Health clubs may realize profits with weight management centers.

Fueled by the obesity epidemic, an increasing number of health clubs are morphing into combination fitness centers and weight loss centers. These clubs offer a mix of exercise equipment and specialists along with nutritional supplements, weight-loss counselors and other services geared toward those looking to shed a few pounds.

Bally Total Fitness and Life Time Fitness Inc. are the latest to hop onto the trend.

“We've been thinking of it for more than two years,” said Amy Shulman, vice president of corporate development for Bally Total Fitness, about the new weight management program. “We realize that it takes more than just exercise to lose weight and it is a natural progression of our fitness and nutritional supplement offerings.”

Casey Conrad, founder and CEO of the Healthy Inspirations, the licensed weight loss and lifestyle program, which is found in health clubs and as stand-alone operations, says that the attraction for clubs is expanding the membership pool.

“There are 64.5 percent of Americans who are overweight while only 12 percent or so of Americans are members of clubs. That shows there is a gap between people that need health and fitness and those that are getting it at the traditional clubs” said Conrad, whose concept is expected to top 100 locations by year's end.

“The problem is that you can't just offer those people a product or some supplements and leave them on their own; there has to be a solid program behind it.”

Bally is launching the Weight Management Program, a comprehensive nutrition and exercise program customized to an individual's unique metabolism using HealtheTech's BodyGem device and specific weight goals. Meanwhile, Life Time Fitness has launched LeanSource, a new line of Life Time Fitness-branded products and educational materials designed to help people lose weight safely and effectively.

”The Weight Management Program further solidifies Bally's position as the one-stop shop for all consumers' health, fitness and nutrition needs,” said Paul Toback, president and chief executive officer, Bally Total Fitness.

“Up until now, consumers could not easily or economically have their resting metabolic rate measured. Now, they can visit their local Bally to obtain an informed, serious and long-term approach to weight management, using science and technology, rather than myth and fads.”

The Life Time line of supplements and education includes thermogenic supplements, meal replacement shakes, nutritional bars and an educational, lifestyle management program. The company said that LeanSource products are supported by third-party research and formulated with safe and effective ingredients.

“More than 50 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and more than 33 percent of adults are trying to lose weight,” said Jeff Zwiefel, vice president, Life Time Fitness Nutritional Division. “This national weight gain epidemic has been accompanied by a glut of weight loss supplements and programs, many of which are scientifically ineffective, highly impractical or simply unsafe.”