set, but also those who wanted a more relaxed yet high-quality line of clothing. The new line, particularly the women’s line, was a favorite among the trainers we spoke with. They said that the clothing looked great, felt even better and was flexible enough to be used in everything from yoga classes to strength training.

Keli Roberts, a well-known fitness instructor, has worn almost everything in her career, she says.

"I just finished shooting two exercise DVDs wearing the Nautilus apparel,” Roberts says. “Every piece felt awesome and looked great. The seamless long sports top is marvelous. The fabrics compress where they are supposed to compress and don’t ride up where they are not. In three words– performance, comfort, style.”

Trainers appreciated the fact that Nautilus has created a team of indoor fitness professionals to provide design input and feedback on the product. The company has also launched a “pro purchase” program exclusively for fitness professionals who can order the product online.

Pros and Cons

Pros:
Nautilus has nailed apparel through their acquisition of Pearl Izumi and deep knowledge of the club exerciser. The price points are amazingly reasonable.

Cons: Make sure you get your instructors wearing it to make a difference, and pester Nautilus to make more men’s pieces. BX 2000 by BodyMetrix™, a non-invasive body analysis system, provides both a portable handheld device and accompanying software. More importantly, the product provides the ability to view those results and goals while also providing standard normative data.