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Live It!: Willmar gym owner offers insight into the ongoing fitness boom

In the five years Ben Dols has managed Willmar’s Snap Fitness and particularly during the two years he’s owned the gym, memberships there have boomed. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT!)

While obesity rates have more than doubled in the U.S. since 1970, according to government research, online data at statistica.com show memberships to gyms and fitness centers in the U.S. are also rising at exponential rates: from 32.8 million at the beginning of the millennium to 54.1 million through 2014.

A report by Reuters last year also showed a decline in fast food consumption between 2003 and 2009. Those numbers seem to indicate a shift in philosophies for many Americans, who perhaps are now more focused on their long-term health.

In the five years Ben Dols has managed Willmar’s Snap Fitness and particularly during the two years he’s owned the gym, memberships there have boomed.

Live it! Magazine recently sat down with Ben to garner some insight on the ongoing fitness craze.

Live it!: How many members do you have at the gym?

Ben Dols: At the moment, we have 782 active memberships. And one membership relates to single, joint or family. So total members, I want to say we’re around 900.

Live it!: And how do those numbers compare to the same period last year?

BD: I was doing the math last night, and we’re at about a 25 percent increase. It’s pretty substantial.

Live it!: What do you think has most influenced that growth?

BD: If you look at our society today, there are more computers, more technology and so many more jobs that require you to just sit all day. Life’s just easier and more convenient. But our bodies are meant to move. And I think more and more people just feel like they need to move to be healthy. But for us specifically, I think our growth can be attributed to an expansion we did last year, when we added a lot more free weights and Olympic weights. We noticed a trend in the industry — particularly with the renewed CrossFit popularity — in which people were going back to the bare bones with their workouts. Things we used to see with just athletes, like Olympic lifting, deadlifts and similar exercises, are now being recognized more for their benefits, too. There’s a more functional side to that lifting that I think has impacted the growth in popularity for gyms in the last, probably, five years.

Live it!: So are these exercises more popular with everyone or just certain demographics?

BD: For the most part, Olympic lifting has become extremely popular among 20- to 45-year-olds. But there’s also still a huge demand for people to come in and use elliptical machines and do other workouts. The value for those things hasn’t diminished.

Live it!: With this Olympic style of lifting, is there a higher risk for more long-term injuries?

BD: It’s true these exercises are complex and can be humbling. That’s why we offer orientations just for Olympic lifting to make sure those exercises are being done correctly.

Live it!: Do you sense this gym craze, if you will, is influenced by what seems to be a societal obsession with celebrity and some idea that everyone needs to look like a teen idol? Or do you believe it’s a byproduct of changing philosophies about health and lifestyle?

BD: I actually think there’s been a change in philosophy. The old thing about looking at a runway model and everyone wanting to be thin like that isn’t really the case anymore. People now seem to want to be healthy and muscular. That seems more of the norm. And with diet and exercise, it really needs to be something you want to build into your life long term. And you’ll find as you build working out into your life that it becomes an enjoyable part of your life.

Snap Fitness is located at 812 1st St. S. in Willmar. For more information, call 320-222-7627.

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Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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