Thursday, February 26, 2009

Staying Healthy

“Every month, Viviana Prieto and her 15-year-old son balance their household budget. The 42-year-old single mother has cut deep to make ends meet. ‘We cut out the phone. We don't have a land line anymore,’ said the Marion County school teacher. ‘Eating out is a big one we don't do anymore.’ But every month, the pair make sure they have the money for their YMCA memberships. Her son plays basketball at the Ocala facility, and Prieto exercises four or five times a week. ‘This is the first time I can say in my life I'm not overweight,’ she said. ‘To maintain that, I have to keep on a schedule. And I have to be a role model to my son and show him good habits.’ Despite the toll the recession is having on the local and national economies, many people say they won't give up their health club memberships until almost everything else has been cut from their expenses. They said visits to their local gyms keep them healthy, and are meeting places to socialize and network. And Marion County health clubs say their numbers bear that out as memberships are growing despite the area's double-digit unemployment and anemic economy. In fact, the health club industry as a whole tends to weather recessions fairly well, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a trade group that represents the fitness industry. It says club members view memberships as investments in good health, not luxuries. In Florida, 18.2 percent of the population belongs to a club, the association estimates. And between 2004 and July 2008, the number of clubs in the state grew to 2,223 - a 46 percent increase. If health club memberships remained strong throughout 2008, it will have been the sixth straight year gym memberships increased.”

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