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Is a healthy lifestyle contagious?

By Dee Jetton. Is obesity contagious? Research shows there’s more to it than genetics and over-eating. Indeed, genetics are a given. However, researchers theorize social circles might have an influence on non-genetic transmission and prevalence of obesity.

Diana Thomas, a math professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, says the people you associate with are key influencers of lifestyle and weight.

“If you’re somebody who loves to go to the gym and loves to eat healthy, it’s unlikely that you’re going to draw in a circle of friends that love to smoke cigarettes and love to eat at fast-food restaurants. You’re going to kind of surround yourself and emulate the behavior of a cluster around you. There is some experimental evidence for that,” she says.

It seems like everyone is working on their weight; nearly a third of Americans are obese. U.S. fast-food sales in 2014 reached $198.9 billion. According to Statista, they will approach $215 billion this year and $224 billion in 2020.

There’s a huge appetite for exercise: 20 percent of Americans pay for a gym membership. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fitness and recreational sports centers employed 533,200 people in 2014, and jobs are expected to grow 8 percent by 2024.

There are plenty of opportunities to meet up with like-minded, healthy individuals and connect with experts who can help keep you on track.

De’Voinn Holland of AV8 Flying To Fitness

Personal training is strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs in personal training and fitness instruction will increase by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average 14 percent for all occupations.

Robert Vaughan, a dentist whose offices are in Birkdale, trains with De’Voinn Holland of AV8 Flying To Fitness, a one-on-one fitness business. “He pushes me when needed and keeps things interesting,” Vaughan says.

He has sampled other programs, iincluding the original Cornelius Crossfit, but personal training fits his work and family demands.

According to the CDC, almost 70 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight. Nevertheless, Holland says staying motivated to exercise alone is hard.

“It’s easy to settle on a plateau without support and not everyone is driven by group classes, so personal training is a good alternative,” says Holland, a vegetarian.

He encourages fitness-mnded people to look at active events ranging from health fairs to boot camps. “Health-focused events definitely contribute to the overall health of the community – they breed encouragement and success,” he says. A standard program runs around $250 a month and includes customized training, support and accountability, weekly motivation and a nutrition program.

Yoga is a growing business, too. Cornelius-based Community Yoga was created as a way to “support one another on the journey called life,” says owner Amy Schneider.

“It’s a well known fact that being accountable to your friends as well as your instructor is critical for success,” she says.

Amy Schneider

The beginning of the year, when New Years resolutions are still fresh, means fitness companies are vying for customers. The industry has players from every sector, from municipalities to medical centers, from non-profits like the YMCA to national franchises.

Personal trainers can offer private sessions in a client home. Virtual communities mean you can share your fitness experiences with anyone any where.

Diets, habits and fads come and go, but the desire to be fit and healthy lasts all year long. Meanwhile, people are living longer and Millennials are putting more time and money into their health.

Health clubs generated $27.6 billion in revenue in 2016 compared to $25.8 billion in 2015, an increase of 7.2 percent, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

“Millennials, and those with a millennial mindset, are behind this growth. They understand investments in their health are important, not only for their summer fitness goals but also for their long-term wellness,” said Trever Ackerman, of WellBiz Brands, a health and fitness franchisor. “Millennials also prefer to engage in a wider variety of activities than their parents, which has helped fuel the studio fitness boom we’ve seen during the past decade.”

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