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Economist, best-selling author, professor, avid mountain biker and Health & Fitness Business Show ’07 keynote speaker Paul Zane Pilzer has never put much stock in the theory of scarcity. Instead, he believes that savvy entrepreneurs can find unlimited wealth where others see limited physical resources. He certainly has had no problem finding success after success. He’s been the youngest vice president of Citibank, an economic advisor for two presidents, the founder of the nation’s two leading suppliers of individualized health benefits to corporate America, and has authored best-selling books including “The Next Millionaires,” “God Wants You to Be Rich” and “The Wellness Revolution,” which argued for the riches that can be and will be found in preventive health care. SNEWS® caught up with him by phone from his home in Park City, Utah, between mountain bike rides to talk about the rise of that wellness revolution and the fitness industry’s role in it.
SNEWS®: What do you see as most important to the success of the business of health and fitness?
Pilzer: We need to get fitness professionals to stop saying “I’m a trainer,” “I’m a retailer of personal gym equipment,” “I’m a yoga instructor,” and start to see themselves as a holistic business called “wellness.” Most people don’t even think of wellness as an industry. But you have to see yourself as a wellness industry. You have to build your wellness Rolodex and be ready to help customers with all aspects of wellness, not just your particular product.
SNEWS®: Do you see wellness and traditional medical health care as becoming more integrated in the future?
Pilzer: They are really kind of separate. What I call the “sickness industry” has very little to do with wellness. If you get sick, that’s when you become a customer. Wellness is a completely different field. It’s a voluntary customer versus an involuntary. How often do you wait an hour or more for a doctor? But if your trainer is an hour late for your appointment, he’s not your trainer anymore. Customer service is something people in the sickness industry never learned how to spell.
SNEWS®: How much economic potential do you see for the wellness industry?
Pilzer: When I started following this in 2000, the wellness industry was about $200 billion. And that was my shocker, my book “The Wellness Revolution.” And today it’s up to $500 billion and it’s really just getting started. Now the sickness industry has gone from $1 trillion to $2.2 trillion. In dollars, we’re spending more in sickness, but proportionally wellness is growing faster.
SNEWS®: And who is spending money on wellness?
Pilzer: Your income is incredibly tied to your weight and your health. We live in a bifurcated America with haves and have-nots. It’s not whether you’re black and white. It’s not country of origin or religion. It’s weight and appearance. I have come to the conclusion that the rich fat man — the thing I set out to be when I was a kid in high school — is an oxymoron. When people start getting wealthier, they start getting more fit and eating healthier foods. Poor and fat have become synonymous, whereas, in my day, if you were poor you were starving and skinny.
SNEWS®: What do you personally do to stay fit and healthy?
Pilzer: I take supplements on a regular basis but, more significantly, I enjoy eating healthy. I pick my restaurants. I found sports activities, and for me, it’s mountain biking that I love doing. And then I work with my trainer to become a better mountain biker.
SNEWS®: What advice do you most want to give to people at the Health & Fitness Business Expo?
Pilzer: You are part of a worldwide revolution. You are not just a fitness retailer or a trainer. This revolution is a major shift toward health and away from sickness and reactive care. You need to understand that revolution. You need to think of yourself as a revolutionary. You have to see every potential customer as someone you can get to join the revolution. You also need to understand why we need a revolution, that diabetes costs our country today more than we spend on education. It’s a preventable disease. It’s just diet and health. Overweight people can do something about it if someone would only tell them how and doing that is your mission as a wellness revolutionary.
Paul Zane Pilzer will be speaking on the economy of what he calls the wellness revolution at the 2007 Health & Fitness Business Expo keynote presentation on opening morning, Aug. 2, from 8:30-10 a.m. in meeting room 301 in the Denver Convention Center. He will also appear in the SNEWS®booth/Community Hub (#544) after his talk from 1:30-2 p.m. to talk to attendees individually.