We've all heard that most people would prefer to swallow a pill than work hard to lose weight and get healthier. I don't know that a survey was ever performed to substantiate this claim, but based on my knowledge of human behavior, I'm willing to believe it's true. However, I'm also hopeful that it's changing despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval for long-term use of two drugs (and a third is under review) for weight loss. The effects of exercise and a proper diet go far beyond the simple weight loss benefit that these pills provide (not to mention these pills' potential adverse side effects). The pills don't help individuals gain strength, improve their cardio function, increase flexibility and balance, or prevent diseases that are related to poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
Americans know they need to lose weight. Sixty-four percent of women surveyed in September 2006 said that getting in shape would be on their list of New Year's resolutions. It's more than just a New Year's thought though. Seventy-one percent of women decide at least twice a year to eat right and exercise, and 37 percent renew their weight-loss and fitness vows four or more times a year, according to the results of the Kraft South Beach Diet survey.
Americans aren't passing the buck when it comes to the obesity epidemic either. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, recently released a 2004 survey of people of varying weight. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed cited lack of will power as one cause of the obesity epidemic, and 73 percent cited the high cost of healthy food.
Based partly on these survey results, I get the impression that the media's relentless focus on the obesity epidemic may have begun turning the tide. And shows such as NBC's “The Biggest Loser” may be helping. The show follows two groups of overweight individuals as they compete to see who loses the most weight through a regimen of exercise and proper nutrition. I have watched a few episodes of the show, and I can only imagine how inspirational a show like this could be to an overweight or obese individual. The series shows the pain of exercise, but it also shows the contestants' dedication to achieve their desired results and most importantly, it shows the joy of having accomplished such an important goal. It gives viewers a glimpse at what their road to a whole new body and life might look like (sans the cameras and the isolation from their family and the constant attention from a personal trainer).
Although 24 Hour Fitness is the official club sponsor of the show, many fitness facilities have organized similar weight loss competitions at their own facilities for years. Jumping on this bandwagon may be one way to reach out to the population our industry has yet to truly tap (however, clubs that do so must remember that this group requires a lot more hand-holding and personal attention than an already-fit member).
I don't know that this show has or will be responsible for moving hordes of overweight and obese people into the gym, but based on the fact that so many people applied to be on the last show, I have to surmise that the show is motivating a certain portion of people. So as more drug companies seek approval for their weight loss pills, we can only hope that shows such as “The Biggest Loser” and like-minded competitions within fitness facilities around the country will continue to show people that working hard for an important goal may be difficult, but it offers more health-related and personal rewards than swallowing a daily pill.