Fitness: Did you hear?...

FTC sues BodyFlex for false advertising, Germans buying more holiday gifts/sports equipment online, Wal-Mart reports record earnings, Gold's Gyms to open in the Southeast, obesity skyrockets from teens to 20s, plus more…
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>> The Federal Trade Commission has charged the marketers of the BodyFlex equipment and program with false advertising for its claims that users will lose "4 to 14 inches in the first seven days." The FTC's complaint was filed in federal district court last week, naming Savvier Inc., Savvier LP and their principals, Jack Ching Chung Chang, Jeffrey T. Tuller and Keith Greer, as well as the Body Flex "creator" and spokesperson Greer Childers. In addition, the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, issued a requested temporary restraining order on Nov. 12 that included freezing the assets of the defendants. The system, widely advertised on TV with more than 2,000 airings from February through September alone, includes what is called a gym bar, and information and a video about special breathing techniques. According to infomercial websites, "Greer Childers developed Body Flex over 20 years ago out of frustration with being a size 14 to 16 no matter what exercise program she tried or what diet plan she followed. The Body Flex program combines aerobic breathing with resistance and is designed to be done while sitting down. Body Flex can be done in less than 20 minutes per day, all while sitting on your couch and watching your favorite television program. The average cost was $40, not including nearly $15 in shipping. The FTC complaint alleged the defendants falsely claimed users could lose 4 to 14 inches across six body areas in the first seven days without reducing calories, that it caused users to burn enough body fat to achieve the inch loss in seven days, and that a clinical study proved it caused fat and inch loss. The court has also been asked to issue injunctive relief, including redress for purchasers. The website at www.bodyflex.com was disabled as of last week.

>> GERMANY -- Germans will be spending more on gifts and other purchases on the Internet than last year. Recent information from Forrester Research estimates that Germans will spend nearly Euro 2.5 billion (USD $2.9 billion) for holiday presents on the web, with Internet purchases from the entire year totaling just under Euro 10 billion (USD $11.75 billion), with others estimating up to Euro 11 billion (USD $12.9 billion). Winners include books, clothes and travel, with sports equipment ranking No. 19 among categories with Euro 18.6 million spent during the year.

>> Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT) reported record earnings and sales for the quarter ended Oct. 31. Net sales were $62.5 billion, an increase of 13.1 percent over the similar prior year quarter. Net income from continuing operations for the quarter was $2 billion, a 13.9 percent increase from the $1.8 billion in the similar prior year quarter. Earnings per share from continuing operations were $0.46 up from $0.40 per share in the same prior year quarter. Net sales for the nine months ended Oct. 31, were $181.8 billion, an increase of 11.4 percent over net sales of the similar prior year period. Net income from continuing operations for the nine months increased 14.4 percent to a record $6.1 billion or $1.40 earnings per share, up from $5.4 billion or $1.21 earnings per share in the same prior year period.

>> In another effort to get kids fit and more interested in exercise, Team USA elite runners based at Monterey Bay will partner with the Carmel Unified School district. The initiative means Team USA Monterey Bay athletes will serve as mentors and will visit the area's elementary schools weekly. The elite athletes will run with the students, and will emphasize a responsible and drug-free lifestyle with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. SNEWS View: Nope, not equipment oriented, but if we said it once we'll say it again: Get kids interested in fitness and exercise and they'll likely become industry consumers and club users later in life.

>> Global Fitness Holdings, the company from Royce Pulliam which has the exclusive development rights for Gold’s Gyms in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, plans to open seven sites in 2004. The company currently operates 13 Gold's Gyms in Cincinnati, Lexington and Nashville.

>> In a most bizarre partnership, Marshall Field's State Street store in downtown Chicago will open a Coca-Cola shop, a Crunch Fitness Juice Bar and Bally Total Fitness retail store. According to the press release, "even the most ardent of shoppers get weary ... and thirsty!" Bally's 1,048-square-foot shop will be an interactive, multi-functional space offering shoppers Bally smoothies and shakes, a full line of Bally-branded nutritional supplements, and Bally-branded home exercise equipment, fitness apparel and accessories. Computer monitors will also enable store visitors to surf the Bally website while enjoying their refreshments at the Bally juice bar.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- The Liverpool City Council is trying out free family fitness sessions as part of a campaign to fight childhood obesity in the city. A recent two-year study has found that 50 percent of 11-year-old boys and 40 percent of 11-year-old girls were overweight and one in three did not meet the government's target of exercising for one hour a day. The free family sessions are one of a number of recommendations made by the report and six families have already joined the three-month pilot program. The council aims to expand the scheme to one year as more families join.

>> Everlast Worldwide Inc. (Nasdaq: EVST) has announced its financial results for the third quarter and nine months ended Sept. 30 with net sales for the quarter of $16.1 million as compared to $16.9 million reported in 2002. Net licensing revenues advanced 14.8 percent to $1.6 million vs. $1.4 million in the 2002 period. Net income available to common stockholders was $.1 million, or $0.03 per basic share, compared with $.4 million, or $0.12 per basic share, in 2002. Pro-forma earnings, excluding certain duplicative costs associated with the company's Bronx facility that are not expected to impact earnings in 2004, were $.3 million, or $0.10 per basic share as compared to reported $0.12 per basic share in 2002.

>> The StairMaster name may still mean something to the home consumer so Nautilus has unveiled the first true home model -- the StairMaster 4100PT has both side handrails and contact heart rate sensors and cushioned, rubber pedals with a suggested retail of $1,999. Back in the early '90s or the heyday of StairMaster, there was a model that was the lower-priced model (what became of the 4200 PT), but it was still rated for commercial use -- and was significantly higher in price than this new model.

>> Len Kravitz, Ph.D., has been named senior exercise physiologist for the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. He is currently an associate professor of exercise science and a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

>> For those who are in a gambling mood: Between now and Jan. 15, every time you stay at a Westin hotel, you'll be entered for a chance to win what the company calls a WestinWORKOUT trip to New York City, which includes a seven-day stay, airfare, a personal trainer and equipment such as tubing, yoga mats, stability ball, videos and other accessories. All this is to promote the hotel's new partnership with Reebok for its on-site fitness facilities. For more go to: www.starwood.com/westin/index.html.

>> For what seems to be our weekly depressing fact on obesity: Researchers have found that obesity is exploding in numbers from the teens to the early 20s, and they're blaming busy lives and bad habits. The study tracked almost 10,000 people. About 22 percent of 20-somethings are obese, defined as at least 30 pounds over what is considered normal weight. Half of those were also obese as teenagers. Researchers point out that this age group may be vulnerable to weight gain because of all the changes in their lives, including moving away from home, finding jobs, getting married, having babies or leading hectic college lives. Others blame the gain on portion sizes, food and eating patterns. Overall, 31 percent of adults are obese, other studies have concluded.

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