Monday, January 5, 2009

Gyms Still See Solid January Enrollment

“If you like your meals super-sized with fries, you might want to join the millions of people who get a health club membership every new year — enrollment, at least in Shreveport, does not appear to have been impacted by the economy. "So far we're on track with our normal, historical numbers for January right now," said John Campbell, co-owner of Element Fitness on Quail Creek Road. "Unless it's an extreme time of economic crisis, which now certainly could be, people don't generally give up their workouts." About 1 million people across the nation — 50 percent of total gym membership nationally — join health clubs in January, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, or IHRSA. Be it a New Year's resolution, a forward look to the summer, or the need to burn off the stress of the holidays, January is when health clubs know they can count on some of their highest enrollment figures. For Element Fitness, for example, that means a jump from about 60 new memberships in a typical summer month to about 260 in January alone. The IHRSA's latest data indicated strong growth despite the economy, with a sample survey of member gyms seeing more than 10 percent growth in enrollment between second quarter 2008 and second quarter 2007. Those figures only extend to July of this year, but most local gyms say they seem to have, for the moment, remained unscathed from the economy. "I had thought it might be (worse) to be honest with you," said Denise Hussein, owner of the Curves facility on East 70th Street. "I looked at the number of appointments we have on the books, and people are still signing up. I don't know how it's going to end in January "» but so far it's looking bright." If membership in American health clubs continues to rise, that would make it a sixth year of growth in the health club industry. Membership in gyms nationally has seen a whopping 25 percent rate of growth in new enrollment over the last five years, as of 2007, to 44.1 million members, according to the IHRSA, which attributed the increase to greater public awareness of healthy living. Campbell added that stress could be a factor. "Gym memberships keep going up because people want to get that stress out — get their tigers out," Campbell said. "Some people turn to that like other people turn to alcohol and tobacco." If stress plays a part in the urge to keep fit, Louisiana residents appear to be quite relaxed. A much-publicized report in early December 2008 by The American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention, a nonprofit, fitness advocacy group, declared Louisiana to have officially displaced Mississippi as the least-healthy state in the nation, citing, among other things, the state's high rate of obesity.”

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