Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Childhood Obesity Problem May be An Opportunity for Health Clubs

“As more and more of our precious children join the unhealthy ranks of obesity, the knowledge of how to address the problem resides at the neighborhood health club, provided the club focuses its knowledge on this matter. Many health clubs are answering the call and several are actually becoming niche plays in this emerging market. Faced with the prospects of their obese children facing a life of adult diabetes and premature heart disease, parents are now spending big bucks for health club memberships, fitness equipment and personal trainers designed to get youngsters-some just toddlers -up and moving. More than 19% of children age 6 to 11 are considered seriously overweight, resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as Type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. More than 80 percent of overweight children are likely to become obese adults, the CDC said. As the nation's schools have cut back on physical education classes, the youth fitness industry has emerged as a new segment: American families now spend an estimated $2 billion a year on child fitness. ‘There is an emphasis on sports in our culture, and people turn there when they are looking for ways to get their kids active,’ Dr. Anthony Luke, director of primary care sports medicine at the University of California San Francisco told the Chicago Tribune. ‘Really, they are just trying to be good parents.’ Youth memberships are one of the strongest growth areas for the fitness club industry, and clubs catering to young people have spread across the country. For example, Little Gym and Gymboree offer ways for infants and toddlers to get active. Chains such as Fitwize 4 Kids, now with outlets in Illinois, offer everything from yoga to rigorous circuit training to resistance exercises. At full service health clubs, memberships for youths age 6 to 17 have more than doubled in the past two decades, rising from 1.3 million in 1987 to 3.9 million in 2007. More than 1.3 million of those memberships were for children 6 to 11, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). About a quarter of the adult fitness businesses in the country have children's programs, and many YMCAs and private and public schools offer weight machines, recumbent bicycles and other fitness equipment for kids.”


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