Firm Up Your Future: Gym and fitness franchises provide healthy options

Are you looking for the biggest loser? You're not alone. Millions of Americans are searching for a or center to help them drop that spare and get into shape.

Whether it's the no-carb, low-carb, or all-carb diet, Americans have learned that it's more than just what you eat that makes a body healthy. Witness the growth in gyms and fitness centers across the country in recent years:

- Health and fitness is a $14.1 billion industry serving nearly 40 million people in the U.S.

- Health club memberships are projected to reach 50 million by 2010, representing a 25 percent growth rate from current levels.

- Nutrition and is a $44 billion industry, reflecting increased consumer awareness of and exercise as an integral part of healthy living.

Not surprisingly, competition in the gym and fitness center market has become fierce as aging boomers (more than 78 million) with more money and time seek to stay fit and feel healthier. Operating a franchise-supported gym could give you an piece of this growing market.

According to most studies, about 50 percent of Americans do not get the minimum recommended amount of exercise to promote good The Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one third of Americans are obese and roughly another third are overweight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three or more days a week. The CDC reports that obesity is the fastest-growing problem in the U.S., second only to smoking. Other surveys have found that 24 percent of Americans age 18 or older are inactive, and that about 300,000 deaths per year in the United States are due to poor diet and physical inactivity.

But data suggests that as aging baby boomers are hitting their golden years, more are looking for ways to remain in good health and trim. Diet and exercise are the primary treatments prescribed by most doctors--and where better to get proper and exercise than gyms and fitness centers?

Liberty Fitness, Bally Total Fitness, and 1-2-3 Fit are just a few among the growing number of franchise brands answering the call of an American public seeking to get slimmer and healthier. Granted, there's a lot of competition in this segment, but many of these franchisors understand that offering state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, informed and skilled instruction, a niche focus (men, women, children, seniors, busy executives), and innovative classes and training can set them apart.

For example, Liberty Fitness is a club that offers a comprehensive and wellness program with the personal touch of individualized trainers in a boutique environment. The fitness program is centered around a 30-minute circuit training workout featuring six-level, adjustable hydraulic strength training and cardiovascular equipment. The franchise allows customers to personally adjust and manage their nutritional and exercise regimens based on individual goals. Other amenities such as saunas and massages are also available to ease the pain and strain.

Bally Total Fitness is a longtime industry leader that's been around for more than 40 years. And for those short on time, 1-2-3 Fit offers programs in strength training and cardiovascular exercise that allow members (men or women) to get a total body workout in 30 minutes.

Today, more than 400 fitness centers serve more than 400 million members spanning the globe. Brand and name recognition and a variety of programs make this segment a contender. For those looking for a solid opportunity to strengthen their bottom line, the multi-billion dollar fitness industry could be just the ticket to stretch your potential and get you into perfect financial shape.

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