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The business of resolutions

Exercise, diet and no-smoking programs see a rise in interest
Saturday, December 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live healthier lives, whether it be to join a gym, start a diet program or quit smoking. Businesses committed to helping people do that also benefit from their resolutions.

Gyms, in particular, tend to cash in on efforts at self-improvement.

“It’s not uncommon for us to see up to a 100 percent increase in membership in January,” said David Reiseman, a national representative for Gold’s Gym. “We like to say that January is to the gym business what December is to the retail business.”

Laura Wacker, manager of Body Basics Gym on Towne Drive, said business typically sees an increase in membership around the new year because it offers special membership packages.

“Some people only come for a week or a month, then we don’t see them,” Wacker said. “People stick with it more if they join a gym rather than buying a piece of equipment because at home they have a lot of distractions.”

Beth Reyes, manager of Curves, a fitness center on Peach Court, said 20 to 30 people join her gym around the new year, while others start coming back to work out around the new year.

Jane Sheehan, 75, became one of those people in January of 2003.

“I needed some exercise, and my blood pressure was up, so I figured it was time to join,” Sheehan said while doing a resistance and aerobics workout at Curves last week. In the beginning, she said, she would hit the gym every day. She has since scaled that back to about twice a week.

At Boone Hospital Center’s Wellaware, where the clientele ranges from 20 to 93 years old, manager Dan Smith said business does spike a bit during the holiday season.

“We usually see a bump at the beginning of the year,” he said. “The numbers of visits increase 10 to 15 percent (among) members who were already members.”

At Gold’s Gym South, general manager Jackson Harper said he typically sees about 150 new members around the new year.

“Once it starts getting chilly is when it gets busy,” Harper said, adding that membership tends to level out in the summer when most people want to be outside.

Harper also attributed membership gains to television shows such as “The Biggest Loser,” in which participants compete to see who can drop the most pounds.

“People are watching TV and seeing that people can lose weight in 12 weeks,” Harper said.

Anyone who has watched television in the past few days might have noticed an increase in advertising by the nation’s leading diet programs. In Columbia, Jenny Craig expects a big boost in membership; it had a 30 percent increase at this time last year.

“We get a lot of great exposure with Kirstie Alley and Oprah,” said Jenny Craig manager Dan Pickering.

The fitness and weight-loss businesses aren’t the only ones profiting from the new year. Sales of nicotine patches and nicotine gum rise as well.

The Walgreens on Broadway sees an increase of 10 percent to 20 percent in sales of smoking-cessation products, but that typically flattens out by February, said floor manager Darin Wohlbold.

Bill Morrissey of Kilgore’s Pharmacy said the store doesn’t track sales of specific products, but he confirmed there are more customer inquiries about which anti-smoking products are best.

MU professor emeritus of psychology Wayne Anderson said people should be careful about making resolutions that are overly ambitious.

“People want to make too big of a change too fast, and people get discouraged,” Anderson said. “People need to have a small step-by-step process and a support system to succeed.”

People who don’t follow through with resolutions feel guilty for a little while, then wind up waiting until next year to make the same ones again, Anderson said.


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