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Supplements Are Not Shortcuts for Your Health Club Members

Supplements Are Not Shortcuts for Your Health Club Members

I remember as a child going to the library to research reports, watching my parents study AAA-provided maps to route out our vacations and handwriting letters to my grandparents.

Things have certainly changed. Today, students research their reports on their computers, people use GPS to find their way on their vacations, and keeping in touch with family is as easy as e-mail. What used to take more time and effort now seems almost effortless.

That’s the way more and more people want their quest for fitness to be: quick and easy. And they don’t mind paying a little more for it if it allows them to take the easy way out.

From 2002 to 2008, the number of bariatric surgeries performed in the United States doubled, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Liposuction has grown as a way to get rid of unwanted fat.

So the idea of taking a pill to lose weight seems ideal to many people. We all witnessed the big market for Ephedra and Hydroxycut when both pills, now banned in the United States, were introduced. That’s why people in the fitness industry must be careful about how we market sports nutrition and weight-loss supplements. We must not play into the idea that by taking supplements, members won’t have to work out as hard or as often.

More than 60 million people in the United States are totally inactive, according to a recent study by the Physical Activity Council. Just a small percentage of Americans actually get the recommended daily allowance of physical activity.

Despite this lack of activity, supplements are a growing market. Supplement use for adults 20 years old and older increased from 1988 to 2006. The percent of people who took at least one dietary supplement grew from 42 percent of people surveyed between 1988 and 1994 to 53 percent of people surveyed between 2003 and 2006, according to the National Health and Examination Survey, which was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The narrower category of sports nutrition and weight loss (SNWL) supplements grew 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, totaling $22.7 billion in sales. SNWL sales have had a compound growth rate of 10.2 percent during the past 13 years.

That, according to Todd Whitthorne, CEO of Cooper Concepts, Dallas, is proof that few people who use supplements are actually avid exercisers who need sports nutrition drinks or other supplements. Instead, they are looking for a shortcut.

“Gatorade has done a fantastic job of marketing,” Whitthorne says of the PepsiCo-branded sports nutrition drink that had $1 billion in annual sales and has a 75 percent market share. “You don’t need it unless you have been doing something continuously for an hour or more. And how many people do that?”

Our industry has a responsibility to give members a realistic view of what supplements can do for them rather than overselling their benefits and playing into that shortcut mentality that pervades American society. Getting fit and staying that way takes time, effort and constant attention to a good diet and a varied workout. You still can’t get everything in our world at the click of a button or the pop of a pill.

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