Gyms Offering Membership Deals To Unemployed

By Staff
April 28, 2009

As many laid-off workers turn to exercise to battle the stress of unemployment, gyms and fitness centers are responding by offering membership breaks.

Along with recent reports of job seekers pursuing volunteer work and congregating at public libraries, news outlets are now noting that many laid-off workers are apparently also heading to the gym. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Al Phillips, owner of five World Gym franchises in Chicago, remarked that the trend is not surprising, and noted that many people exercised more during the recession triggered by the oil crisis in the early 1970s.

Psychologists agree that exercising during a recession is a good idea. "The important thing is to give people a healthy stress outlet to replace negative behavior," said Stephen Gullo, psychologist and author of "The Thin Commandments Diet," who was quoted in The Wall Street Journal.

In a nod to the trend, fitness centers are offering incentives for those who wish to work out but may not be able to foot the bill: World Gym in Chicago is offering to cover more than half the cost of monthly membership if a client becomes laid off until the member finds work. Meanwhile, South Carolina's The Beaufort Gazette reports that unemployed workers can receive free three-month passes to the Wardle Family YMCA in Port Royal. After three months, members will be eligible for scholarships which charge a rate based on income.

"It's basically for anybody that's lost their job this year," said CEO Michael Bostwick. "Losing your job can create a very stressful situation at home. That person needs calm and focus to look for another job."

The Daily Herald in Chicago reports that the Schaumburg Park District is beginning an Unemployment Support Package, which provides passes to fitness centers, swimming pools and rounds of golf at reduced rates.

"This is really to give someone who is unemployed a place to work out and a constructive way to spend time," explained Jean Schlinkmann, the park district executive director. "It was just something we felt we had to do for our loyal constituents."

WBZ in Boston notes that several branches of Gold's Gym are offering the unemployed free workouts during off-peak hours. Moreover, Town Sports International, which operates fitness centers in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, has removed a $59 administrative fee and is offering December free for new members.

Yet despite efforts to lure new members to fitness centers, some people are finding that the least expensive option is to simply work out at home. The Journal reports that sales of fitness DVDs have grown 16 percent in the first quarter of this year, and Manduka, which sells Yoga mats, has seen sales increase 45 percent over last year.

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