Type of Counseling:one-to-one, or a small group, personal trainers
Typical Cost:under $250
Type Program:health club chain
Type of Foods Used:regular grocery store food and meal replacement shakes
At-Home or Direct Mail Plan Available?No
100 Ritchie Road
Woodway, TX 76712
After several semi-successful tries at the health club industry, Curves International founder, Gary Heavin, decided to concentrate on the 100-person "niche" of the womenís fitness market. Heavin and his wife opened the first Curves in 1992. In the 15 years since opening the first Curves, this niche club rapidly grew into a chain of close to 10,000+ franchises worldwide in 44 nations, with mostly word-of-mouth advertising and nearly 4 million members. Curves now has about 7,800 locations in the United States. The company now constitutes about 27% of all health clubs in America, and is the largest fitness franchise in the World.
According to Curves research, 70% of women across this country are not exercising on a regular basis, according to the National Institute of Health. The two complaints women have about health clubs are time constraints and not feeling comfortable in a co-ed club. The conventional health club workout takes about 90 minutes. Typically, you do your cardio exercises for 30 minutes, and then go on to the weight room. So 30-minute fitness is what most women will take. The other problem is the atmosphere. In the conventional gyms across the U.S., the equipment is designed to fit the average man and the environment was comfortable only for men. Women were welcome, but they often felt uncomfortable there. So they didnít go.
The Curves approach to weight loss is to raise metabolism so you donít have to be stuck with a maintenance diet. Management claims that whatís unique about Curves is that you can copy the exercise equipment but not the culture. The company has grown totally by word of mouth and has attracted people with the right priorities- people with a passion for service.
Curves gyms are small, simple workout facilities often located in strip malls, which cater to overweight woman who have never worked out. They offer only one service: a tightly structured, 30-minute circuit-training workout on 8-12 machines. A recorded voice tells you when to move to the next machine. Most locations are open just seven hours a day, and there are no showers.
Management also made it convenient and cheap to buy a franchise, which has inspired thousands of first-time entrepreneurs, many of them women. Membership fees range from $29 to $49 per month, varying from state tot state. There is also an initiation fee, usually $50 to $100. The typical Curves spans just 1,200 to 1,500 sq. ft. and can be profitable with as few as 200 members. Those low numbers let owners focus on service rather than recruitment. Experienced instructors at Curves offer one-on-one training.
As of late January, Curves was offering a special 30% off and 30 days free deal (with a 12-month program).
There are 1,268 foreign franchises, in Mexico, Canada (737) and several European countries. Curves locations overseas have showers, amenities not offered to American woman because they tend to prefer the privacy of their own bathrooms.
Curves International also has produced a book of workout and diet advice co-authored by founder Gary Heavin.
In January 2003, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Curves as the 2nd best franchise overall, the fastest growing franchise, and the #1 fitness franchise.
The Curves Weight Loss Method
The Curves Weight Loss Method combines exercise with a temporary method of dieting that will enable permanent results, without permanent dieting. For those who have 20 or more pounds to lose, Curves facilities offer a six-week course based on Heavinís weight loss method that recommends either a low-calorie regime or the high protein program, depending on a personís sensitivity to insulin. Both options encourage higher percentages of protein to help protect lean tissue.
Special Diet Program
Apart from the health club/workout services ($29-49 per month), one can also use the Curves 6-Week Solution. Since each Curves is an individually owned and operated franchise, you will find different deals and prices, depending on where you go and when. The company offers a $99 package, where you get: once-a-week classes for 7 weeks, held at the Curves facility, a tote bag, a workbook, and 3 diet supplements (meal replacements). There are two diet plans to choose from: a low carb/high protein plan or a low calorie plan.
It does not appear that any kind of personal counseling is provided.
The meal replacement shake/supplement powder costs $19.95 per can. One shake a day is recommended, in addition to eating regular food for the other two meals.
The book, Curves, written by the company founder, is available in retail stores such as Samís Club (Wal-Mart), on Amazon.com, and at other locations.
BestDietForMe.com analysts think that obviously, with the companyís rapid growth, they must be doing something right. This chain does have a few unique features and what consumers might consider advantagesóthe fact that it is a health club for women only, and the requirement that you only need to work out for 30 minutes per session. The cost is on a par with other health club chains such as Ballyís. Menu planning, personal training and weight loss counseling is available as well. Another plus is that most of the franchise owners are women, which may make them more attuned to the needs of female dieters.
Summary of Health Club-Based Weight Loss Programs
In the United States there are about 29,500 health clubs operating today. A substantial share of them offers some kind of weight loss plan, in addition to just exercise. The reality is that most people that join health clubs are there to lose or maintain weight. The industryís trade group "IHRSA" further reports that 41 million Americans are paying dues to be members of health clubs. Of these members, 51.6% are women. IHRSA reports that the big growth segment today is people over age 55, more of whom are exercising for quality of life concerns, not to lose weight.
Approximately 16,700 health clubs in the U.S. today are estimated by Marketdata to offer some form of weight loss or nutritional counseling program (about 57% of all clubs).
Health clubs find adding weight loss to be a "natural" for members, since the dieter has access to exercise facilities and expertise, as well as nutrition information -- a combination thatís rarely available at the typical commercial weight loss center.
According to Club Industry magazine... "Many club owners spend almost no money on paid advertising. One owner says that 90% of his new customers are referred by current or former clients.
Health clubs also recognize that they need to offer programs for pregnant women, the excessively overweight and older people. Nutrition service vendors say baby boomers will demand a greater variety of weight-management products, as they grow older and heavier.
Another telling quote: "We have all of them here in the area: Jenny Craig, Diet Center, Weight Watchers," ...But we donít see them as competition. We get a lot of referrals from them because they see us as offering the exercise component they donít. When we opened seven years ago our marketing strategy was to go to each of the commercial weight-loss centers and offer to give talks on exercise and weight loss."
Exercise is NOT a primary component of most weight-loss programs. Thereís a big void between Jenny Craig, for example, and health clubs, say club owners. The health club is in a unique position to work with one of the weight-loss clinics. For example, when one purchases a Jenny Craig diet program they could get a membership in a health club.
Some clubs hire a professional counselor or train an existing staff member to provide nutrition information. At other locations, a registered dietitian (RD) or nutritionist offers counseling, then gives the club a percentage of fees in exchange for free office space. Other strategies include homemade or turnkey programs, or simply selling non-prescription nutritional supplements and weight loss aids. Yet another alternative is to join forces with a commercial weight-loss center.
According to consultants and industry insiders, fitness clubs are only beginning to aggressively market themselves as weight management and nutrition centers. Club Industry reported that many club owners are focusing on current members to launch new weight management programs. While media attention builds interest in the program, the "facilitator" (group leader) is the main reason why people stay with or leave the program (The same is true for popular group leaders in commercial diet programs).
Health club industry consultants also estimates that 50% of health cubs today offer some type of weight loss program, and they point out that they run the gamut in style, content and price. Frequently, theyíre not called "diet" programs, but "nutrition" programs. All such programs are based on proper nutrition coupled with exercise. Personal trainers are getting involved as well, being bundled with a clubís nutrition program.
According to consultants, the most successful programs are found in health clubs where nutrition, fitness and weight management programming are the central themes to all other member activities. The typical price for a 12-week program with one-on-one counseling usually ranges from $129-299. Most health club owners undervalue their weight management programs. However, most clubs discover that the price of their weight management plan, in addition to the cost of a membership, still comes out less that fees charged by the large commercial diet companies.
A Sample Health Club Weight Loss Program
This is a program licensed by SOF, Inc. (Durango, CO). This program continues to grow, now offered in 4,500 health clubs, corporations, hospitals and managed care organizations combined (vs. 3,000 in early 1997). Itís estimated that perhaps 300 U.S. health clubs now use the program, of this tally.
THINK LIGHT!® promotes a realistic, lifestyle approach to eating, exercise and behavior change. It's is a healthy eating program that takes the hassle out of planning and preparing low fat meals and snacks. Packaged in a file card system, the plan includes menus, quick, light recipes and weekly grocery lists. THINK LIGHT!® is a complete, "turn-key" weight management program. The program is usually combined with a health clubís counseling and personal training services and workshops. As such, there is no "typical" price. It can range from $45 to $495, depending on the other health club services it is bundled with.
It was developed by a team of health professionals - registered dietitians, exercise physiologists and behavioral psychology experts. The firm has added phone and email-based support services.
Typically a 6-week THINK LIGHT!® class series including the THINK LIGHT!® - Lowfat Living Plan and Companion Guide might be priced at $99-$179, depending on the market.
Hereís one example of a small chain of health clubs using THINK LIGHT! The 3-month club membership included the following: (cost: $199 single, $299 couple, $399 family)
The THINK LIGHT! Lowfat Living Plan
Group exercise session once/week
3 personal training appointments
Pre/post body fat composition and weight record
Unlimited use of facility.
The Top 10 Health Club Chains in the United States
(check your area for location of centers, or call the headquarters phone numbers below)
Bally Total Fitness
# of Sites: 419
24 Hour Fitness
San Francisco, CA
# of Sites: 305
Town Sports International
New York, NY
# of Sites: 129
Eden Prairie, MN
# of Sites: 30
The Wellbridge Co.
# of Sites: 44
The Sports Club Co.
Los Angeles, CA
# of Sites: 10
# of Sites: 45
Western Athletic Club
San Francisco, CA
# of Sites: 11
The Sport & Health Co.
# of Sites: 28
Spectrum Clubs Inc.
El Segundo, CA
# of Sites: 19
San Francisco, CA
# of Sites: 130
The information on this web site is intended for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Before starting any weight loss program, it is recommended that you consult your physician or health care professional.
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