Features

Healthy Moves Fitness Experts Take On The Challenge Of Getting Couch Potatoes Excited About Their Health

Imagine the surgeon general warning that 60 percent of the American public fail to get their minimum daily requirement of fat and salt.

That 60 percent would be a major new market for every fast-food chain in the country.

It’s a scenario that remains only a Burger King publicist’s dream. But a recent surgeon general’s report on Americans’ lack of exercise has mobilized the fitness industry.

“We’re trying to reach out to that middle-class, middle-America market,” says Judi Sheppard Missett, the founder and CEO of Jazzercise, who will visit Spokane on Saturday for an Ogden Hall benefit. “We try to make fitness as available as McDonald’s has made hamburgers.”

As a $13.6 million corporation, Jazzercise has pursued the couchpotato market with a winning formula: taking classes to homey church basements and community rec centers rather than chrome-plated health clubs, creating cozy classes with a right-off-a-Hallmark-card family atmosphere, and designing moderate and light workout classes for the uncoordinated, the out-of-shape and the disinclined.

One of Missett’s latest inspirations: a “Musical Chairs” class in which people use a chair for stabilization during light resistance training, and learn simple walking aerobics patterns.

“It came about when I was thinking about getting the couch potato off the couch,” Missett said in a recent telephone interview. “I thought, ‘If I could just get from the couch to a chair, that’s not so far to go.’ “

A surgeon general’s report issued in July stated that more than 60 percent of Americans do not exercise regularly and 25 percent do not exercise at all. In fact, physically fit smokers were found to have a lower death rate than sedentary nonsmokers.

In Spokane, fitness experts also have brainstormed how to lure that market.

While they’ve brought a tempting array of innovative aerobics styles to Spokane lately (see box), many also know a beginner’s likely to leave an unfamiliar hip-hop or kick-boxing class reaching for the Advil.

Instead, these fitness experts focus on comfort and psychological safety. For those afflicted with a fear of Spandex, many fitness programs have instituted dress codes.

At Eastern Washington University’s fitness center, “people are required to wear T-shirts with sleeves so as not to intimidate the beginner,” says Rita Wirtz, EWU’s fitness director. “Intimidation is a huge factor.”

The Spokane Club bans short-shorts and tank tops for the staff, says Sue Linderman, fitness director. They must wear collared polo shirts and longer shorts or pants.

First-timers are often surprised by the atmosphere.

“There’s so little of the teeny little gals with the matching outfits,” says Linderman. “I belong to another club in Spokane where I work out, and you don’t see much of it there either.”

Indeed, as the baby-boom market has aged, they’ve sent shimmery ‘80s-style leotards to Goodwill. Now many people work out in T-shirts and bike shorts. And, says Spokane Club aerobics instructor Tonya Carty, most of her fortysomething clientele longs to work out to the reassuring beat of ‘60s music.

“For me to do hip-hop wouldn’t be very appropriate,” she says. “The clientele is a little more conservative, to put it lightly.”

Cris Matthew, the aerobic fitness coordinator for Community Colleges of Spokane, started a new class last year called Basic Fitness.

Designed for beginners and people with health problems, it includes a one-hour classroom lecture each week. Participants read studies on the benefits of exercise and learn about nutrition.

Matthew explains that by increasing muscle mass, people jack up their metabolism and avoid gaining weight. She teaches the concept with an auto-body metaphor.

“Muscle in my body is like the engine in my car,” Matthew says. “Some people have a Cadillac body and a VW engine. But if they have a VW body and a Cadillac engine, then they get to eat a lot.”

They also meet twice a week for low- to moderate-intensity workouts. The classes are held in a closed gym with lots of privacy.

As people slowly begin to experience the benefits of moving their bodies, they feel better both physically and mentally. Many move into regular programs at the college fitness center when the course ends.

“The fact that I am 51 makes me a good role model,” Matthew says. “People go, ‘Wow, she’s still moving and still going.”’

At Sta-Fit downtown, Becky Jones keeps New Year’s resolution-makers coming back by conveying a nurturing attitude, being friendly and remembering names.

Her advice to beginners: line up an exercise partner, hire a personal trainer and find a workout activity that’s actually fun.

Beginners may want to try dancing, walking, hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing or playing basketball.

“Don’t jump into it with such an intense level that in three days your muscles are going to be so sore you’ll never go back,” Jones says. “Moderation is the key.”

Quick fixes don’t work anyway, says Wirtz.

She predicts that a beginning exerciser will start to feel better within two weeks to a month. It’ll take six weeks to start gaining muscle.

Men may begin to lose weight after six or eight weeks. For women, it may take 12 to 16 weeks.

Missett cites an American Fitness magazine survey which polled 300 women and found the most common excuse for inactivity is lack of time.

But Missett doesn’t buy it.

“The underlying reason is self-esteem,” she says. “They didn’t feel worthy of taking an hour out three or four times a week for themselves.”

She counters the too-busy excuse by asking women if they have time to take three or four days off work for illnesses. If they exercise regularly, she believes, they’re less likely to get sick.

Says Missett, “That answer tends to hook people right off the bat.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: See related story under the headline: Kick-boxing aerobics - exercise with a punch

This sidebar appeared with the story: 1. AEROBICS GUIDE Aerobics classes are known for increasing cardio-vascular fitness, building bone density, raising your metabolic rate, improving your energy level and releasing stress. But individual styles vary greatly. Here’s a roundup of classes: Dance aerobics - The original style of aerobics blended jazz dance with simpler choreography to keep heart rates elevated. High-impact routines, with lots of kicking and jumping, have been largely replaced with low-impact moves to reduce injuries. Advanced students find these classes a great workout. Step aerobics - The most popular form of aerobics today, this style appeals to people who aren’t adept at learning choreography. Nearly any healthy participant can climb a step. Students use steps ranging from 4 to 8 inches for routines featuring marching, tapping, hops and turns. Simpler versions of step classes are often ideal for beginners. Slide aerobics - Participants wear stockings over their workout shoes and stand on a 3-foot plastic slide anchored with a rubber stopper. They do lateral, side-to-side movements with knee lifts and toe taps. One caution: It’s not for anyone with knee problems. Water aerobics - Participants stand in chest-high water, wear water socks and use the water for resistance. A less intense workout than many others, it’s often ideal for beginners or people with health problems. Short people, though, are at a disadvantage. Hip-hop aerobics - This style is a funky cross between aerobics and jazz dancing. It offers more dance, more choreography and more rhythm than most classes. Perfect for MTV fans, these classes aren’t for every generation. To find the aerobics classes that are right for you, check the Yellow Pages under Health Clubs and Exercise and Physical Fitness Programs. For community programs, call college fitness centers or agencies such as the YMCA (838-3577) and the YWCA (326-1190). For classes offered through the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, call 625-6200. Jamie Tobias Neely

2. A CLASS WITH MISSETT Judi Sheppard Missett, the founder and CEO of Jazzercise, will teach a benefit aerobics class Saturday at the Valley Jazzercise Center. The class will raise money for Anna Ogden Hall, and participants are asked to donate two or more items or $10. This non-profit shelter for women and children is in need of food, household and office supplies and toiletries. “It’s a tremendous facility that helps women get through a tough spot in their lives,” says Kathy Brown, president of the Valley Jazzercise Center. “It’s a charity our people can really relate to.” The class will be at 10 a.m., but the center will be open from 8 a.m. to noon to accept donations. It is located at 321 S. Dishman-Mica Road. For more information, call 891-6441.

See related story under the headline: Kick-boxing aerobics - exercise with a punch

This sidebar appeared with the story: 1. AEROBICS GUIDE Aerobics classes are known for increasing cardio-vascular fitness, building bone density, raising your metabolic rate, improving your energy level and releasing stress. But individual styles vary greatly. Here’s a roundup of classes: Dance aerobics - The original style of aerobics blended jazz dance with simpler choreography to keep heart rates elevated. High-impact routines, with lots of kicking and jumping, have been largely replaced with low-impact moves to reduce injuries. Advanced students find these classes a great workout. Step aerobics - The most popular form of aerobics today, this style appeals to people who aren’t adept at learning choreography. Nearly any healthy participant can climb a step. Students use steps ranging from 4 to 8 inches for routines featuring marching, tapping, hops and turns. Simpler versions of step classes are often ideal for beginners. Slide aerobics - Participants wear stockings over their workout shoes and stand on a 3-foot plastic slide anchored with a rubber stopper. They do lateral, side-to-side movements with knee lifts and toe taps. One caution: It’s not for anyone with knee problems. Water aerobics - Participants stand in chest-high water, wear water socks and use the water for resistance. A less intense workout than many others, it’s often ideal for beginners or people with health problems. Short people, though, are at a disadvantage. Hip-hop aerobics - This style is a funky cross between aerobics and jazz dancing. It offers more dance, more choreography and more rhythm than most classes. Perfect for MTV fans, these classes aren’t for every generation. To find the aerobics classes that are right for you, check the Yellow Pages under Health Clubs and Exercise and Physical Fitness Programs. For community programs, call college fitness centers or agencies such as the YMCA (838-3577) and the YWCA (326-1190). For classes offered through the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, call 625-6200. Jamie Tobias Neely

2. A CLASS WITH MISSETT Judi Sheppard Missett, the founder and CEO of Jazzercise, will teach a benefit aerobics class Saturday at the Valley Jazzercise Center. The class will raise money for Anna Ogden Hall, and participants are asked to donate two or more items or $10. This non-profit shelter for women and children is in need of food, household and office supplies and toiletries. “It’s a tremendous facility that helps women get through a tough spot in their lives,” says Kathy Brown, president of the Valley Jazzercise Center. “It’s a charity our people can really relate to.” The class will be at 10 a.m., but the center will be open from 8 a.m. to noon to accept donations. It is located at 321 S. Dishman-Mica Road. For more information, call 891-6441.



Click here to comment on this story »





Blogs


Bloomsday 2016

It's all hands on deck for the 40th year of Bloomsday. Kathy Plonka and Tyler Tjomsland are covering Browne's Addition and Doomsday Hill, Colin Mulvany is walking the course producing ...







Sections


Profile

Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
Customer service:
(800) 338-8801
Newsroom:
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Back to Spokesman Mobile