Fitness: Did you hear?...

Technogym supplying the Athens Olympics training centers, Discovery Channel's Body Challenge continues -- with 50,800 pounds gone so far, Octane Fitness introducing light commercial elliptical, Horizon Fitness wins key treadmill rating in German fitness magazine, Dick's Sporting Goods sales up 20 percent, and much more…
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>> Technogym has been chosen as the exclusive supplier of fitness equipment for the Athens Olympics by the Greek Olympic Committee. On the grounds of the Olympic Village will be set up 11 gyms with more than 300 pieces of equipment that more than 10,000 athletes from 200 countries will use during the event to stay tuned and in-shape. Workout areas will be put in throughout the village for tennis, track and water athletes, plus seven media villages will be available for the more than 20,000 journalists. Techogym supplied equipment for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and has already been selected as the supplier for the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

>> The weight-loss challenges continue with the National Health Body Challenge put on by the Discovery Health Channel being the obvious largest. More than 15,470 participants around the country have reported weight losses for a total loss in the first month of more than 50,800 pounds, or an average of about 3.3 pounds per person. What's interesting is the breakdown of who is losing how much and where. To check out the differences by region, gender or comparing online vs. all registrants, click here. One note: Men who registered in a store lost more than those who registered online, while women who registered online lost more than those who registered in a store!

>> In a press release Feb. 16, Bally Total Fitness (NYSE: BFT) said the company has reached a cooperative agreement with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer after three years of discussion. That closes the chapter on historical issues and resulted in no fines, penalties or finding of violation of the law. Said spokesman Jon Harris, "In essence, we didn't agree to anything we haven't been doing already. This is actually old news, as most of these inquiries date back several years and do not reflect the company's operations today. In fact, many of the policies referred to in this agreement were voluntarily and independently changed by Bally several years ago." To read the entire press release, click here.

>> Octane Fitness has introduced a commercial-grade elliptical trainer, suitable for vertical applications such as hotels, apartments and smaller fitness centers or personal training centers. The suggested retail is $2,800. Just barely over two years old, Octane Fitness remains a one-product company with its focus on elliptical trainers. www.octanefitness.com

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- Style Fitness, distributor for Johnson Health Tech products in the United Kingdom and Germany, among other countries, has just opened in Spain, adding that country to its France opening last year. Style founder Jamie Burton will be managing director of both of those along with continuing in the United Kingdom.

>> GERMANY -- Horizon Fitness has placed some rather outrageous and eye-catching ads in both consumer and trade fitness publications in Germany. In one, a young woman wearing a bright blue shiny vinyl mini-skirt exposing her navel and a teeny black vinyl sports bra (also shiny) is standing on top of a treadmill (note the blue back-lit screen subtly picking up the blue of the skirt) inside an empty factory with mist wafting around here. On one knee below her is a very blonde, very young-looking young man with his palms placed together in a pleading-like look. She is looking down on him rather haughtily with her hands on her hips. Above them floats the words "Get It!" There's another version with a bike, same models, same setting, slightly different poses. "It's about getting attention," said Germany's director Ulfert Boehme with a smile, calling it just a little cheeky. They ran through January and Boehme said he expects another round later this year, insisting that all other company ads look the same. SNEWS View: He's got a point. Take off a brand name and they do look the same. And these DO catch your attention, sorta leaving you scratching your head as you scan all the text and photo details for some clue as to what it really means. Meanwhile, you remember the name Horizon.

>> GERMANY -- One other Horizon Fitness note: In Germany's Fit For Fun December issue (it's the magazine that could be compared to our Shape or Fitness), a review rated treadmills in two categories -- up to Euro 2,000 (about USD $2,250 now, with the weak dollar) and up to Euro 4,000 (about USD $5,000 these days). In the lower price rung, Horizon Fitness (Paragon) took the Fit For Fun "Victor" emblem as the best, with comments noting that it actually was the overall winner even when combining in the higher-price treadmills. In the lower-price category, next up were the Proform 14.5, the Reebok TR2 and the Tunturi J4F; in the higher-price category, the top-rated treadmill was the Life Fitness T3i, and next came the Kettler Boston, Platinum T9000, and then the Vision T9450 HRC. SNEWS View: We hear management tried to figure out a good way to show the magazine to the company bosses at Johnson Health Tech since there was a totally naked woman on the front. Of course, that's not a big deal in Europe but it left the German's holding the magazine upside down in expectation of a shocked response from Asian- and North American-based management.

>> Chilly winter weather and continued redemption of gift cards started the New Year off with a bang for the nation's retailers, according to the National Retail Federation. January retail sales released Feb. 12 by the U.S. Commerce Department showed that total retail sales excluding motor vehicles rose 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted for the month and 6.8 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores also performed well with sales rising 1.6 percent adjusted for the month and up 3.7 percent over last year. The group forecasted that GAFS sales will increase 5.0 percent in 2004.

>> SPAIN -- Spain's highest court said it has overturned a ban on U.S. sportswear giant Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) branding its clothes with its name in Spain, four years after a Spanish businessman won the right to use the name. In 1999 Spain's Supreme Court ruled that Nike could not sell clothing bearing the Nike name in Spain, deciding the brand belonged instead to Nike's former Spanish distributor Cidesport. The ruling did not affect Nike shoes, accessories or equipment, and Nike clothes could still be sold in Spain bearing the company's "swoosh" logo, but not the Nike name. The dispute began in 1989 when Nike, expanding in Europe, registered its name in Spain where Cidesport was already producing and distributing clothes with the brand as a Nike license-holder.

>> The National Academy of Sports Medicine has announced a collaboration with the California University of Pennsylvania to offer a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion. It is an accelerated 12-month, web-based degree program for working athletic trainers, physical therapists, exercise physiologists and other professionals. The online master's degree, recently approved by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's board of governors, was created and developed by the university with the academy and other educational consultants. For more info, go to www.nasm.org.

>> Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. (NYSE: DKS) announced that net sales for the quarter ended Jan. 31, 2004, increased 20 percent to $474.4 million compared with $395.2 million for the quarter ended Feb. 1, 2003. Comparable store sales increased 4.6 percent. With better-than-expected fourth quarter sales, Dick's is increasing EPS guidance for the fourth quarter to a range of 0.99 per diluted share based on an estimated 25.9 million fully-diluted shares outstanding compared to $0.82 per diluted share for the quarter ended Feb. 1, 2003, or $0.88 per diluted share pro-forma in the fourth quarter of last year which included a non-cash after-tax charge against an investment of $1.4 million, or $0.06 per diluted share. The company's previous guidance was 0.92 per diluted share. Dick's is increasing EPS guidance for the full year to a range of $2.08 to 2.09 per diluted share based on an estimated 25.1 million fully-diluted shares outstanding compared to $1.87 per diluted share for the year ended Feb. 1, 2003, or $1.78 per diluted share pro-forma last year which included a reduction of interest expense and an increase in diluted shares as if the company had consummated its IPO at the beginning of the first quarter last year rather than on the Oct. 15, 2002, effective date, and excludes the non-cash charge taken in the fourth quarter last year. The Company's previous guidance was 2.00 per diluted share. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> Body Bar Systems of Boulder, Colo., has been named as the USA Wrestling Women's national Team sponsor. The team will use the Body Bar System to supplement members' training regimen as they prepare for their inaugural appearance in 2004 Olympic Games. Most recently the team won seven medals at the 2003 World Championship with four gold, two silver and one bronze. No other team -- men's or women's -- has achieved such a sweeping victory at the championship tournament. Body Bar has been making weighted strength-training bars since 1987. For more, go to www.bodybars.com.

>> Life Fitness, as part of a product development team realignment to refine processes, has eliminated several product development positions. Bob Quast is assuming the overall role of senior director, cardio product management.

>> Nearly three of four senior executives and managers said they get the most practical tips, guidance and tactics to do their job better from conferences and seminars. Sixty percent of respondents to a Net Future Institute survey said they get the most practical tips from networking and interpersonal relationships followed closely by personal experience (59 percent), books (57 percent), online research (50 percent), newsletters (42 percent) and industry trade magazines (34.7 percent). Said one, "Like life, one's career is also a journey. Take advantage of the moments along the way. They cannot be planned but one can certainly take advantage of the inspirational and educational pause."

>> Don't fall for a National Do Not E-Mail Registry. There is no such thing, according to the Federal Trade commission. The FTC said the website at www.unsub.us mimics the language, look and navigation of the website for the National Do Not Call Registry, a legitimate free service of the federal government. The unsub.us site is not run or authorized by the FTC. The FTC is concerned that the "unsub.us" site could be part of a high-tech scam that uses a deceptive website to trick consumers into disclosing their email address or other sensitive personal information. This site may be a ruse to collect valid email addresses to sell to spammers. The result could be even more spam for consumers who sign up for this "registry," said the FTC. To read the full release, click here.

>> A new yoga venture puts yoga classes online. Called the Yoga Learning Center LLC, it is the first online yoga studio. Instructional material at the Yoga Learning Center is available on-demand, 24 hours a day, everyday. Utilizing the growing popularity of broadband web access and streaming video technology, the site's web-based studio features a library of instructional video and audio yoga practices for all student levels produced by experienced yoga instructors (www.yogalearningcenter.com). "Our main goal behind the YLC is to bring the many benefits of yoga to everyone, wherever they may be," says Founder and President Mia Taylor. "I have found in my experience that there are so many people who want yoga in their lives, either as first-timers or as continuing practitioners, and there are an equal number of reasons why they cannot make it to a class." The Yoga Learning Center is more than just yoga instruction on your desktop. It is creating an interactive yoga community where students can ask questions of their instructors or chat online with each other through message boards and chat rooms.

>> The Houston Business Journal has reported that LA Fitness is in the process of negotiating several letters of intent for several sites in the Houston area. David Stukalin, president of the Houston office of The Weitzman Group, who is heading up the negotiations declined to say which areas of town the health club is targeting, but did tell the journal that the club plans on eight to 10 new locations in Houston by fall. The health club chain currently operates 104 locations in California, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey. However, LA Fitness spokesman Rob Bryant told the journal that the health club has not made a decision about whether to enter the Houston market. Not as if the Houston market is without clubs: Larry North is planning to open an upscale Larry North Fitness center in downtown's Houston Center mall in April. Meanwhile, the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa is also stepping up its presence in the area with the new Houstonian Lite brand of health clubs. The first Houstonian Lite opened in Sugar Land's First Colony Town Square in November. The company has plans to open several more locations throughout the city and is considering areas such as the Texas Medical Center, River Oaks and West University.

>> A report last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine called on primary care physicians to step up to the plate and not only set an example to their patients in fitness and weight loss, but also to discuss fitness recommendations with them. Lead author on the article -- called "The Escalating Pandemics of Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle - A Call to Action for Clinicians -- was JoAnn Manson. According to the articles abstract (Feb. 9, 2004 issue No. 164: 249-258): "Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are escalating national and global epidemics that warrant increased attention by physicians and other health care professionals. These intricately linked conditions are responsible for an enormous burden of chronic disease, impaired physical function and quality of life, at least 300,000 premature deaths, and at least $90 billion in direct health care costs annually in the United States alone. Clinicians are on the front line of combat, yet these conditions receive minimal attention during a typical office visit." The report offers step-by-step guidelines for physicians and other health care professionals. The journal is at http://archinte.ama-assn.org.

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