Are big box gyms dead? The simple answer is no.
There will always be people looking for strength machines, cardiovascular equipment, and group aerobic classes – no matter where you live, how old you are, or what your goals are.
However, there’s an interesting shift taking the fitness industry by storm.
The more traditional gyms, or box gyms, are quickly becoming a thing of the past. What has been born and will continue to expand and grow are non-traditional fitness exercises. Boot camps, Crossfit boxes, and high-intensity interval training or “sprint training” are now becoming the exercises for busy people on the go. Not only are they effective at burning extra fat and calories, but they can build a community in a way that very few big box gyms can claim they do.
In today’s busy world, time is even more of the essence than in years past. Many people are shuttling kids to and from activities, working long hours at the office, and trying to piece together at least 30 to 60 minutes of time for exercise.
Truth be told: It’s just not working. The evidence lies in the explosion of overweight or obese children and adults. Yes, diet and nutritional education play a role in this explosion; however, so does the lack of physical activity. With our busy society and the demands of our lives, it’s hard to fit in the daily exercise time recommended by the government and other health-based organizations.
Although time is a common reason for why people don’t exercise, it can’t be an excuse for not doing anything. This is where the fitness industry has changed and adapted. It has made exercise easily accessible and friendly for those time-conscious individuals.
Exercises that use the body’s weight as resistance have been around for a long time. In fact, back in 1953, the first ever high-intensity exercise protocol was developed, in a way, to test for better overall conditioning. However, body weight exercises didn’t get their start until the mid to late 1990s, with the introduction of bodyweight exercise classes and bootcamp classes.
It wasn’t until 2000 that the scope of bodyweight exercises and boot camp classes took a turn with the introduction of Crossfit, a popular strength and conditioning program, and other higher-intensity exercises. These types of programs are not only effective, but they may be more effective than what your local gym down the street can offer.
They are time-friendly. You can get the same results that you would get from a 90-minute (or longer) workout at your local gym in a 30-minute workout in a higher-intensity class. The reason: These types of programs put stress on both your cardiovascular system and your metabolic system.
Plus, your caloric expenditure skyrockets not only during but also after the workout has been completed. Some studies have shown that caloric expenditure (calorie burn) after the workout can last anywhere from 24 to even 72 hours.
Bodyweight classes also offer another benefit: For the most part, they spare muscle tissue breakdown and focus solely on your stored fat for energy. The results are greater body-fat loss, more strength gains, and greater alterations in your body composition.
However, these types of classes also pose a serious threat of injury if the form, exercise execution, and exercise selection is not correct for the individual, or the person has pre-existing health conditions that may limit them or put them in a position for injury or other severe consequences. Are they for everyone? No.
With “box” gyms sprouting up at every corner, traditional fitness and exercise gyms, although still important for the industry, are quietly being replaced with bootcamps, bodyweight exercise classes, and other nontraditional means of getting fit. For the time-conscious consumer, higher-intensity exercise classes may be the most effective means to changing body composition, weight, and strength and endurance – in a fraction of the time that “regular” workout facilities demand.
Kevin DiDonato is a professional health educator and certified personal trainer. He owns Human Performance Lab and Wellness Center in Ellsworth, which provides private and group fitness training, nutrition counseling, and boot camp training.