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Health & Fitness Business ’08: New companies, new products, a little fun too

The annual fitness retail show, Health & Fitness Business, will not only offer some education, fun and networking but, of course, also offer a look at the products that are coming down the pike – a key reason to be there.

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The annual fitness retail show, Health & Fitness Business, will not only offer some education, fun and networking but, of course, also offer a look at the products that are coming down the pike – a key reason to be there.

We have noted in past stories that pre-registration is up, despite a down economy. Going into the home stretch before the show, that hasn’t changed: Show management said that individual store pre-registration is ahead of last year’s figures by 12 percent compared to the same time last year, and individual buyer registration is ahead 6 percent.

“Whether it’s to see what’s new from industry manufacturers, to sit in on the conference sessions or to meet with their peers and suppliers during these uncertain economic times, fitness equipment retailers are feeling that it is important to come to Denver this July,” said Rich Kelly, marketing manager for Health & Fitness Business.

After the first day of product previewing, the annual Industry Party sponsored by SportsArt will again be held at Lucky Strikes Lanes from 6:30-8:30 p.m. – this year with a silent auction raising funds for Augie’s Quest put on by the MDA during the first hour. Look for a mix of 10-12 auction items, including home goods, restaurant gift certificates and sports memorabilia, including a jersey signed by Greg LeMond donated by LeMond Fitness. Be there early and bid often to score good stuff and donate to a good cause while networking with your industry colleagues.

In the last few weeks, SNEWS® asked many dozens of companies to let us know a smidgen of info on what they would debut at the show July 17-18. We are printing a teaser from those that responded, those that had something more to say than the promise of product, or those that had something truly new and not just refreshes. In addition, we’re taking a closer look at a few companies with products new to the show. 

Following the show, look to SNEWS® for the most detailed product and show reports anywhere, presented by category, after we have had a chance to get up close and personal with all the equipment and gear and can tell you what we think.

New brands, new companies

Although the number of exhibitors is down slightly, small companies have stepped up, promising some different equipment that could spark your interest. (All the large, traditional companies will be at the show, except True and Cybex, which cancelled recently; Precor, which only showed last year for the first time in years; and Hoist, which told SNEWS® its products would not be ready yet.)

But a show should be more than just the normal fare, and a number of companies promise something unusual.

Look for a few aerobic- and strength-training equipment pieces to pique your interest:

Thorotread will be unveiled for the first time ever in public. The product, a brain child of Joe Ellis under the company name Fitness Tools (, is a treadmill he calls “resistance retro walking” with a reverse feature and a front rail that converts to a handle you can use to “pull” weight from five to 30 pounds. 


Volume Fitness (, which debuted at IHRSA despite being a retail brand, will show off its “iFollow” feature that is now also on ellipticals and bikes. iFollow shows different arm movements for a user to mimic during a workout. Helixco (, also new for retail by Lenny Snyderman, also showed its face at IHRSA (click here to see our story with both Helix and Volume. ST Fitness ( will launch its new branding as Star Trac’s retail line.

New brand Symmetry Fitness ( has what SNEWS® calls an “A-Trainer,” which is a piece that can be many things. In this case, the company calls it a “HypoCycloidal” trainer that can be a treadmill, stepper, ski machine, elliptical or hill climber. Another newbie, Randy Ross Stepper, has what looks like a bike but is really a stepper disguised as a bike ( Take it outdoors but power yourselves by stepping. Ab Solo was seen at IHRSA and allows a single exerciser to do weight-assisted ab crunches with a medicine ball or other ball by throwing the ball against a rebounder (

Late additions and also new to the retail are efi Sports Medicine, which will show its line of Total Gym home products ( The company should be familiar to those who attend the IHRSA club show due to the recent popularity of its Gravity group training on a commercial version of the gym. And, joining the ranks of companies promoting vibration trainers for home use is a company also new to the show, MedVibe (, which has both home (NitroFit) and commercial (MedVibe) platforms. 

Also look for Emson Inc. (, which we are told has something called an “Ab-Rocket.” RealRyder, which has a bike that rocks and moves to mimic real bike riding, was another late addition, after also debuting at the IHRSA show.

Then there are accessories that will make a debut at the show:

Yoga Stick-e Socks is more than just a toeless crop sock that has a sticky sole. Look for a new sticky mat as well as a sticky towel ( Never let your towel slip off your machine’s rails again (Click here to read a SNEWS story from Germany’s 2008 ispo show where the company won a new-company award. Got a problem carrying your workout stuff? Armpocket Enterprises has something for your music and other goods (, and SPIBelt has an expandable waist belt ( that will do the same, indoor or out. (Click here to read a recent SNEWS review of the SPIbelt.)

Twist Conditioning has agility tools and training gear and will be at the show for the first time ( Newbie Fitness By Design will show off its new storage racks for all those training accessories that get piled in messy stacks in corners ( Gymstick, out of Australia, will hold the U.S. debut of its “Gymstick” for resistance training – think bar with tubing attached ( TravelRoller ( will be featured in Fitter International’s booth; it is an acupressure roller with three densities of firmness to be used to release muscle tension.

Are there other companies never before seen at the show? Of course, but we’ll leave it up to you to judge for yourselves, and we’ll do the same at the show:

Full Barca Lounger type massage chairs by Body Care Resort ( will be there (SNEWS may decide to set up its office in a chair), as will the American Laser Centers (; its website touts “smooth, sleek sexy … hair-free skin.” Ummm, ok.

Equipment tidbits from those you know

BH Fitness will introduce folding treadmills that are designed to reduce in-home assembly time by as much as 80 percent. BH also will show its new Adjustable Width Technology on ellipticals for $400 less than its debut models a year ago. A recumbent bike will now offer a mesh backrest.

BodyGuard, celebrating its 40th year in the business, will show off a line of light commercial equipment and brand-new upright and semi-recumbent bikes, as well as an upgrade “X-card” program system for its equipment with web-based tracking.

A patent-pending press arm and pulley system will be on the new F400 Personal Trainer from Body-Solid.

Fitness Master will show a new home elliptical with an incline angle of 14 percent and bearings in all pivot points.

Also moving into the alternative “A-Trainer” category is FreeMotion Fitness with three pieces that have user-controlled stride lengths and an incline that increases as the stride does.

GoFit takes on more DVDs for better education, pairing a line of Mark Verstegen items with a DVD, including a reaction ball, speed cone set, agility ladder and power chute.

AFG (still known to some as Horizon’s specialty brand) will offer an “A-Trainer” for home use. The trainer, modeled after the Matrix Ascent Trainer for clubs, offers a mix of workout modes that go from hill-climbing to stepping to elliptical-like movement. Also, look for a home model of the Hybrid Bike that Matrix debuted for club use a couple of years ago.

will introduce its new adjustable weight dumbbells, aka “multi-weight dumbbells.” Click here for an early peek. A set that goes from five to 55 pounds in 2.5-pound increments will retail for $400.

Life Fitness’s iconic LifeCycle will take on new life as the “Platinum Club Series” of upright and recumbent bikes, incorporating entertainment and motivational features already in its other equipment. Look for touch screens, built-in TVs and iPod connectivity.

One of the few companies that even utters the word “eco-friendly” is Natural Fitness, which debuted at last year’s show. The company this year will introduce a Resistance Toning Kit, which includes a phthalate-free Burst Resistant Exercise Ball as well as other gear and a DVD. Oh, and a tree is planted for every purchase.

After a debut at IHRSA, the xRide by Octane Fitness will be at the retail show. It is a “recumbent” or seated elliptical that is now shipping. 

A new and very timely booklet from Productive Fitness will be unveiled fresh-off-the-press at the show: The Great Kettlebell Handbook.

SportsArt Fitness outdid itself a year ago with six all-new ellipticals, six cycles and three treadmills. This year, the company is introducing new light commercial warranty on several products, including two ellipticals (E81 and E83) and its TR21F folding treadmill. It will also have a new lower-cost XTrainer called the XT50.

Despite its non-fitnessy-sounding name, SurfShelf is a polycarbonate tray that attaches to any stationary exercise machine so users can use their laptops (i.e. “surf”) or watch a DVD on a portable player.

Building on its high-end home gym line, Torque Fitness plans to unveil its F7 Foldaway Strength Trainer.

Vision Fitness looks to show off its new Suspension Trainer, also an elliptical-like trainer with a stride length that adjusts based on the motion selected.

Of note is that several companies will be offering trainers and platforms for whole-body vibration, including show newbie MedVibe (see above), FreeMotion Fitness and Power Plate, among others. For a deeper look at that still-new trend, take a look at our 2006 GearTrends® magazine analysis by clicking here.

The SNEWS team will be out in force at the show, covering all the equipment and accessories, to be able to tell you more from personal experience. Look for our first show story to appear the week of July 21, with stories covering events and products for several weeks.