Fitness: Did you hear?…

Bill Howland leaves IHRSA, Wal-Mart and Walgreens pay up over AbEnergizer lawsuit, SGMA offers 'Doing Business in Europe' webinars, BrandNew awards looking for applicants, plus much more...
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For the week of March 29 to April 4

>> Bill Howland, for 13 years a mainstay at IHRSA, has left the association to go back to business school. Most recently, he has been the director of government relations and public policy, but also kept track of most of the public relations business too. We wish him all the luck.

>> In another departure -- also after 13 years with the company -- Todd Keller has left Body-Solid. "He's moving on to other things," President Earl Schraiberg told SNEWS®. "It was very mutual." He added that Keller was always "110 percent" dedicated to Body-Solid and even after leaving about a month ago is finishing up some tasks.

>> Wal-Mart and Walgreens got their hands slapped for allegedly selling an illegal and dangerous muscle stimulator -- the AbEnergizer -- and marketing it as exercise equipment. They were accused of selling misbranded and unapproved medical devices in charges filed by Napa, Solano and San Diego, Calif., prosecutors. Wal-Mart will pay $525,000 -- $240,000 in penalties, $59,000 for costs and $226,000 in restitution for victims -- to settle the cases, while Walgreens will pay $125,000 -- $80,000 to victims and $45,000 in costs. The AbEnergizer abdominal muscle stimulators, which send electric currents into a users' body, claimed that consumers could "push a button and get 700 sit-ups with no pain, no work and no exercise." However, it is a medical device that needs a prescription to be bought and sold, and would not help users lose weight or get six-pack abs, according to the Solano County deputy district attorney. Prosecutors said Wal-Mart and Walgreens helped promote deceptive advertising claims on the AbEnergizer packaging by placing the product on their shelves. Each retailer is under a court-ordered ban from ever selling any similar device without first getting the approval required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or California's Department of Health Services, Food & Drug Branch.

>> The American College of Physicians released new guidelines for the management of obesity, recommending diet and exercise for everyone, and drugs and surgery only for obese patients who are not able to achieve weight-loss goals with diet and exercise alone. People with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 might consider drug therapy after an appropriate trial of diet and exercise has failed, ACP guidelines said. Surgery is for those with a BMI over 40 who also have obesity-related health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes or sleep apnea. People with a body mass index from 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. Those with BMI from 30-39.9 are considered obese; people with a BMI over 40 are considered morbidly (or extremely) obese. ACP's new guidelines apply to patients with BMI's of 30 and over. The guidelines, "Pharmacologic and Surgical Management of Obesity in Primary Care: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians," were published in the April 5, 2005, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

>> Last week, Nautilus introduced the home exercise gym, the Bowflex Ultimate 2, which uses Power Rod technology to provide users more than 95 exercises without any cable changes. It has a new natural-motion squat exercise, along with a preacher curl and rowing capability. It is also the first bench-style Bowflex strength gym with a no-cable-change feature. Optional features include an abdominal attachment and a built-in DVD player for training or entertainment purposes. The Bowflex Ultimate 2 strength system retails for $2,199, not including the optional abdominal attachment and DVD player. It can be ordered directly from the company at www.nautilus.com.

>> For the second year in a row, Cybex International has received the Nova7 supplier award for Best Product of the Year 2004 for its Arc Trainer. Voted on by club owners, Fitness Management magazine's Nova7 "People's Choice" Best Supplier Awards recognize industry suppliers in seven categories. The award was presented at the 2005 IHRSA conference in San Francisco.

>> The second installment of SGMA's Executive Webinar Series focuses on doing business in Europe and is designed to provide educational opportunities for sport-industry executives. The webinar, presented in two, two-hour sessions, is designed for manufacturers with sustained relationships in Europe, as well as those who are just beginning to tap into the potential of this promising environment. SGMA's legal task force has recruited leading authorities to educate "attendees" on opportunities and knowledge for success doing business in Europe. The first session is April 20 from noon to 2 p.m. EST, and the second session is April 27 from noon to 2 p.m. EST. The Doing Business in Europe webinar series is $199 for SGMA members and $299 for non-members. To register, click here.

>> Rap and yoga? Not exactly considered a pair like salt and pepper, or bread and butter. But for rap artist and longtime yogi Russell Simmons, it seemed a natural. A new series of videos due out in April will be called "Russell Simmons Presents Yoga Live" and is said to merge yoga with hip-hop in four videos that are intended to promote weight loss, flexibility, relaxation and toning. Simmons, who started taking yoga a decade ago allegedly to meet girls, agreed to this video since the producer wanted to combine the spiritual and physical aspects. He also hopes that with his name, yoga could attract a different and larger following. Suppose "cooler" music and "cool" instructors, as he puts it, may make a difference in the cool factor of yoga.

>> Do you have a new, innovative product and company that has not been around for any more than four years? If so, you may qualify to apply for the 12th-annual BrandNew awards at the summer ispo show in Munich, Gemany, sponsored by DuPont. Winners get a free booth space and media exposure at the international show, a prize that has launched some companies internationally. But you better hurry. You must enter by April 8. Go to www.ispo-brandnew.com for more or email esther@pascher-heinz.com.

>> GERMANY -- Germany's Hammer brand of fitness equipment has birthed a new brand called Finnlo. According to the company, the brand will target specialty fitness dealers, while the Hammer brand will focus more on big box and mail-order or etail. The Finnlo brand will offer a full range of types including stationary bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, indoor cycling bikes, strength and ab trainers, as well as accessories. Its focus will be aerobic equipment, however. More at www.hammer.de, albeit in German. Products available at retail after September 2005.

>> Something for clubs and others taking credit cards to take note of: In a recent "Ask the Lawyer" column in the Houston Chronicle, one reader wrote that his health club announced it was charging a yearly $36 fee to use a credit card to pay bills. The club stated it's not a surcharge, but rather a convenience fee because it applies to automatic bank drafts and debit cards as well. In Texas, the lawyer said it is "probably legal," adding: "While there is a Texas law that specifically prohibits businesses from charging you extra when you use your credit card, the law does not address a situation where a business imposes a flat fee for several types of payments. Therefore, the policy at your health club most likely doesn't violate the law." If the club only charged the fee for credit cards and let other types of payment pass without the fee, the policy would be illegal. But, the lawyer noted, that even if the health club had a policy of charging extra only for the use of credit cards, there would be virtually no penalty for doing so. Texas law imposes no fines or other sanctions on businesses that charge extra for the use of credit cards. The law simply makes the practice illegal and neither the Texas attorney general or the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner handle enforcement of this particular Texas law. The lawyer noted the club member could sue but in the end the legal fees would cost a lot more than $36.

>> Call it pole walking, walking with poles, trekking or Nordic walking. Whatever you call it, Aussie Michael Gates has set a 24-hour pole-walking record. On March 12, he covered 138 kilometers (about 85 miles), walking non-stop. In Australia, where what Europeans now call Nordic walking, the activity is called Pole Walking and Gates has dubbed himself the "Pole Walking Wizard." Gates saluted his victory with a cold Aussie beer. He is said to already be contemplating his next challenge.

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