Fitness: Did you hear?…

Health Fitness Corp. repays $2 million note, HydroWorx water treadmills doing wonders for pro athletes, 2004 annointed 'Year of Obesity,' Bell Sports buys Sports Instruments, plus much more...

For Dec. 21 to Jan. 3

>> Health Fitness Corp. repaid $2 million on a note held by Bayview Capital Partners using funds from the company’s $6.25 million Revolving Credit Facility with Wells Fargo Bank. “The prepayment of the Bayview note before its maturity made good financial sense,” said Wes Winnekins, CFO of Health Fitness. “During 2004, we borrowed and repaid $4.8 million on our Wells Loan, which was used to fund our acquisition costs and working capital needs. Now that we have greater borrowing capacity on our Wells Loan, it made sense to reduce our interest cost from 12 percent per year with Bayview to approximately 5 percent per year with Wells Fargo. Although we will take a one-time charge to earnings in 2004, we will save approximately $206,000 of interest costs in 2005, and a total of $920,000 over the next four years.” Originally, the proceeds from the note were used to acquire the business assets of the Health & Fitness Services Business of Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc.

>> Retailer G.I. Joe’s has been given the 2004 Spirit of Portland award recognizing its work to improve the livability of the Portland metropolitan area. Oregon’s Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which includes representatives from the Portland City Council, community leaders and neighborhood district coalitions, grants the award based on an organization’s assisting with community projects, enriching and revitalizing neighborhoods, providing citizens with special services, and demonstrating responsiveness, creativity and civic values.

>> HydroWorx is helping injured Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens get back on his feet again with its underwater treadmill. The Harrisburg, Pa.-based, company is using the HydroWorx 2000 to strengthen Owens’ ankle and is being found in many professional and amateur sports training and rehabilitation facilities. The 8-by-12-foot treadmill can be lowered inside a pool to a depth of six feet and allow the user to correctly simulate land-based walking, running or sports-specific activities. At 6-foot-3-inches and 226 pounds, Owens’ injured joint can’t handle that weight on dry land, but submerged in water to his chest on the HydroWorx treadmill, Owens “slims down” because of the buoyancy of water to the equivalent of about 45 pounds — roughly 20 percent of his body weight. By walking or running on the leg sooner, he can more quickly regain the strength and range of motion needed to return to the playing field, according to the company.

>> Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS) completed its previously announced solicitation to amend the indenture related to its 2.375 percent Senior Convertible Notes due 2024. The amendment eliminates a provision in the indenture that prohibits Dick’s from paying cash upon a conversion of the notes if an event of default, as defined in the indenture, has occurred and is continuing at that time. Georgeson Shareholder acted as information agent for the consent solicitation. Merrill Lynch & Co. acted as the solicitation agent.

>> Time Magazine writer Michael Lemonick anointed 2004 the year of obesity in the Dec. 27 issue. And, oh yes, that is a sad statement, indeed. He wrote: “America’s fat crisis has been a long time coming. Diet books have been selling briskly for decades, and Richard Simmons’ fitness infomercials from the ’80s seem positively retro. Despite a national obsession with losing weight, however, we have continued to put on pounds. Today one-third of Americans are not just overweight but obese. That’s why the issue got more attention in 2004 than ever before from health experts, government agencies and the media — including Time and ABC News, which jointly sponsored a conference on obesity in May. And it’s why I’ve decided — on my own authority — to declare 2004 the Year of Obesity.”

>> Year of obesity, part deux: But the infatuation with weight isn’t limited to the United States these days. In the United Kingdom, released survey figures that two out of five people in the UK will sign up to a diet plan come Jan. 1. Cafeslim said that it has had a 60 percent uptake in customers who have signed up for personalized slimming plans. Obesity figures have tripled in the last decade with obesity becoming the world’s biggest health problem. Currently, in the UK about 66 percent of adults are now overweight or obese. The average weight loss that members wish to lose is between two or three stone (28 to 42 pounds), but Cafeslim said there is an uptake this year in members who have significant weight loss goals of four to six stone (56 to 84 pounds). But it doesn’t look good — Cafeslim looked at figures from last year and its latest national survey results and found that, on average, people last around six weeks on a diet. Besides lack of willpower, the main reason people fail, according to Cafeslim, is they hate being told to eat foods they do not normally eat and most of the foods in diets just taste awful.

>> Bell Sports has purchased Sports Instruments, the maker of electronic performance-enhancing devices including heart rate monitors, cycle computers and sport watches. Financial terms were not disclosed. Sports Instruments will be managed by Bell’s specialty retail division, and sold to Independent Bike Dealers (IBD) and snowsports dealers as well as Bell’s 40 international distributors.

>> Cuts Fitness ForWomen, with parent company Cuts For Men, is launching a new women’s-only fitness franchise that will be provide 30-minute workouts in a high-end environment. “We are extremely excited about the launch of Cuts Fitness For Women as it represents a fitness solution that doesn’t exist in the fast growing women’s fitness segment,” said John Gennaro, president and founder of Cuts Fitness For Women. “Our research says that a large percentage of women who are currently working out at existing women’s-only facilities are dissatisfied with their current experience. This applies to women who are working out at traditional co-ed health clubs as well.” In the United States, women members comprise 53 percen of the 15 million health club members. There are over 10,000 locations and 4 million members in women’s-only facilities. Its sister company, Cuts Fitness for Men, was just named by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the hottest franchises of 2005.

>> SGMA-owned Sports Edge magazine is revamping its editorial direction after research revealed that the sporting goods industry wants a more business-like publication. The magazine will focus on issues that impact sporting goods professionals, such as consolidation, technology, global expansion, real estate, shipping, logistics, security, and legislative precedents and legal proceedings. “Sports Edge is going to be more focused on the business side of the industry as it addresses issues of substance that affect the bottom lines of retailers and manufacturers,” said incoming SGMA President Tom Cove. “Not only will Sports Edge report on what’s happening in the industry, but also reveal why it’s happening.” The magazine, launched in October 2001, will publish six times a year and continue to feature the Sports Edge’s Leaders Edge, 25 Leaders to Watch, Fitness Factor 50, and the Footwear 50+.

>> Continuing to move away from the buff-body mentality, Bally Total Fitness launched its new “Your Bally” ad campaign to underscore the company’s new philosophy of offering individualized fitness and nutrition services to its customers. The campaign, which debuted Dec. 26, features four TV spots that focus on health and fitness concerns that face a variety of consumers. In “Getting Dressed,” for example, Bally offers to help a frustrated woman get to one dress size and stay there. In spot, “Suit,” Bally offers to help a man who is struggling to buckle his new pants after he has gained a few pounds. Also, Bally has partnered – perhaps initially incongruously sounding — with Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s and A&W Restaurants to offer customers who visit one of the restaurant chains a free, four-week membership to Bally. All a customer has to do is present a fast-food receipt (for any amount) at one of Bally’s more than 400 nationwide facilities. The offer is good through Jan. 31.

>> Thomas Clarke stepped down from Nike’s board of directors the same day Nike’s new President and CEO William Perez formally joined the board. “With Bill’s arrival, it just makes for good corporate governance that we keep the number of management directors at an appropriate level,” Clarke said in a statement announcing his resignation. “I have been honored to serve Nike as a director as we have successfully worked our way through a series of global business challenges that have resulted in our current record performance.” Clarke will remain president of new business ventures.

>> Life Time Fitness announced plans to expand its operations in Dallas/Fort Worth with a new center in the Allen/McKinney area. In 2004, the company entered the Texas market with Houston-area facilities in Willowbrook and Sugar Land, and Dallas/Forth Worth-area facilities in Plano, Garland, Flower Mound, North Dallas and Colleyville. Additional locations are scheduled to open in Cinco Ranch (Houston area) and Austin in 2005.

>> Bad stress levels at work are getting higher every year and The Hero Group’s survey of more than 46,000 employees showed workers with unmanaged stress had 46 percent higher medical costs than those without unmanaged stress. The study also revealed that unmanaged stress was the second leading cause of rising health care costs. Among the suggestions for managing all that stress, exercise topped the list. The Hero Group said, “We’ve all noticed top execs going to the gym at lunch, well there’s a good reason and it’s most likely stress. Maybe you can’t suit up with the CEO, but you can join the local ‘Y’ for yoga or a swim, don running clothes in the restroom and jog around the building, or just go for a walk — go shopping, go outside, change your environment for 30 minutes.” Other tactics Hero offered that’ll help are managing your time, turning off the cell phone and email for a little while, watching what you eat, taking a short break and talking about your stress with others.