Over the last few years, it has become clear that people don’t want to just live longer, but to live better as well. If it is quality of life you’re after, then exercise might just be the golden ticket to launch your future in the right direction.
Exercise has some spectacular and undeniable effects on human health. It is estimated that regular exercise reduces mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by 50%. It also reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and leads to higher academic performance in children and adults. In contrast, the consequences of inactivity are heartbreaking and possibly fatal. Lack of exercise is estimated to cause 9% of premature mortality, 7% of Type II diabetes, and 10% of breast and colon cancer cases.
Luckily, as the benefits of exercise become more apparent, the number of people consistently working out is growing, and so is the number of new gyms opening throughout the island. In 2017 two new facilities opened their doors on island: Paradise Premium in Tumon and Steel Athletics in Tamuning.
For Paradise Premium, “premium” is the key word. Featuring state of the art equipment, luxury vanity areas, and a sauna, the place is the perfect fit for someone committed to spending a little extra for a fitness experience that focuses on both comfort and performance.
The gym includes five main areas, first of which is a cardio nook featuring commercial grade machines ranging from treadmills, elliptical machines, and bikes to step mills and an ergometer.
There is also a circuit area featuring top-of-the-line Insignia Series machines that mirror functions available in the free weight room. If you don’t know how to use a machine, a mobile app called LFconnect allows you to scan the “quick-response” code on each machine and pull up an instructional video.
Paradise Premium’s free weight room also offers an impressive inventory of weights that are lined with polyurethane rubber, minimizing impact if accidentally dropped on the floor, or worse, your toes.
The vanity area features spacious changing rooms, showers, personalized lockers, and two one-of-a-kind infrared saunas. While a conventional sauna only touches the front layer of skin, the infrared sauna—complete with light therapy—radiates underneath muscles to dissipate soreness and relieve stress. Other perks include a group fitness room with classes ranging from yoga to hot hula, and a kids’ room for children to play in while mom or dad work out.
Steel Athletics in Tamuning offers a distinctly different flavor for fitness enthusiasts looking for something a little more hands-on. With an eclectic mix of martial arts classes for those interested in entering the sport or simply getting in shape, the facility is also built for high-caliber mixed martial arts (MMA) training for professional athletes.
The gym is owned by professional MMA fighter J.J. Ambrose, who partnered with Spike 22 founder Melchor Manibusan to open the facility in February. “Steel athletics was made mostly for selfish reasons—I was tired of leaving the island for fight camps. My daughter is growing up, and I don’t want to miss out on anything. The old Spike 22 was literally falling apart, so it was time for a change,” said Ambrose.
While Steel Athletics boasts a fight-camp quality facility, it also has an old-school dojo feel. In one area, the mat is reserved strictly for traditional jiu-jitsu, which means fighters must wear kimonos, bow, and remove shoes before stepping in.
In another area known as the ultimate training center, fighters cover every aspect of their training needs with several equipment that includes stairs, a bench-press, squat racks, heavy bags, slam balls, weights, and cardio machines. It also features old Spike 22 equipment such as tires and sledgehammers.
Best of all, the gym has a full-size MMA cage, which helps simulate the atmosphere of a competitive fight. It is used for classes and for training professional athletes.
“[Steel Athletics] is an MMA gym first, jiu-jitsu as well. We also have all types of fitness equipment and all kinds of classes for kids,” Ambrose added.
With all the options in today’s industry, whether facilities or classes, the way people choose to work out is changing. Fitness expert and Paradise Premium owner Tony Sgro said he’s seen it all. “In the beginning it was all about bodybuilding, and then group classes are where you see a lot of the trends go. There’s just so many; what’s going to last? I can remember when it was Step, then there was Tae Bo, then you had Zumba, then MixxedFit. What’s coming next? I really don’t know,” he said. Group fitness classes continue to be the number one draw at Paradise, thanks to their high energy and family feel.
Fitness boot camps are also on the rise. “Now you’re seeing a lot of people doing things outdoors, where you have different fitness coaches, trainers out there having their own little boot camps in parks, and I think it’s wonderful. If it’s going to give people an option, of maybe this is going to work for me, then I support it 100%,” Sgro said. Some boot camps that have started recently include the Paradise Premium COR-6 program and the Hatsa Program.
Also gaining popularity is a fitness regimen focused on data-driven workouts. “Right now I think Guam is going through a CrossFit trend,” Ambrose said, “but I think it will be leaning more toward functional fitness really soon.” CrossFit includes various functional movements reflecting aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, and running. The moves are performed at high intensity in a group environment. A number of CrossFit gyms that have opened in the past few years include Custom Fitness, Ifit, and Unified.
The driving force behind the new facilities and trends can be traced to one thing: an increase in demand from the community.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I think we would have over 300 classes a month, between just two locations, to handle the load,” Sgro revealed. “If there was a pill that the doctor could prescribe that could do all that exercise can do, it would be the number one prescribed pill.”
The benefits have also been recognized by the local government, which began covering gym memberships as a form of preventive medicine seven years ago. Private companies are also beginning to pay a percentage of their employees’ gym memberships. “All the media backing is there, showing if your employees are healthy, and they’re fit, they can produce a lot better for you,” Sgro explained.
Aside from health benefits, rising gym attendance might be affected by social media, Ambrose speculated. “Now that our image is portrayed every day on social media, we have a reason to be fit. I mean, we want everyone to see that we’re doing the right thing, [that] we’re in shape,” he added.
No matter what the driving force is, the bottom line is that exercise is good for you, and the growth in the fitness industry will likely have positive effects on the community. “I think the most important thing we can do for our loved ones, our kids, our family is to get on an exercise program, and make it a family affair,” Sgro concluded.