What’s always the No. 1 New Year’s resolution? Hit the gym. And this year, more people just might be keeping their resolution.

During this economic recession, many Americans have seen their financial health deteriorate significantly, but at the same time, their physical health has likely improved. Decades of data shows that death rates decline and healthy habits increase in tough economic periods. In fact, research by Christopher Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina, shows that a 1 percent rise in the unemployment rate reduces the death rate by 0.5 percent.

During recessions, chain smokers cut back, couch potatoes go to the gym, and people choose to cook and eat at home rather than go out. All of these lifestyle changes add up to a healthier America. While lower incomes certainly contribute to the trend, the overriding reason is extra time. Being unemployed or underemployed means more Americans have time to visit the gym or take a walk.

That may be one reason why Scully Co.’s fitness centers are busier than they’ve ever been, says April Boham, director of marketing for the Jenkintown, Pa.-based apartment developer and owner with a portfolio of more than 8,000 units spread across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida.

Despite the economic slowdown, Scully continues to invest in its fitness centers. Most recently, the firm worked with St. Louis-based TRUE Fitness to outfit the fitness center for a two-building, 73-unit expansion of DeKalb Apartment Homes in East Norriton, Pa. The company chose a mix of cardio equipment including treadmills, recumbent bikes, and ellipticals. “Durability is a key selling point for us, along with the warranty and service contract,” Boham says.

Muscle Power: The Precor FTS Glide, a functional trainer that mirrors human movement, offers resistance training with movement to increase core strength, balance, stability, and coordination. With free-floating guide rods and sound-absorbing rubber ends to eliminate metal-on-metal contact, there is no “catching” or “sticky” feeling during exercise. Industrial-grade ball bearings are used to reduce wear, while cables and pulleys are made of nylon/fiberglass to withstand the most vigorous use. For more information, call Precor at 800-786-8404 or visitwww.precor.com. 

1. Tread Lightly: The TRUE PS800 treadmill features a large motor; aluminum straddle covers; and Soft Select to allow users to customize the softness or firmness of the deck surface. Manufactured with commercial-grade materials for extreme durability, the treadmill offers one of the largest running surfaces in the industry; handrails for safety; and an orthopedic belt to reduce impact on joints and knees. It is equipped with a digital contact heart rate monitoring system to help maintain an optimal heart rate and maximize workouts. For more information, call TRUE Fitness at 800-426-6570 or visitwww.truefitness.com.

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2. Cardio Options: CYBEX International has added four new pieces of cardiovascular equipment including a cross-trainer, upright bike, treadmill, and recumbent bike. The fitness machines feature raised console iconography, color identification of the main controls, large buttons and text for older exercisers, and low start-up resistance to accommodate even the most de-conditioned users. For more information, call CYBEX International at 508-533-4300 or visitwww.cybexintl.com.

3. Strength Solutions: Life Fitness’ Optima Series offers a comprehensive strength-training solution through single and multi-exercise machines, as well as benches and racks. The line includes 20 space-saving pieces with low-profile, fully-shrouded towers that create a consistent look across a facility. The product is available in a platinum frame with a high-gloss paint finish that adds an extra layer of durability and protects from scratches and corrosion. For more information, call Life Fitness at 800-634-8637 or visitwww.lifefitness.com.

4. Easy Exercise: Designed to meet performance and budget demands of multifamily fitness facilities, the XL2 Strength Training Circuit from Paramount Fitness Corp. features fully-enclosed weight stacks, premium contoured pads, intuitive exercise adjustments, and precise biomechanics. It offers Paramount’s signature full-color, step-by-step illustrated exercise instruction. For more information, call Paramount Fitness at 323-721-2121 or visitwww.paramountfitness.com.

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5. Core Conditioning: CYBEX International’s Bravo Functional Trainer accommodates more than 300 different exercises that enhance strength gains, movement coordination, and core integration. A recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts found that Bravo users experience nearly two times the core muscle activation of traditional cable training, while being able to lift the same amount of weight as in a fully-stabilized position. For more information, call CYBEX International at 508-533-4300 or visitwww.cybexintl.com.