As the American waistline has continued to expand, more and more people are turning to fitness centers to help them lose weight. Statistics show that more than 60 percent of all Americans are overweight. A 2004 report by nonprofit research group RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that obesity costs the United States as much as $75 billion in medical expenditures annually. "With the cost of health care being what it is, people want to make it a priority to take care of themselves," says Shirley Archer, an author, speaker, and health and wellness educator for the Health Improvement Program at Stanford University. Consequently, fitness-related franchises are rapidly growing to fill this niche.
Organizations such as Curves International, Gold's Gym and even non-franchise fitness companies like 24-Hour Fitness are ramping up efforts to reach out not just to the growing baby-boomer market, but to more narrow markets such as women and children.
Consider Curves International. The company has been an industry leader since co-founders Diane and Gary Heavin recognized and addressed the need to make women feel comfortable while working out. Curves' informal slogan-"No men, no mirrors, no makeup"-continues to attract women, securing the franchise a viable share of the more than $14 billion fitness industry. The company offers women strength training programs and cardio activities, as well as weight management programs. Curves now has more than 8,500 locations and 4 million members worldwide.
Kids became the focus at Gold's Gym International last year when the company introduced a program called Junior Jumpers in Austin, Texas. Junior Jumpers is a gymnastics, tumbling and cheerleading class for kids of all ages. The weekly classes promote physical activity, self confidence and motivation in a low stress, comprehensive and consistent learning environment.
"With youth obesity rising at an alarming rate in Texas, it is a priority for Gold's Gym to introduce physical activity and exercise to Austin area youth," says Tricia Deturris, group fitness director at Gold's Gym in Austin. "We want our members and their kids to come in together and get a great workout so local families can enjoy long, healthy lives."
"Our goal is to challenge and motivate each student at their various levels," said Rachel Steed, director of the Junior Jumpers program. "We hope every child can learn to enjoy exercising, and develop the self confidence and coordination necessary for participation in any sport."
If you're thinking about franchising, the fitness field offers numerous opportunities - from diet and nutrition centers to complete fitness centers. Growth in this category continues to climb in the double-digits each year. It may be time for you to get into shape.
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