Health magazine’s “fitness awards” reap large national audience

Hitting the newsstands Jan. 4 will be Health magazine’s first fitness gear awards, called “The Best of Fitness 2005,” with nine pages crammed with product and equipment from shoes and videos to treadmills and yoga mats. The issue could be seen by as many as 6.5 million readers.

Hitting the newsstands Jan. 4 will be Health magazine's first fitness gear awards, called “The Best of Fitness 2005,” with nine pages crammed with product and equipment from shoes and videos to treadmills and yoga mats. The issue could be seen by as many as 6.5 million readers.

In the “equipment” category, Life Fitness nabbed three of five awards — weight system, bike and treadmill — while Vision Fitness took the top spot for ellipticals. The category's judge named the new Concept2 Indoor Rower as the “most innovative.”

“We are delighted at being selected as one of the innovative pieces of fitness equipment for 2005 — recognition for the hard work of our engineers and for the value of listening to our customers and building in the features that they were looking for,” said Bill Patton, Concept2 marketing director.

According to the story in the January issue, which SNEWS® obtained in advance, the staff and other outside experts “canvassed hundreds of products to find all the tools you need,” wrote Doug Crichton, editor-in-chief, in the issue's opening letter. The awards, modeled after the magazine's 6-year-old beauty award program, the fitness awards are slated by the Time Inc. publication to become an annual event for the January issue. According to spokeswoman Robyn Mait, there was no common denominator in the type of product that was selected or its availability, but “we did focus on products we know our readers would be most likely to use.”

Organized with the help of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the process began late last spring when the magazine began to solicit entries and sent invitations to enter to hundreds of manufacturers. The process will culminate in January at The Super Show, Jan. 17-19, in Orlando, Fla., when magazine representatives will present the winning companies at a fitness party on Jan. 17. In addition, many of the winning products will be donated for a fund-raising auction for PE4Life, a non-profit group that works to advocate and support physical education, fitness and sports programs in schools (  

Although some winning companies told SNEWS® they personally initiated the entry, filling out forms and contacting the magazine to make sure their product was considered, Patton was one who said he had no idea his products were being considered. Apparently, one of the judges was simply familiar with the product.

In contrast, Vision and Life Fitness answered the solicitation for an entry, as did others such as Montrail, which took the category of best trail runner/walker with its Hardrock shoe.

“Life Fitness is thrilled to have won the awards from such a well-trusted and well-respected magazine as Health,” said Kevin Grodzki, Life Fitness president. “We are even more proud to have won the most of any manufacturer — three of five. These awards are a great tribute to the dedication and commitment of our employees."

The six categories were equipment, apparel, fuel, gear, video/DVD, and shoes, with each having multiple sub-categories one for "most innovative." One judge decided the winner in each category after using or reviewing the nominated products for six to eight weeks, associate publisher Eileen Kiernan said in a SNEWS® story Oct. 8, 2004 (“Health magazine launches fitness awards in January issue. Did you know?”). The judges include:

  • Equipment — Lynn Allen, president of Heartland Fitness, Iowa, and a clinician and instructor for the President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports and an advisor to the SGMA.
  • Apparel — Robyn Stuhr, exercise physiologist, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York
  • Gear — Dick Cotton, chief exercise physiologist,, and a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise
  • Fuel — Nancy Clark, registered dietician, sports nutrition expert and author
  • Videos/DVDs — Petra Kolber, Health contributing editor and Reebok University Master Trainer
  • Shoes — Mark Fenton, host of America's Walking and a former editor at Walking magazine, with his wife Lisa, who has worked in product design for Nike and Reebok

In the “gear” category, the Polar F11 won for best heart-rate monitor, the Jansport Diablo 3L for best hydration backpack, the Bell Safety Sleeve Resistance Band for best resistance band, the Julbo Magic for best sunglasses, the Amphipod Full-Tilt Hydration Pack for best water bottle, and the Crescent Moon SteadyGrip Yoga/Pilates Mat for best yoga mat. Some of the other winners included the Keen Bodhi for most innovative shoe, the Saucony 3D Grid Hurricane as best running shoe, the Asics Gel Kayano Walker II as best walking shoe, and the Avia ECS Fitness Training A684 as best cross-trainer. In “apparel,” Nike, Brooks, New Balance, Sof Sole, adidas and Champion nabbed top spots, and in “fuel” PowerBar and Gatorade took three awards.

Specifically, in equipment, the winners were: Parabody G56 (weight system), Life Fitness R9i (bike), Vision Fitness X6100 (elliptical), Life Fitness T9i (treadmill), and the Concept2 Rower (most innovative).

Kiernan told SNEWS® in October that she can be guaranteed dozens of calls for manufacturers wondering why they didn't know about it. But since this is a long-term commitment, she said, they would “shore up the holes” and solidify it for coming years.

SNEWS® View: We can guarantee the magazine and the judges will receive many, many calls, some perhaps even irate, about why they and their products weren't included. Such awards are good because of the broader recognition for various brands and the entire category. Yet with one judge in charge of selecting a product as “best,” smaller and newer companies are bound to be overlooked. Now, we know that a lot of publications do these kinds of awards, but we still aren't completely convinced that one, single, best of most anything truly exists since body sizes, preferences, needs, fitness level, price ranges and the like can be so different. Still, it's a start, and we expect those chosen will certainly reap the rewards with a claimed readership of some 6.5 million. Plus, any magazine is looking for its own PR, and this will bring it exposure on TV and radio that will, in turn, trickle down to the “winning” product.