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Provide fitness equipment that plays the most significant role in the industry

This is an excerpt from ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines, Fourth Edition, by American College of Sports Medicine.


According to empirical data from the health/fitness facility industry, a typical health/fitness facility will invest between $20 and $25 per square foot ($215 to $270 per square meter) on fitness equipment before opening its doors to the public for the first time. This relatively large investment indicates the important role that fitness equipment plays in providing facility users with the opportunity to pursue their physical activity interests and needs. This initial investment in equipment is further compounded by the need for facility owners to reinvest in equipment on an annual basis to stay current with equipment trends (entertainment, function, and safety) and to deal with the depreciation and inevitable wear on fitness equipment. According to IHRSA’s 2010 Profiles of Success, the median reinvestment allocation for fitness equipment in health/fitness facilities in 2009 was 1.3% of revenues, with some health/facility operators allocating as much as 4.7% of revenues on an annual basis to reinvesting in fitness equipment.

The basic categories of fitness equipment that play the most significant role in the industry when it comes to delivering physical activity programs are cardiovascular equipment, variable-resistance and selectorized resistance equipment, free weight equipment, and fitness accessory equipment.

  • Cardiovascular equipment. According to IHRSA’s 2010 Profiles of Success, five of the top six usage areas of a health/fitness facility involve cardiovascular equipment (treadmills offered by 64% of facilities, elliptical trainers offered by 62% of facilities, recumbent bikes offered by 62% of facilities, and upright bikes offered by 62% of facilities). Cardiovascular equipment consistently ranks as one of the top areas of equipment reinvestment for facility operators. Although cardiovascular equipment has been around for almost as long as the health and fitness industry has been in existence, over the last 15 years, it has taken on an escalating level of importance in the marketing and programming of health/fitness facilities.
  • Variable-resistance and selectorized resistance equipment. According to statistics provided by IHRSA, variable-resistance (rank 26th) and selectorized resistance (rank 11th) equipment rank just behind cardiovascular equipment in terms of importance (ranks according to 2010 Profiles of Success). Selectorized resistance equipment is strength training equipment that uses weight stacks and pulley mechanisms to provide resistance. The advantage of this type of resistance exercise is that it provides a safe and time-efficient method of strength training, one that often has particular appeal for the average health/fitness facility member or user. Variable-resistance equipment is quite similar to selectorized resistance equipment except that it employs a device (usually a cam) that allows the level of resistance provided to the exerciser at any given point in time to vary according to predetermined strength curve of the muscles involved in the exercise.
  • Free weight equipment. Free weight equipment has been in existence longer than any other form of exercise equipment, dating back to the 1800s. According to IHRSA’s 2010 Profiles of Success, free weight equipment was offered by more than 83% of the clubs surveyed. This statistic, one that continues from year to year in the annual IHRSA survey, indicates that free weight equipment remains one of the most popular types of fitness equipment in the health and fitness club industry.
  • Fitness accessory equipment. Fitness accessory equipment includes Pilates gear, bands and tubes, fitness-testing apparatus, plyometric paraphernalia, medicine balls, exercise balls, kettlebells, foam rollers, and other devices that can assist individuals in achieving their health and fitness goals. Additional fitness accessories that are often found in health/fitness facilities include equipment (such as weight training belts and protective lenses) that can be used to provide a safer environment for a facility’s members and users as they engage in activities of their choosing.

This chapter presents standards and guidelines pertaining to equipment that is found in health/fitness facilities. Table 7.1 details the one required standard on health/fitness facility equipment; table 7.2 lists the five recommended guidelines that health/fitness facilities should consider when acquiring fitness equipment. The chapter also contains tables 7.3 and 7.4 which address general preventive maintenance practices that facility operators can take with resistance training and cardiovascular equipment. It should be noted that this chapter is not intended to provide an in-depth review of health and fitness equipment. Rather, it is designed to offer information regarding equipment that health/fitness facilities can use in their efforts to provide a safe and productive physical activity environment for their members and users.


Read more from ACSM’s Health/Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines-4th Edition by American College of Sports Medicine.



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