The obesity problem in America has gotten so big (no pun intended) that it’s becoming impossible to ignore. Defined as being more than 30 percent above ideal body weight, obesity continues to grow and is causing serious health and wealth issues in the country. Second only to smoking as a preventable cause of death, nearly 300,000 people die each year because of obesity.
Owners and operators of gyms and health facilities are in an important and prime position to help change the direction of the crisis. As members of the community, they can help lead the way in educating the public and helping members take the epidemic head on. From supporting members to understand their nutritional needs, to introducing them to exercises they will actually stick to, gyms play a big role in finally ending the problem. With one in four Americans obese (that’s not even counting the huge number of Americans who are overweight), it’s clear that gyms have a window of opportunity to help educate members and the rest of the community.
Genetics or something else?
Many people choose to point the finger at their genetics while claiming their thyroid, metabolism, or other genetic issues are to blame for their excessive weight. While a low metabolism can certainly cause a person to be overweight, science has proven that it doesn’t cause obesity. In fact, obesity is not determined by genetics, it’s almost always a “toxic environment.” High calorie foods, fast foods, and sedentary lifestyle are all part of a toxic environment that can lead to high body fat and obesity.
Inactivity partially to blame
The most recent CDC study uncovered that a whopping 30 percent of Americans are inactive while another 30 percent only get moderate exercise. Even basic activities like walking are fading fast as technology plays a big part in our everyday lives. For instance, we no longer have to leave our house to shop or get food. We can order everything from dinner to groceries on our phone, which means movement is on the decline. We our constantly engineering activities out of our life through innovation.
Sedentary culture on the rise
Yet, despite our more sedentary lifestyles, our appetites have stayed the same – or increased. We are consistently “super sizing” our meals, and throwing all portion control out the window. Prepared foods that are so common in today’s lifestyle are loaded with excess sugars, salt, and calories and completely lack the nutrients that come with fresh food.
The role of gyms
In a society with nearly everything working against the fitness and wellness initiative, how do we, as fitness professionals, successfully combat obesity? Although our society is cultivating it, there are some ways that gym owners and operators can do to tackle the problem. For instance, so many people come to the gym believing that simply adding exercise to their routine will help them to drop pounds. While exercise is absolutely important, most fitness professionals know that it’s not just about increasing activity, it’s about watching nutrition, too. Some trainers like to say, “abs start in the kitchen.” Going the extra mile to help your members understand that weight loss requires a healthy combination of fitness and nutrition, will ensure positive results. The only way to truly cure obesity is through education and encouragement in your own facility. By making your club a welcoming and educational place to be, you are contributing to the conclusion of this horrible epidemic. While it may seem obvious to you, many people are completely unaware of what it takes to develop and live a healthy lifestyle. Studies performed by the CDC have shown that fewer than 20 percent of those attempting to lose weight are actually increasing their physical activity and lowering caloric intake. In essence, most people are unaware of what they need to do to get themselves healthy.
Your position as a leader in the industry allows you to help stop the obesity epidemic by not assuming that your members all know what it takes to get healthy. By offering free or low cost workshops and classes or literature to inform members, you can help end the increasing and deadly issue. Offering dietary modifications and exercise suggestions are a great way to help encourage and educate your members. When you encourage a lifestyle change, you are helping members not only lose weight, but keep it off. After all, shedding weight and starting an exercise routine is not easy for those who are struggling with their weight. This is especially true considering we live in a culture that encourages inactivity and unhealthy eating. Maintaining a healthy body weight requires diligence and persistence that health clubs can provide. Clubs can teach the skills needed to live a healthy life – and keep it! When members start to lose weight, they will discover how good it feels to be healthy, and the comradery among members will also help to keep the momentum going. The positive reinforcement will help members stay on track for a more permanent and healthy lifestyle.