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Staying on Top of Your Game: The Business of Fitness

Sure, reports on the economy remain dismal and you still have to worry about losing your job. But, at least you’re in good physical shape. Or, if not, you should be. In today’s economy, staying fit has implications that go beyond a trim waist and a naturally-induced positive outlook. Despite the economy, the business of staying fit offers everyone, no matter his job status, a way to ward off illness, stress, and depression, while maintaining a healthy attitude. Perhaps that explains why many athletic clubs currently enjoy a good state of health. Many people see physical fitness, especially in economic hard times, as a necessity — not a luxury, even if it takes a bit of belt-tightening to afford it. So rather than giving up their memberships, more people seem to be signing up. The benefit goes both ways. People who stay physically fit may improve their prospects in terms of job fitness, too. 

Physical Therapist Jeff Beaupre of outpatient therapy services at Flagstaff Medical Center says that staying in shape is easy, and doesn’t need to be costly. “Just get a good pair of shoes and a partner,” he said. “Exercise wards off stress and can help prevent the incidence of depression.” 
For many Flagstaff residents, however, physical fitness is more than sturdy footwear. It has an influence on work performance. For the unemployed, a regular athletic or exercise regime can keep one mentally fit as well. Citing a University of Lancaster study, Beaupre notes that exercise can reduce absenteeism, health care claims, and employee turnover. It also leads to improved productivity and morale. 

As a return on investment, it makes as much sense for employers to encourage healthy lifestyles as it does for employees to maintain them. Good health sends a message to current or prospective employers that you are job committed, willing, and able to perform. Given that being fit is good business, how are Flagstaff athletic clubs faring these days? 

Lisa Ray, co-owner of Cross Fit Flagstaff with her husband Mike, moved to town three and a half years ago and set up a personal training gym in their garage as a “hobby business.” Within weeks, they were looking for a bigger space. By October of 2009, they graduated to a 6000-square-foot facility to accommodate a virtual flood of clients who, Ray says, “realize how important it is to stay healthy, even if they have to cut back.” 
Cross Fit’s clients range from highschoolers to 70-year old grandmothers, and everyone in between. “We’ve lost a few clients,” Ray said, due to the current economy, “but we’ve brought in a lot, too. They know it’s super important for their life.” 

“Clearly, if you exercise, it improves your overall sense of well-being,” said Mickie Tounten, lead occupational therapist at FMC. “Everyone has to make their own financial decisions,” he says, but anxiety and depression are potential consequences of financial loss and economic hardship that can impact health in other ways through poor sleep habits, high blood pressure, and increased chance of heart disease. While correlations between health and likelihood of landing a great job have not been established, poor health won’t make it any easier to find and keep a job. 

Mountain Sky Jazzercize owner Laura Enciso said, “Fitness should be viewed as essential.” Over the past thirteen years, her clientele has been fairly constant, but she has seen some downturn in her business over the past year. She points out that many insurance companies will pay, subsidize or discount clients’ fitness memberships. “Unfortunately, too many people don’t take advantage of the benefit,” she said. “When people decide to stop coming, it is usually with great regret.” 

One of Flagstaff’s largest athletic clubs recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. With two locations, Flagstaff Athletic Club currently has over 250 employees, and combined indoor facilities of 110,000 square feet. It easily lives up to its claims to be the Number One purveyor of health, fitness and recreation in Northern Arizona. 

The relationship between physical fitness, economic fitness, and job fitness is no stretch, especially in Flagstaff. So, pumping it up health-wise is good advice. We are a town that appreciates the benefits of good health, and it shows. FBN

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