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In our ever-changing society, the one common thread that now every American seems to possess is a desire to have a body that is not hour-glass (1950’s) nor waifish (1990’s), but one that is lean, trim, and can physically go the “extra mile”. I speculate that the all-around athletic look is so popular because it is probably one of the hardest body types to achieve. In earlier times, hour-glass figures were the product of genetics and corsets, and the emaciated Kate Moss look could simply be achieved by starvation. To be physically fit inside and out is something that every person can control and achieve, but only through strong self-discipline. “The $52.9 billion fitness industry is constantly coming out with activities and products designed to get and keep us interested in working out” (Whigham-Desir 84). Two of these types of work-outs, specifically Tae-Bo and Spinning, were created just for the purpose of keeping “us” interested in working out. Despite this revolution in the fitness industry, many false preconceived notions about losing weight persevere and impede the movement.

As the media bombard the American public with unrealistic images, a new obsession with fitness has hit the markets. With more and more people aiming to lose weight, the fitness industry has been pressured to accommodate the high demands for efficient and entertaining workouts. This greater variety of work-outs hitting the market is a result of the diverse types of people who are trying to get in shape. Health clubs are no longer only for those 20-30 year olds who are in competitive training or those who need to be fit as a job requirement. Instead, these facilities are now packed with people of all ages, and various skill and fitness levels. Due to this increase in a broad spectrum of beginners, different exercise programs designed to accommodate these differences have recently been introduced. One of these trendy workouts that have become extremely popular among the masses is Spinning.

One reason for the popularity of spinning, according to instructor McAteer is because it allows “individuals to go at their own pace, so triathletes can (and do) share classes with lawyers and lobbyists. Classes mix serious bike racers with heart patients in their fifties and sixties” (5). As this new class of fitness people emerge, one problem that is common among them is that they are limited what work-outs they can do depending on and individual’s coordination and injuries. In this sense, spinning is user-friendly and it accomodates most anybody. Almost everyone knows how to ride a bike and “the no-impact nature is increasingly welcome for baby boomers” (3). Another aspect of spinning is that it is designed for people who want results in the quickest way–simply speaking, basically everybody. Spinning instructor Sarah Krupps reasoning for why she likes it is “it burns between 500 and 800 calories in an hour. Simply put, it is like cramming a grueling three-hour “Tour de France” ride into a 45 minute encounter with hill climbing, puddle jumping and pedaling like mad to escape snapping dogs” (2). The final beauty of this exercise phenomenon is that it allows novice cyclers to turn down the resistance without others noticing, so that they don’t stand out as they would in an aerobics class. This quality encourages more beginner level people to stick with their exercise regimen because they don’t have to be concerned with embarrassing themselves.

A second trend of the fitness industry was created by a man named Billy Blanks who introduced a workout video combining boxing, Tae Kwon Do and dance to the markets last August. The public reaction to his video has caused Tae-Bo marketers to shell out $2 million weekly to air his 20 minute infomercial…the Tae-Bo videos have grossed some $75 million and Blanks has accepted an advance of $1.5 million to write an exercise book for Bantam” (Labi 77). In contrast to spinning, Tae-Bo is not for everybody. Instead, it is a program for the fitness elite. Despite eliminating the overweight, elderly and injury-prone population from its consumers, the videos have had amazing results. This is not only due to the compact calorie-burning tendency of the video, but the variety of moves and music which can also double as a class in self-defense. So basically, Tae-Bo is an excellent cardio and toning workout with the ability to keep people interested.

One negative effect of the fitness craze is that most people, when catching the work-out fever, are often mislead about the results that they are expecting to see. Some believe that they can just show up at a gym, go ride a bike reasonably hard for a good hour, five days a week, and see the results they want within a month. “The only ways for people to lose weight and increase overall health and cardio fitness,” explains fitness expert Marjorie Whigham-Desir, “are through the proven exercises: weight training, cardiovascular (aerobics) and diet” (84). The toughest challenge for beginning health club members, is the high rate of frustration due to false preconceived notions. To get and maintain a body that is physically fit is an everyday struggle for a lifetime. The “bottom line is a change in lifestyle” (84). Many people get discouraged when they aren’t willing to make the sacrifice that is necessary for the results they expected, which then leads to discouragement and eventual giving up all-together. We must take into account that the people most concerned with losing weight are those who are perceived as “overweight” because of either genetics, lifestyle choices, or a lack of previous motivation. Sometimes preconceptions of the “best” ways to get in shape are misguided. For instance, it is a well known fact that swimming is an excellent means of exercise. But, it “…may not be strenuous enough for overweight people, since they float more easily, causing little or no weight loss” (84). The lack of results due to incorrect work-out strategies are very discouraging for beginners, and more often than not, the novice abandons the gym and returns to the couch. Another problem beginners encounter is the realization that they have to work up to a level where they are even capable of exerting themselves safely in order to lose enough calories to make a visual impact. “On average, overweight people should aim for longer, more frequent workouts, in effect, work harder than others to get an excellent aerobic workout” (85).

Another common misconception among the masses is that spot reduction (targeting a specific area of your body from which to lose weight during a workout) works. Dr. Wescott emphasizes that “where we concentrate the exercise has little effect on where we lose fat. We lose fat first from the last place we added it” (52). This falsity also adds to discouragement because people eyeing a certain place on their body that they consider hard to get rid of–say the “love handles” –exercise without seeing this area diminish in size. They don’t realize that in order to lose fat in that area, they have to lose it everywhere else first. Misconceptions such as these lead to the disheartenment of many trial gym-goers, creating an even larger gap between those who are in shape and those who aren’t.

All in all, the rise of the fitness industry has impacted almost everyone in America, whether it means being more health conscious, body conscious, or fitness-a-phobic. This new fitness movement, if it continues growing at the rate it has been, will keep coming out with innovative ways to motivate the unmotivated into leading more active lifestyles. Ultimately this will lead to an American public that enjoys longer, healthier lives.

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