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For the week of May 17-23
>> If you see Flex Fitness (now the Star Trac Strength division) Vice President Larry Brown, ask him about his new car. The Hawaiian at heart is now jaunting around Southern California in a bright and shiny, lemon-colored Scion (by Toyota) that some have jokingly called a Sponge Bob Square pants look-alike since it is stubby and square — and in Brown’s case sponge-lemon-yellow. It was picked out for him by his 7-year-old son. That’s what happens when you let a 7 year old pick out your new car, we guess. And by this week, it’ll be wearing flames down the side, also an addition gleefully chosen by the 7 year old. Aloooooha!
>> Fitnex has hired a new rep, Curt Rittler, who will handle the Northeast for the Fitness Master company. Rittler, who has been working in the fitness industry since 1986, will be based in Pennsylvania and will be increasing the dealer network. That means the company has increased from the three employees when it began a couple of years ago to nine, and it’s working on plans to move to a larger facility in 2006 after it releases its all-new line in late 2005. In other company news, the company said it gained several international distributors at the Taispo show in Taiwan in April. Product is now being distributed in the United Kingdom, India, Thailand, Korea and Dubai, with others in the works.
>> If you talk to Rick Viehland of Missouri-based The Fitness Store, wish him a slightly belated congrats. He and business partner Adrienne Weindell still count as newlyweds since they just got married in November (you get to claim newlywed for a year, we’ve been told). They’ve known each other since 1981 and weren’t a couple at first, but, well, things change, and both say it’s all good!
>> The Star Trac family of cardiovascular equipment is now complete after the company began work on the revamp of the line in 2000. At the FIBO show in Germany in early May, the company introduced its new stepper. It wasn’t quite ready for the IHRSA event in March, where the company introduced its two new ellipticals, albeit in a side room. It has the same great look enhanced by its partnership with the team at DesignWorksUSA, a BMW company, and the slant of the side rails makes it dang uncomfy to do the fingers-backward, locked-elbows body support, while the curved upper rail — looks like a mini-rollbar over the stepper, if you will — gives a great place for users to support themselves without the total slouch of yore that was bad for backs.
>> TuffStuff, after its fourth time at the FIBO show in Germany in May, picked up at least six new distributors in Hungary, Iceland, Spain, Poland, Italy and Sweden. And Russia has become No. 1 in commercial sales for the strength company. Says something about the overall growth of the market in Russia too.
>> Cybex International has announced a tentative agreement in a legal case between it and Biosig Instruments Inc. Cybex had commenced the case in August 2004 in its home turf in the U.S. District Court, Massachusetts, seeking a declaration of non-infringement, knowing that Biosig was looking at legal action claiming infringement of its patents related to heart-rate monitoring. Two days later, Biosig began action seeking relief in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, claiming Cybex had infringed on its patents. A tentative settlement recently announced would allow Cybex for a lump sum payment of $85,000 to receive license under Biosig’s patents permitting past and future sales of products. Said company legal counsel Art Hicks, “It was good to get it out of the way.” As of deadline, the agreement, which was announced in the company’s 10Q, was expected to be inked, but hadn’t yet been.
>> More than 135 health club industry members took part in IHRSA’s third-annual legislative summit lobbying event on Capitol Hill, working through some 140 legislative meetings. The bottom line message was to urge legislators to help get America moving by addressing health and fitness issues. The meeting’s primary focus was to lobby in favor of the Workplace Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act. That act, re-introduced in April, allows for health club memberships to be treated as an employee benefit in an effort to gain tax benefits for them. For Herb Lipsman, CEO of the Houstonian Lite Health Clubs, this was the first time he’d taken part, and he said he came away feeling the annual event should be on everyone’s to-do list. “We are all terribly busy in our ‘day jobs,’ but this unified effort on behalf of our industry was definitely time well spent,” Lipsman said. “We were able to make contact with our Congressional Representatives and Senators or members of their staff.” Speakers at the summit included Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Mary Matalin, former assistant to President Bush and counselor to Vice President Cheney; and Ross Andersen, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. IHRSA has said it believes the WHIP Act is a starting point to help people infuse activity into their daily lives.
>> Working Americans say they’d like to exercise more but 70 percent believe they lack the necessary time, according to a new survey released during National Employee Health and Fitness Week. Commissioned by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, the report also said 30 percent of employees report having access to fitness programs at work. The study shows that the number of working Americans who report they get “no exercise” is two times higher among those who have no access to workplace fitness programs than it is for those who do. And these non-exercisers cite workplace programs and flexibility as leading incentives that would make them much more likely to increase their physical activity. The survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that 57 percent of working adults in the United States are interested in getting more exercise than they currently do. Six in 10 admit they are overweight, and 40 percent have had a doctor recommend exercise. The newest federal guidelines in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid call on Americans to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week — however, only 39 percent of employed adults say they are meeting that goal.
>> With stats like that fueling need, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has found at least one way to help. It’s launched the Walking Works Workplace program, a structured fitness-at-work program for employers to offer to their employees. BCBSA and employers provide employees with tools and support to incorporate more walking into their everyday routines. Employees use pedometers, online tools, and materials that guide them in creating personalized walking and nutrition programs based on new federal guidelines. A recent study conducted at the University of Tennessee indicates that this type of structured pedometer program delivers three key factors of goal setting, self-monitoring and reinforcement, and is effective in motivating participants to sustain their participation, BCBSA said. BCBSA is launching pilot programs with federal employees and private sector companies, like Nissan of North America. One program is the third annual Capitol Hill Challenge, a Walking Works program that engages over 5,000 members of Congress and staff in a six-week House versus Senate walking contest. The Walking Works program guide was co-developed with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Steps to a HealthierUS initiative, and was reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the U.S. Surgeon General. A nutrition guide that incorporates the latest USDA guidelines was co-developed with the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition. For more information on WalkingWorks, visit http://www.bcbs.com/walkingworks.
>> Newark-based Leisure Fitness has won two spots in The News Journal’s “Best in the Business” awards — “best place to work” and “best company to watch.” Started nine years ago by Katina Geralis in her garage, Leisure Fitness now has 150 employees and is poised to grow from $38 million in revenue to the $50 million-a-year mark in fitness equipment sales and service. Just three years ago, it moved from a 7,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and warehouse into a custom 30,000-square-foot facility. Now Leisure Fitness is on its way to doubling its size and acquiring additional retail and warehouse space in nearby states. Its goal is to double its business volume in the next five years.
>> With more than 129.6 million Americans considered obese, IHRSA continued its commitment to fight the fat and get people moving by holding its second-annual Get Active America! event last week. During the week of May 16-22, more than 1,700 health clubs across the country opened their doors to the public, free of charge, to get them started on an exercise program designed by health club professionals. From May 16-19, gym members were invited to bring a guest for free, and then May 20-22, participating clubs opened their doors to everyone in their local communities. In 2004, the inaugural GetActive America! saw more than 150,000 Americans take part at more than 1,650 participating clubs. See SNEWS® stories, April 16, 2004, “Clubs jumping aboard IHRSA’s GetActive campaign,” and June 1, 2004, “GetActive America Program seems to fall short.” This year’s sponsors included Cybex, Life Fitness, FreeMotion Fitness, CheckFree Health & Fitness, True Fitness, Nautilus, Star Trac, Precor, Philips Medical Systems, American Specialty Health, GNC and Hershey’s SmartZone Nutrition Bars.