Despite the woe-is-us over America's expanding waistlines, certain business segments seem to be profiting from the "lardy lifestyle," as it was described in a recent statement by Ibis World.
Cashing in on the portly state of the country are clubs, weight loss centers, clever fast food outlets and other lose-weight-fast gizmos and come-ons, said George Van Horn, senior analyst with Ibis World (www.ibisworld.com), publishers of business intelligence.
Among those segments that are, will be or could be making hay are gyms and the fitness sector. Gyms have already seen large membership growth, he said.
"Lifting free weights is the number one fitness activity in the U.S., and health clubs offering personal trainers, and adding yoga and spa services to their programs have been particularly successful in attracting new members," Van Horn said in a statement. "Another element of the industry which has emerged into a major trend is women-only centers, which have attracted a new clientele who had previously shunned joining a gym or fitness center."
In the future, Ibis World analysts have said they believe the industry will shift its focus from its core market of 18- to 34-year-old middle-income earners toward older patrons, women and even teenagers. "The rising number of older people joining health clubs has been one of the central factors in fitness centers' growth in recent years," said Van Horn, "And our aging population means that those numbers are set to rise exponentially. Already around 20 percent of the country's 44 million health club members are over 55 -- an increase of 320 percent from the early 1990s."
One factor that will negatively affect the industry in coming years is the decline in our leisure time. According to the International Labor Organization, Americans work an average 1,820 hours in a year. Only the Japanese work as hard, while workers in major European economies put in between 1,300 and 1,800 hours in a year on average.
"And with U.S. executives working an average eight hours every weekend, finding the time to commit to exercise is proving tough," Van Horn explained. "The fitness industry is hoping that the growing number of people wanting to restore balance to their lives by spending less time at work will mean more time will be devoted to exercise, but only time will tell."