Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bay Area Gyms Busy Despite Recession

“Ron Acosta of Pleasant Hill sat on a bench at the Club One gym here clutching his water bottle and waiting for an indoor cycling class to begin, intent on changing up his routine and losing a couple of pounds gained during the holidays. And Acosta is not alone. As always, Bay Area gyms are seeing a jump in membership early this year from what one of Acosta's fellow Club One members called "the resolution people." Though the number of new members this year may be flat compared with last year, at least one gym reported that signups aren't down despite the recession. ‘We are holding very well, with signups very comparable to last year's memberships,’ said Carl Liebert, chief executive of San Ramon-based 24 Hour Fitness. The company, founded by Mark Mastrov in San Leandro in 1983, now has 61 facilities in the Bay Area and a total of 416 clubs in 15 states. Libert said cancellations are not increasing. The $18.5 billion U.S. health club industry has proved recession-resistant in the past, according to Rosemary Lavery of the Boston-based International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, which has 6,018 member clubs. Memberships in U.S. gyms grew steadily since 1987, dipping for the first time in 2008, to 41.5 million. Lavery said she has heard mixed reports from fitness facilities so far, with some doing poorly compared with last year, some holding steady and others doing better. There's a wide variety of Bay Area clubs available for those who want to get back in shape this spring. 24 Hour Fitness' East Bay clubs have machines such as treadmills for cardiovascular workouts, free weights, weightlifting machines and locker rooms with showers. Most also offer group aerobics classes such as kickboxing and indoor cycling, and some have amenities including pools and basketball courts. Signing up for the gym right now costs between $29 and $59 and monthly dues run around $50 for an individual, Liebert said. While 24 Hour Fitness facilities are widespread, Curves' facilities are ubiquitous, from Brentwood to San Mateo and all over the Bay Area. Curves is geared toward women who are just starting their first exercise program, need to lose more than 20 pounds or just don't like the idea of a coed gym.”


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