Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Fitness Clubs to Change to 'Lifestyle Centers' in '90S

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Fitness Clubs to Change to 'Lifestyle Centers' in '90S

Article excerpt

By Ken Castle San Francisco Chronicle SAN FRANCISCO - Fitness clubs should change their image from sweat palaces to diversified ``lifestyle centers'' that offer not only exercise but also nutritional advice, medical counseling, meditation and even social awareness programs.

That's the prescription recommended by Dr. James. M. Rippe, a prominent cardiologist from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, who told a convention of health club owners last week how they can pull themselves out of the lethargy that has gripped the once robust fitness industry.

Some health clubs have fallen on hard times because the dropout rate on indoor sports - racquetball, squash and basketball - has been high, thus leaving expensive space unused.

Many of the exhibits at the convention offered new services and devices to fill the empty spots.

Rippe said the changing values and graying of the baby boom generation - those who have fueled the health club market - make it imperative for clubs to revitalize their operations by creating a host of new member services reflecting ``the whole person.''

Speaking to members of the International Racquet Sports Association (IRSA) - a group of generally upscale multi-purpose sports and fitness clubs - Rippe said, ``We have to move away from the notion that clubs are just for hard bodies.''

By the year 2001, he said, half of the health club business will consist of people who need to lose or control their weight.

But members also will look to clubs as places to ``get vertical'' in terms of mind-body awareness, enhancing family togetherness, and becoming involved in environmental, religious and philosophical causes.

``The 1990s will be the `we' decade, and we have to recognize the trends that are leading to major changes in lifestyles,'' he said.

Rippe said clubs also need to establish direct, in-house services by doctors and legitimate sports medicine experts, because coordinated treatment will become more important as baby boomers age.

In that connection, Rippe outlined key science and health discoveries of 1990 that have major implications for the fitness club industry. Among them:

- Coronary artery disease, once thought to be progressive and requiring lifelong medication, can be halted or even reversed through lowering of cholesterol levels and embarking on a regular fitness program.

``By aggressive lifestyle management, including exercise, you can actually get better,'' he said. That means there is hope for the estimated one-third of U. …

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