The Evolution of Fitness in America

Evolution of Fitness in America

The multi-billion dollar a year industries of fitness / health / nutrition / weight loss have made remarkable revenue gains in the past 30-40 years. However, it seems ironic as the fitness industry grows, so does the average American waistline. Maybe all that money being spent is being wasted to some degree?

I recently attended and gave a lecture on Special Ops Fitness at the 20th Annual Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. This event has evolved as well in the past twenty years as it started as a bodybuilding show and now features over 35 sports competitions from table tennis to Mixed Martial Arts and Strongman contests. Of course the bodybuilding show and fitness competitions are a major draw of the 150,000 spectators during the weekend event. As The Arnold has evolved, so too has America's pursuit of fitness for both aesthetics as well as performance.

The fitness world is really split among those who utilize fitness as a means to get better at sports and other athletic events (performance), those who body-build (aesthetics), as well as those seeking to just get healthy, lose weight, and live life better. The later can be overwhelmed by all the options to "get healthy" these days. I know I was as I walked the convention floor looking at the endless supply of vendors who peddle fitness equipment and supplements. These companies, by the hundreds, appeal to fat burning and muscle building types. However, there were a few interesting fitness product and nutrition companies that have some products that help with performance, recovery, and endurance.

For those seeking to go from unhealthy to fitness-healthy, simply start stretching and moving more, drinking more water, and eating less junk food and drinks. Personally, you do not need a line of supplements to get started and weight loss pills are not an answer for you at this time of transition to healthy. No need to spend money joining a club, buying expensive equipment, or dietary supplements. Getting involved in proven programs will work best for beginners. Programs that involve regular light exercise and eating plans is all you need. But, before you do anything new or take anything for weight loss, ask your doctor or certified nutritionist. Here are some free programs that have worked for many in this position: the "Beginner Fitness Plan" (PDF), "Stretching Plan" (PDF), and the "Food Plan" (Word document) that will give you an idea of how to structure your meals.

Some of the more memorable personal experiences was seeing Joe Weider receive one his many Lifetime Achievement Awards. Weider was responsible for my first workout book and bench press and concrete weights I ever owned in my early teens. His efforts and others like Jack LaLanne turned fitness main stream in America decades ago.

The military was well-represented as well at The Arnold Classic. It was refreshing to see the USMC and Army have booths there for recruiting. It is a target rich environment for recruiters who hand out free shirts / information IF the spectators could perform a certain number of pull-ups or pushups.

Also, I met four-time Super Bowl winner Bill Romanowski at a GNC Awards Ceremony I attended with Perfect Pushup and Perfect Pullup inventor and former Navy SEAL Alden Mills. Bill "Romo" Romanowski after retirement from the NFL, now has a nutrition line that I am very impressed with. Anytime you can last 16 years in the NFL, the training and nutritional supplements allow for longevity. He gave samples of his products as well as his book, Romo, to read and I have to say is excellent. As a former military member, I could make similar comparisons to his transition from the NFL to a new career to exactly how it felt going from the SEAL Teams to civilian world. I am finding the book as excellent read not only as a fan of football, but also as a student of longevity methods. His business can be found at (his football number if you are not aware) and he has a line of supplements that are becoming highly regarded. Specifically speaking, his "Neuro" supplement was personally developed for him after suffering more than 20 concussions in his career. Nutrition53 also has sleep and recovery products and weight loss products as well.

For those seeking performance increases for athletics but do not wish to take ILLEGAL and DANGEROUS performance enhancing drugs (PED), there are many companies out there that have an endless supply of recovery drinks, vitamins, protein powders, and more. The companies you should look into are those who have their products tested by an independent third party lab to check for impurities as many supplements can actually have banned substances in them which will cause an athlete to pop positive on a PED test. One company that I recommend is StrengthPro as not only are their products independently tested by but they also meet the NCAA and Olympic standards for protein to carbohydrate ratios as well as other standards.

The bigger the company does not necessarily mean that the supplement line is better, more pure, or even works. I have never been a big fan of supplements, in fact many of my writings in the past have criticized their use in military training and among young athletes. In fact, I have only recently started researching personally for recovery products. At the age of 40 this year, my body requires more rest than 20 years ago and maybe more ingredients that I can consume in a day. I am still searching for them but have found the recovery drink line is working well for me and the EAS product MuscleArmor. But the jury is still out as to how I can be 20 years old again.

As you can see, the fitness industry, good or bad, has evolved into many components that tout results. The truth is that you have to find what works for you as one product, program, or piece of equipment may or may not work for you and provide the best results. Your body will adapt to what you throw at it, good or bad, so when in doubt, just get moving more and eating less junk food.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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