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It will be a battle

Posted by eric on December 9, 2011

All of us in the fitness industry - well, most of us anyway - have a fairly altruistic goal. Help people live healthier lives. Certainly there's a financial reason for the bulk of us, but our intentions and our practices are positive.

The challenge we face is that, as an industry, we are pretty disjointed. There are some larger companies, but even "large" in this arena pales against the Goliaths of the world that have led us to where we are in the battle for our health.

What are we up against?

In 2010, the pharmaceutical industry spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on lobbying efforts. Yes, that's $244 million, nearly 10% of the 2010 total lobbying spend, on efforts to guide legislature in their favor. Of that $244 million:

  • Pfizer - over $13 million
  • Johnson & Johnson - nearly $7 million
  • Abbott - over $5 million

Every large pharmaceutical and "health" product company contributed to that insanely large amount. You can imagine the profits at stake if these companies are willing to drop $244 million to influence decisions about our health laws.

The Food and Beverage industry chipped in over $40 million to their cause, with companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and McDonalds each contributing over $1 million, and in some cases well over $5 million.

In fact, of the $2.6 BILLION in lobbying dollars spent in 2010, I was hard-pressed to locate much in the way of fitness-related spending. Some I did find:

  • American College of Sports Medicine: $105,000
  • American College of Preventive Medicine: $42,000
  • Outdoor Industry Assn: $280,000

So the net is, the industries that are profiting from an unhealthy population are spending significant amounts of money lobbying for their interests. 

The fitness industry, on the other hand, is spending very little, at least as a group, as far as I can tell. Which means that our collective voices aren't just being drowned out - they're being completely washed away.

So the question becomes - what, as an industry, do we need to do in order to begin reversing the poor habits that have developed over decades? Companies like Beachbody have a goal of "reversing the obesity trend", and I believe that their plan is solid, but the impact to date has, unfortunately, been relatively minimal. The obesity rates continue to grow despite our efforts.

Do I have all of the solutions? Do I even have A solution? I'm not sure. What I know is that my lone voice, like the thousands of other lone voices, isn't going to change the course of American health. Spending our hours Twittering away to each other about how great our workouts were serve as good inspiration to us, but in the end don't change many (if any) of the lives of the people we really need to help. We're already fit.

Somehow we need to bind together into a more cohesive voice. One that can have a larger voice in the direction of the health of ourselves and our neighbors. More thoughts on that later. For now, let's keep chipping away as we can to make the world a better place one person at a time.

Stay fit everyone.

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