50 and Fit Takes Intimidation Out of Fitness

Monday, February 25, 2008, Vol. 123, No. 38

COMFORTABLE SETTING: Mel Baddorf, owner of 50 and Fit, has created a fitness center where he said he believes older people will feel comfortable working out.

"We really try to be the exact opposite of a traditional fitness club. ... It's really very carefully designed to take away those things that are barriers to people 50 and over."

- Mel Baddorf
50 and Fit

Address: 7871 Farmington Blvd.
Phone: 755-7083
Owner: Mel Baddorf
Opened: April
Web site: www.50andfit.com

Mel Baddorf is a walking advertisement for his business, 50 and Fit, a fitness club for those who are 50 and older. He often tells customers he's lost 52 pounds since he opened the doors at the business almost a year ago.

But, he didn't do it with fad diets and temporary fixes.

"One thing that people of any age need to do in terms of their present quality of life and future quality of life, from a fitness standpoint, is to stop doing all these silly temporary things like diets," he said. "People will say, 'What kind of diet can I get on to (lose weight)?'

"Why would you get on a diet, because by definition that says that I'm changing my eating pattern for a short time, specifically to restrict calories and lose weight? Well, what's the point of that? What do you think's going to happen when you go back to the same lifestyle you have now?"

The simple answer, Baddorf said, is the weight will be gained back.

"What makes sense is to look at making lifestyle changes, like eating more nutritious meals and exercising," Baddorf said.

That's why when he sends out direct mailings or e-mail newsletters about the business, he includes specific information about how people can make small lifestyle changes, such as not eating those 100-calorie snack packages.

"They're not good in the big package, so how can they be good in the small package?" he asked.

Helping people

Listening to Baddorf, he sounds very much like a seasoned nutritionist and fitness instructor, but surprisingly he spent 32 years in the tire replacement business.

"And in that time I don't think I hurt anyone but I don't think I helped anyone either," he said. "I helped people make money; that was my job, but I'm not really sure I helped anybody. The nice thing is that every time I come in here, I know at the end of the day I helped some people."

One of the most difficult challenges Baddorf said he faces with target clients is convincing them it's not too late to get in shape.

"The good news is it's not too late. People in their 90s who have not been exercising benefit tremendously, study after study has shown," he said. "But it's so much easier to start when you're 50, before you've given up all that extra capability."

Of course, Baddorf said, the earlier a person starts getting in shape the better off they will be.

"Once you're about 45 years old, you start to lose about 1 percent of your lean muscle mass per year if you're not working out," he said. " From 45 to 65 most people have lost about 20 percent of their available lean muscle to do day-to-day things and so, as a result, their quality of life goes down, they're less mobile, it's harder to get around, it's harder to do the basic things that we do."

Bucking tradition

Baddorf has created an environment he said he feels more people would be comfortable in. There are no mirrors in the workout area, for example. The environment is geared more toward something that is not a fashion competition - you won't see spandex, complicated machines and a lot of young people who might be intimidating to some older participants.

In addition, the facility is just small enough to allow Baddorf to work closely with his clients to help them develop a workout that's best for them.

"We really try to be the exact opposite of a traditional fitness club," he said. "There are a number of really great fitness clubs around. It's really very carefully designed to take away those things that are barriers to people 50 and over, that are keeping them from doing what everybody knows they're supposed to be doing.

"Nobody ever comes in here and says, 'What? Exercise is important? I didn't know that.' We all know that but we're not all doing it. So, only a fairly small percentage of people are getting the exercise they really need. And, of course, Memphis was just declared the most obese city in the country, one of those top 10 lists that we really wish we weren't on, so we know there's plenty of opportunity, plenty of need for people to stop living the kind of sedentary lifestyle with the kind of horrible nutrition that is typical of the American culture."

50 and Fit also offers yoga classes, nutrition programs and massage therapy. Clients aren't asked to sign contracts, and they can receive a first week of membership free.