Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Despite Economy, Residents Show Gym Memberships Worth The Money

Some Say Stress Relief Is Part Of Motivation In Doling Out Dues

“Despite money being a bit tight these days, it appears people are still willing to pay for gym memberships to stay in shape and relieve some of the stress caused by the recession. Fort Collins Club, 1307 E. Prospect Road, was doing a brisk business Monday as members flowed through the doors to use the club’s pools, weights, basketball courts and other amenities. Club member Troy Soukup, 29, said a gym membership is well worth the money. It’s a stress relief type of deal,’ said Soukup while sitting in the club’s restaurant watching sports on the television. ‘It’s not only the health benefits, but kind of a social type (event). We all play basketball.’ Exercise increases energy levels and serotonin in the brain, leading to improved mental clarity, according to webmd.com. Soukup, who works in real estate, is typical of many Fort Collins residents who refuse to cut their gym memberships, in turn using it as a refuge in this down economy. Cliff Buchholz, owner of Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, said memberships at his three Fort Collins clubs is holding steady because people are concerned about relieving stress and rising health-care costs. ‘It certainly is a stressful time; exercise can reduce stress, and it is an inexpensive way to get a break,’ said Buchholz, who has 16,000 memberships among the three clubs. Todd Heenan, Fort Collins Club’s general manager and owner, said that since the recession set in, his 2,500 memberships have remained consistent. ‘We’ve found more than anything people are continually cutting back on large expenses, but they are still looking for entertainment,’ Heenan said. ‘It relieves stress and is entertaining.’ Other clubs throughout Fort Collins reported similar stories. Rich Davis, spokesman for the Old Town Athletic Club, 351 Linden St., reports the club hasn’t been hurt by the recession at all. ‘Statistics will tell you that health club memberships are the first thing to go in a recession,’ Davis said. ‘We haven’t noticed it here. We have seen a growth of 5 to 7 percent in the past six months.’ The Old Town Athletic Club reports 1,500 members, most of whom either work or live downtown. While the club’s attrition rate has gone up 50 percent since last September, it has maintained its membership level, and the attrition has gone back down to normal rates of 1 percent, Davis said. ‘I think that anyone you talk to that works out on any regular basis or part-time basis will tell you exercise is a great stress reliever,’ Davis said. ‘Not surprising that maybe people are grumpy when they walk in but happy when they walk out.’ Milo Carley, franchise owner of Snap Fitness Center, 1015 S. Taft Hill Road, said his membership has remained consistent over last year. ‘I haven’t noticed anything,’ said Carley, who would not disclose his membership numbers. ‘I think people start taking better care of their bodies when health insurance starts going up.’ Curves, 1829 E. Harmony Road, saw a drop in membership when gas prices rose last year and the recession set in. Owner Matt Fries said they lost about 50 memberships because of the recession as some members, or their spouses, lost jobs. ‘We have seen a handful come back, but we do think we have at least seen the end of the bottom falling out,’ Fries said. Today, the 250 members at Curves, a fitness club specifically for women, is holding steady, and new customers are inquiring, Fries said. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, as of January 2008, there were 29,636 health clubs in the country with 41.5 million members. The IRSA club’s average member retention rate is 73 percent. Health-care expenditures in the U.S. have reached $2.2 trillion and are expected to almost double by 2017, according to the IHRSA, which touts the economic benefits of keeping employees healthy through regular exercise. ‘I think people start taking care of their bodies when they don’t know if they are going to have job or health insurance,’ Carley said.”

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