People who want a private workout whenever they choose are bypassing the health club and bringing the gym into their homes. They're carving out a personalized fitness space for the same exercise programs offered at a lavish outside facility.
Roughly one-third of new and potential home buyers cite a home exercise room as either essential or desirable, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
"The home gym is one of the top amenities that homeowners want to incorporate into their homes," said Gabe Pasquale, vice president and chief marketing officer of WCI Communities' Northeast region based in Valhalla, N.Y.
WCI Communities is a major developer of luxury residential communities and gated enclaves in six states.
Properties such as its 52-acre development Legends at Half Hollow in Dix Hills, N.Y., feature semi-custom built homes, ranging in size from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet and valued between $1.5 million and $3.5 million, with design options such as home gyms, theater rooms and other specialty rooms.
Pasquale said today's active Baby Boomers see themselves "as being about 15 years younger than their actual ages," and they want their own space to work out at home.
"They might bring one or two of their favorite pieces of cardio equipment into their home -- whether it's a treadmill, bike or a recumbent apparatus -- to use every day," Pasquale said.
WCI began noticing the shifting evolution of luxury home design to a more lifestyle-driven floor plan in the 1990s, as the Baby Boomer generation of home buyers began demanding health-conscious amenities such as home gyms, spas and meditation rooms.
Some WCI residential developments and active adult communities offer new homebuyers pre-designed "flex" spaces, which could be used for a variety of different functions, one being a family gym.
This is in addition to an onsite fitness center that can be used communally by residents, Pasquale said, noting, "a fitness center is an absolute necessity. It's not a desire or an option, it's a necessity."
In fact, consumers made significant strides to get in shape in 2006, with 25.7 million Americans, a nearly 30 percent increase from 19.8 million in 2000, working out in a home gym, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.
The group uses the term to describe either a designated specialty room or a space with one or more exercise machines.
In addition, the trade group said manufacturers' sales of sporting-goods equipment, exercise equipment, sports apparel and footwear and recreational transport in the U.S. totaled $114.5 billion in 2006, a 7.6 percent jump over 2005.
Others in the fitness game, including some architects, designers, manufacturers and retailers of home-gym equipment, say the move to working out in the comfort and privacy of one's humble abode is being driven largely by time-strapped homeowners who want to work out when they choose.
"Some of the women [who are clients] are very busy but they are also very health-conscious so it's important that they exercise every day," said Trevor Abramson, partner in charge of design at Abramson Teiger Architects in Culver City, Calif. "Having a room there, right out of bed or near the bathroom, makes it a lot easier and more convenient."
And home gyms may provide a respite from the nightclub-scene mentality that's sometimes associated with the neighborhood health club.
"The fitness-crazed Baby Boomers that in the 1980s were going to the health club to hook up and get married now are bringing the gym home for themselves and their families," WCI's Pasquale said.
The 2006 American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey cites exercise/fitness rooms in third place behind home offices (No. 1) and media/home theater rooms (No. 2) as the most popular special function rooms.
In the very high-end luxury homes market, Abramson doesn't see home gyms as a new home-design trend, saying these clients' desire for them has been a constant share of the market.
"It boils down to personality more than trends," Abramson said.