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AOL rolls out online fitness channel

Posted - May 18, 2004 at 3:40 p.m.



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WASHINGTON, May 18, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- While it's hard to lose weight when online, America Online Inc. is sure going to try and help you lose it offline -- with information and support for those seeking diet and health advice.

Just in time for summer swimsuit season, Dulles, Va.-based AOL launched its new Diet & Fitness channel Monday, designed to help support AOL members' "complete weight loss needs," and perhaps help with the company's bottom financial line in the process.

AOL, a division of media giant Time Warner, has responded to the growing use of online diet and fitness information by opening a whole new cyber-dieting and health channel that is designed to be a one-stop shop for dieters looking to shed pounds and keep them off. The new section has content partnerships with Health magazine, Cooking Light (both Time publications), eDiets.com and best-selling author and weight-loss coach Jorge Cruise.

The company said that with summer only five weeks away, the Diet & Fitness channel is highlighting shapeup strategies.

"For the approximately 10 million AOL members who are doing something to control their weight, our goal is to help them change their shape and potentially their lives," said Tina Sharkey, senior vice president for Life Management & Community, AOL. "The new Diet & Fitness channel is a complete experience where dieters can find the information and guidance they need, when they want it, and receive ongoing support from experts and peers alike."

According to the company, online support for dieting has become an increasingly popular way to help lose weight, including finding information and recipes. Last summer, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 44 percent of Americans polled have gone online to find information about dieting, weight loss and fitness.

"With the heightened urgency to address obesity and the increasing desire by consumers to live healthier, we are pleased to partner with AOL to offer its members a range of personalized online diet and nutrition solutions that fit into their daily lives," said Harriet Gallu, vice president, Brand Marketing at eDiets.com.

"Incorporating eDiets.com's health assessment tools and diet information adds significant value to the AOL Diet & Fitness experience for its users," added Gallu. "They (AOL members) will benefit from personalized nutrition plans, including the Atkins Nutritional Approach, 'The Zone' Diet and 'Shape Up!,' inspired by Dr. Phil McGraw's Ultimate Weight Solution, along with eDiets.com's other award-winning content and support services."

AOL is introducing new diet and fitness themes each day this week as part of its opening publicity.

Overall, the Diet and Fitness channel is part of what AOL is terming its "Life Management" strategy which is intended to make the daily life of AOL users more easier through a series of products and platforms such as AOL Bill Pay, Kitchen Assistant, Homework Help, Parenting, and now AOL Diet & Fitness, the company said.

The new AOL Diet & Fitness area includes:

-- Diets A-Z: This diet franchise is dedicated to providing members need-to-know information on 20 popular weight loss programs, including the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers diet and "The Zone." AOL members can access diet checklists and expert reviews created by Health magazine for AOL.

-- Diet Basics: Health magazine and Cooking Light supply members with a healthy eating 101 overview, while eDiets.com arms members with access to the official, personalized online versions of well-known brands in the diet field, along with a sampling of menus. In addition to providing tools to measure body composition, eDiets.com's Diet Needs Analysis (DNA) tool helps AOL members identify a nutrition plan that best suits their particular dietary, medical and lifestyle needs.

-- AOL Takes It Off: Members help members take off pounds and inches by submitting tips and photos according to each month's diet theme or topic. For help shaping up for swimsuit season, see how other dieters and fitness buffs have scored results.

-- Weight Loss Coach: Jorge Cruise, fitness guru and author of the "8 Minutes in the Morning" book series, serves as AOL's "Weight Loss Coach," dedicated to offering members advice, encouragement and exercise moves for achieving a body ready for swimsuit season.

Cruise said, "While the summer bathing suit and shorts season is one of the most popular times to trim and tone, a weight loss routine should not be limited to a once-a-year diet crunch. I look forward to helping busy AOL members tone their trouble spots and achieve long-term weight loss."

There is also a News & Trends section to keep members up to date with weekly fitness facts, fads and findings.

With AOL's new offering it enters into a multi-billion dollar market. As of 2002, the U.S. weight loss products and services market was already approaching nearly $40 billion, according to a study by Tampa-based Marketdata Enterprises.

By 2006, the market is expected to grow to almost $50 billion.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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