Today keeping fit, looking good and feeling good are quite daunting
tasks. Many people are sedentary, as most places of work are thoroughly
computerized, which means that employees are stuck behind a desk all day
long. What’s more, the Internet enables more and more people to work
from home, which means they stay at home, so there is no need to walk or
even drive to work. This lack of mobility is harmful to our health, as
it can promote obesity, heart disease and the like. One of the ways to
regulate weight is by eating nutritious food and doing the right kind of
exercise. This can be accomplished by working out in a gym or in the
privacy of one’s own home.
The health club industry in Israel is highly developed and caters to all needs and most budgets.
to rough estimates, there are 2,500 establishments in Israel that offer
physical training services and facilities. These include full-fledged
gyms, hotels, country clubs and community centers.
But keeping up a training regime is no easy matter.
Sela, general manager of the Great Shape chain of health clubs, says,
“Exercising on a regular basis makes people feel better and look better.
In these sedentary times, when the average person remains physically
inactive for most of the day and the pressures of daily life gets more
stressful by the minute, exercising on a regular basis is a way to
compensate the body for the lack of activity which is unnatural to the
body and therefore harmful to one’s health. It is also a way to relax
from the stresses of work,” he says.
“A gym is the best way to
fulfill the famous Roman maxim ‘Mens sana in corpum sano,’ a healthy
mind in a healthy body. The mounting stress of daily life could
literally drive one crazy. At a gym, people can relax in a clublike
atmosphere, while the physical activity can prevent many
hypokinetic-related illnesses, especially those related to heart
disease,” says Sela.
Physical training within a supportive environment is advisable, but there is an inherent problem. Dropping out
people want to look better, but they are not so willing to maintain the
effort. One of the biggest problems of gym chains is how to minimize
the dropout rate. The turnover of gym members in Israel exceeds 60
percent. This means that 60% of the clients do not renew their
What is the reason for such a high dropout rate and how do the managers of health clubs address these problems?
to Eyal Amon, manager of Holmes Place Israel, “The high level of
membership non-renewal does not necessarily mean that the number of
people who are doing physical training is decreasing; it may mean that
they are changing clubs. Some may want to go to a less expensive club or
may want to exercise on their own, as they feel they cannot afford the
expense or don’t have the time to go to the club. Others may drop out
altogether, feeling that they don’t want to exercise anymore. This is a
fact of life for us, and we have to adapt to the circumstances,” he
says. “From a more technical perspective,” Amon continues, “the dropout
level decreases when members see results, especially physical results in
that they look slimmer and more toned; when a positive relationship has
been created with the instructor; and when a social relationship has
been created with other members, especially when exercising in a group.
That being said, we try to create the right social ambience to create
the necessary relationship between staff and members and to provide the
best professional service.”
Amon adds that the need to exercise is increasing constantly with lifestyle and with advancing age.
and women who want to look and feel fit should be constantly aware of
the state of their calorie bank to see whether they have surplus
calories or a deficit in calories. Calories are produced by eating, and
they are burnt off by physical exercise. Even breathing burns calories.
Each excess of 7,000 calories produces one kilogram of fat. Each deficit
of 7,000 calories burns one kilo of fat,” he says.Keeping it up
exercising in a professional facility, it is possible to get expert
advice on calorie intake and expenditure and adapt one’s exercise
program accordingly. Energy expenditure, or basic metabolic rate,
decreases with age, which means it is harder to burn calories.
Therefore, one should either reduce food intake or increase physical
At present, some one million Israelis exercise on a
regular basis, which means they are members of a gym. This may seem like
a lot, but it isn’t. It amounts to 13% of the total population,
compared to 20% in the US and the UK. Awareness of the need to keep fit
for both health and aesthetic reasons is increasing, but it has a long
way to go before it reaches Western levels.
In Israel, exercising
at a gym is very seasonal. Demand goes up substantially just before
summer when women want to look slim and attractive at the beach, and men
want to look manly and muscular. At the end of the summer attendance
decreases, only to reappear after the High Holidays when the calories
have added up.
Because of the importance of keeping physically
fit, especially in these sedentary times, people should be exercising on
a regular basis. The various gym and health club chains are busily
promoting themselves. For them, the more members and clients, the rosier
the balance sheet of increased income and profits. Sela agrees that it
is in the interest of the industry to increase demand, but it is also in
the interest of any government that has the well-being of its citizens
at heart. And it is in the interest of governments that want to cut
costs, especially in their health budget.
It is a well-known fact
that exercising on a regular basis reduces the tendency to get sick,
especially cholesterol-related illnesses such as heart disease and
circulatory problems. Exercising two to three hours a week will
substantially reduce the risk of developing heart disease.For women only
C is a special kind of fitness center. It caters to women only. A
fitness center that caters exclusively to women is different than one
that caters primarily to men.
As Shiri Even-Zahav, Studio C’s
marcom manager, explains, “Fitness centers for men put an emphasis on
developing strength and enlarging muscles through weight lifting,
push-ups, etc. With women, it is different. The emphasis is on
flexibility of the muscles, stretching the muscles for straight backs,
etc. We adapt the physical exercises to the needs and physiology of the
client. We have members from age nine to 80, and their needs are
different,” she says.
In a fitness center that caters to women,
expertise on how to treat women during pregnancy and after is very
important. Proper physical exercise can minimize the impact of pregnancy
on the shape of the body, while proper postnatal exercise can help
retain the elasticity of the body, etc.
For this purpose, Studio C
has a team of professional instructors and the most modern equipment.
The management of Studio C believes in the importance of proper
nutrition and eating habits; therefore, they have clinical dieticians to
give advice on the right diet on an individual basis. Within the
framework of the exercise program, there are also courses on personal
self-defense. The training regime in women’s fitness centers is meant to
preserve the shape of the female body as much as possible. But as
Even-Zahav explains, “The right physical exercise enhances the feeling
of well-being, and that is also reflected in the face.The social aspect of keeping fit
centers are focused primarily on physical training, on developing
muscles, creating physical activity and burning calories. Country clubs,
on the other hand, encourage physical activity but are more socially
oriented. Members go there to train, but they also go to meet friends,
have a meal together, etc.
In Israel, a country club is not
necessarily in “the country.” Any establishment with a swimming pool, a
gym and one or two tennis courts goes by the name of a country club,
even if it is located in downtown Tel Aviv.
Kobi Maimon, general
manager of the Sportan chain of country clubs, says, “The municipalities
are very keen on promoting country clubs in their cities. They are
willing to supply the land, mostly in the suburbs. Such an establishment
serves two purposes: It provides sporting and social services, and it
is a green oasis in the urban landscape.”
Maimon adds, “The
concept of the country club is very different from that of a fitness
center. We emphasize the team spirit of sport; we cater to the needs of
the family; and we create a pleasant social atmosphere. As a result, the
dropout rate of country clubs is 25% to 30% on average - much less than
the dropout rate of fitness centers.