Resolutions create great opportunity for health care industry

The New Year brings on new resolutions for many. For those of us who overindulged in the holidays one of those changes is often to take better care of ourselves. For entrepreneurs trying to help people become more fit, each New Year can bring new customers.

Despite a meager increase of 0.1 percent in disposable income in the U.S. over the past five years, the fitness industry has grown at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent. This growth is from fitness clubs, pilates and yoga studios, boxing gyms and clubs, personal trainers, fitness DVD production and online sporting apparel sales.

Sales were predicted to exceed $46 billion in 2013, with gyms and fitness clubs accounting for a little more than half of that amount. Recent reports of increased obesity levels in the U.S. also have helped to make health-related businesses among the hottest new opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Cecelia Fruth, owner of Curves in Tiffin, said she sees an increase in business at the beginning of the year that decreases in subsequent months.

“We all have good intentions for the new year,” she said.

Fruth said business has been steady for most of the seven years she has owned the club, although she has seen some decrease in the number of employers who help pay for their employees’ health club fees. Curves caters primarily to female clients.

According to Mark Somodi, executive director at P.T. Services Rehabilitation Inc., more people are making an effort to be in better physical shape for personal reasons and also because some health insurance plans require it.

“This attitude of turning over a new leaf after Jan. 1 has changed for many to be a year-around attempt to exercise, eat appropriately and to live healthier lifestyles,” Somodi said.

A recent list of the best industries for starting a business compiled by Inc. magazine included a number of health and wellness entries.

Yoga-related businesses were near the top of that list. In 2012, a total 15 million Americans spent $27 billion on yoga classes, apparel and related products. This represents an 87 percent increase in the last five years, according to Yoga Journal.

The fastest area of growth in this area is men’s yoga gear. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport opened a yoga room for those wanting to get in a session between flights.

Yoga is catching on in Tiffin.

People are beginning to be more open to the idea that yoga can be anything you need it to be. It can be a way to get or stay in shape, manage stress or meet new people.

“I have taught well over 300 people in Tiffin alone and their reasons for taking my class are as diverse as the students themselves,” said Erin Kisabeth, who has been teaching yoga classes locally for the past year.

Kisabeth has had some men in her classes.

“I believe the growing popularity of yoga in professional and collegiate athletics has led to the mainstream acceptance by men,” she said, noting she started practicing yoga while a collegiate athlete.

The self-improvement industry is included on Inc.’s list of best potential start-ups. Along with physical health, self-improvement includes advice on motivation, wealth building and even spiritual affairs. The self-help industry has been growing at a rate of 5-6 percent over the past 10 years.

One of the more recent areas of interest for Tiffin University students is to start their own sports or recreations business. TU is looking at creating entrepreneurship programs in that area.

Bonnie Tiell, associate professor of sports management at TU, said: “Our focus is to provide students with the tools and skills to become certified fitness specialists, to own their own martial arts or dance studio, to run their own volleyball club, open their own gym, or to market themselves as an independent contractor to train athletes.”

The outlook for employment in the rehab industry that includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology looks bright for individuals entering the workforce, Somodi said. Part of this is attributed to the aging population in the U.S.

Exercise no longer is reserved for just personal time. More organizations are providing employees opportunities to exercise on the job. While Silicon Valley companies are known for providing wellness for their employees, many firms in other industries now are offering benefits.

This expansion has created a market for entrepreneurs who design and provide fitness and wellness programs.

Another trend has entrepreneurs meeting clients for a run or spinning class instead of for a meal. Business is not just for the golf course anymore and entrepreneurs are finding ways to capitalize on this movement.

Perry Haan is professor of marketing and entrepreneurship and former dean of the business school at Tiffin University. He can be reached at (419) 618-2867 or