Sunday, January 4, 2004

Paul Costa using dumbbells at Hawaii Athletic Club, halfway between Ala Moana and Pohukaina on Keawe Street.

Shaping up for
the New Year

Fitness centers gear up for the flood
of people trying to drop the pounds

Hawaii's fitness and diet industry folks are once again getting set to capitalize on the flood of local residents whose New Year's resolutions include losing weight.

There are plenty of candidates for such services, according to studies done nationally. Almost 65 percent of people in the United States are considered either overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as about 10 to 30 pounds over a healthy weight; obesity is 30 or more pounds over. A study by three economists funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at direct medical costs but not indirect costs, such as time off work. Americans' extra weight costs the nation as much as $93 million in annual medical bills alone, the study said.

Mary Anne States, assistant manager at the Curves Ala Moana facility, expects a busy first few weeks after people recover from their New Year's excesses.

"The second week in January, we'll get hit with everyone going to commit themselves to getting physically fit," States said.

States expects the number of inquiry calls to pick up with a new commercial that is about to be aired.

"When that happens, the next day we get lots of calls," she said.

The company, which caters to women only, has been attracting a lot of interest since it began operations.

It caters exclusively to women -- there are no mirrors -- and a workout takes 30 minutes.

"Someone said it was the 'fast food' of fitness," said States, adding that she lost 40 pounds in a year after becoming a member of Curves and prior to becoming an employee.

The company also offers a one-week free membership for prospective members to try the program to see if they like it. They also will halve the regular $149 initiation fee, and if members sign a 12-month contract, the cost is around $30 per month. Otherwise, it's about $39 per month, States said.

At the Hawaii Athletic Club on Keawe Street, Club Manager Ray Sagumi expects a bump in membership in the upcoming month based on past years' experiences.

"We have well over 3,000 members now, but between 50 and 100 come in at the beginning of the year," he said. "That's about the average. Our goal now will be to keep people motivated throughout the year."

Incentives for new members include free initial training sessions so they learn how to use the various fitness machines correctly, Sagumi said.

"Now with the knowledge we have and with all the new machines, people no longer need to be in the gym for three to four hours," he said.

The weight loss and physical fitness battle is not limited to Hawaii's civilian population.

Military services struggle to keep their personnel fit.

Danny Moliani is a civilian certified personal trainer who works for the Navy's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Division. Overweight personnel have to participate in the Navy's mandatory fitness enhancement program and are tested every six months, he said.

If they are found to be overweight and cannot pass the Navy's physical readiness test, they get sent to see a personal trainer like Moliani.

"They get sent to me because they have no knowledge of fitness," Moliani said. "They need to be in better shape, but they don't know how."

Moliani said January is one of the busiest times of year for he and his colleagues.

"The naval shipyard is my biggest supplier -- all active-duty personnel -- guys coming off sea duty who have been inactive," he said. "We have about 70 people. The second-highest group are MPs who work 12-hour shifts. They are a big group also, so we have about 50 to 70 people."

Molinari said his program is supposed to run for about eight weeks. But some personnel stay longer.

"What happens is that if the person still needs us, then we keep them on," he said.

Molinari sees the Navy program as a great benefit -- especially considering what hiring a personnel trainer would cost in the civilian world.

"My market rate would be $50 a session, so this is a great benefit," he said. "These guys learn to appreciate it and take advantage of it."


Overweight and Obesity

At a Glance

>> 61 percent of adults in the United States were overweight or obese in 1999. Recent studies put the figure as high as 65 percent.

>> 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years were overweight in 1999. The prevalence has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past two decades.

>> The increases in overweight and obesity cut across all ages, racial and ethnic groups and both genders.

>> 300,000 deaths each year in the U.S. are associated with obesity.

>> Overweight and obesity are associated with heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis, breathing problems and psychological disorders such as depression.

>> The economic cost of obesity in the U.S. was about $117 billion in 2000.

Source. U.S. Surgeon General's report


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