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Fitness industry offers free services to Guard and reserve families

May. 31, 2011 - 02:32PM   |   Last Updated: May. 31, 2011 - 02:32PM  |  
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The fitness industry is putting some muscle into the well-being of families of deployed National Guard and reserve members, offering free gym memberships and personal training sessions.

Starting June 1, participating members of the International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association and the American Council on Exercise's network of fitness professionals will make these donations as their part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Joining Forces" initiative, which encourages individuals and organizations to support military families in their communities.

It also dovetails with her "Let's Move!" campaign, aimed at promoting active lifestyles.

The donations are targeted to Guard and reserve members and their families because they generally don't live near military installations that offer free fitness centers and programs.

But Meredith Poppler, vice president of industry growth for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, said club operators are encouraged to expand free memberships to other components and their families if possible.

Scott Goudeseune, chief executive officer of the American Council on Exercise, said if this program is successful, the organization is "willing to take a look at anything. We want to give back to those who have given so much to this country."

Here's how it will work:

• Starting June 1, participating IHRSA members are encouraged to offer free six-month memberships to immediate families of deployed Guard and reserve members. Renewal rates and terms would be up to individual club operators, Poppler said.

Immediate family members include spouses, teenage children, parents or siblings. If you are already a member of a participating club, you should expect to fulfill your contractual obligations.

About 6,000 clubs across the country are members of IHRSA, but individual clubs will decide whether to participate. At this point, Poppler said, no one can promise that there will be participating members in every state.

After June 1, eligible families can visit www.healthclubs.com to find a list of participating clubs.

The average cost of a monthly membership for a fitness-only club ranges from $30 to $70, Poppler said.

Families also can sign up now for a free subscription to Get Active magazine, for health and fitness tips.

• The American Council on Exercise has set a goal of providing at least 1 million hours of personal training and fitness instruction to family members of deployed Guard and reserve members, starting June 1. This includes spouses, children, parents and siblings.

Service members and family members could use this benefit up to six months before a deployment if the service member has been officially notified of the deployment, Goudeseune said.

On the http://www.acefitness.org/joiningforces/">website, military families can enter their ZIP code and find certified fitness professionals within a 25-mile radius who are participating in the program, and contact them by phone or email, starting in June. Again, it will be up to each of the 50,000 ACE fitness professionals across the country to decide whether to donate hours and, if so, how many.

Services may include yoga instruction, Pilates, spinning, boot camp fitness programs and many others, depending on individual trainers.

The average cost of a personal trainer would be about $50 an hour for individual training, less for group fitness sessions, Goudeseune said.

Conserving grocery bags

In an effort to squeeze savings wherever possible, and to be more environmentally friendly, commissary officials have asked baggers to further reduce their use of paper and plastic bags.

Reducing bag use by just one bag per transaction could save the Defense Commissary Agency — and taxpayers — more than $2 million a year, officials said.

Baggers have been asked not to double-bag groceries, and to avoid bagging large items that have handles, unless a customer specifically requests it. Officials also have asked baggers to put one more item in each bag than they normally would.

Commissary customers have purchased more than 4.1 million reusable bags since 2008, when DeCA started encouraging the use of reusable bags. That has produced savings of more than $2 million.

Last year, DeCA ordered nearly 74 million fewer paper and plastic bags than in the previous year, spokesman Kevin Robinson said.

Baggers used fewer bags even though there were more overall transactions, he said.

New Coach deals

If you're shopping for Coach handbags, accessories, footwear or watches, don't miss the new Coach assortment at the online military exchange when you're comparing prices. The site offers a 20 percent discount off the manufacturer's suggested retail price for authorized exchange customers, said Judd Anstey, spokesman for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates the site for all the military exchange services.

To shop the 261-item collection, go to www.shopmyexchange.com, click on "Shop by Department" and select the Coach Store under the "Clothing and Accessories" tab.

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