Life Time has scrubbed all-news cable channels from the screens at its fitness centers, saying a growing number of customers think they don’t fit a healthy lifestyle.
The Chanhassen-based company this week dropped CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC from TVs in front of various workout machines.
While the screens were in view of all in fitness areas, audio could only be heard through earphones.
With a few exceptions, TV screens built into treadmills and other cardio machines also “currently do not have the ability to display these channels,” Life Time spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw said Thursday. However, a second phase in this viewing shift, to be completed by the end of February, will have all stations available, Bushaw added.
USA, A&E, Discovery, HGTV, the local over-the-air stations and ESPN are all that remain on the visual menu of distractions while sweating off the caloric consequences of the holidays.
Bushaw added, “Clubs do have flexibility to air programs of interest in their club, such as local sporting events from college to pro teams.”
She said Life Time pulled the plug on the cable news outlets based on “many member requests received over time across the country and in keeping with our overall healthy way of life philosophy and commitment to provide family-oriented environments free of consistently negative or politically charged content.”
Response from members has trickled in the first few days since the news ban at Life Time’s 128 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, which was first reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“We have received both messages of support and others seeking more detail around the decision,” Bushaw said.
Peter Glessing, who calls the Life Time in St. Louis Park his workout home, said, “As someone who enjoys consuming news and politics, I’m disappointed that Life Time is limiting this option for members. I often time my workout to a particular news program I enjoy to serve as an extra motivation for exercising.”
One person posted on the Star Tribune’s Facebook page that “it’s just really frustrating to watch the news while you’re trying to work out and have to be distracted by everything, especially if you already stay informed and are working out to release stress and tension.”
A regular at the Life Time in Bloomington wrote that his fitness center of choice “has had Fox, CNN, and MSNBC, along with ESPN and other channels playing simultaneously on about a dozen screens, and there’s always a machine available in front of whichever channel you like. So, I don’t understand the complaints.”
Wrote another: “Get enough of unwanted news already daily, probably don’t need it on at the gym. I say good call.”
Members with smartphones or other devices can still tap Life Time’s Wi-Fi and pull up all-news stations or anything else they wish, Bushaw said.
Various fitness center operators continue to offer a full range of telecast options, with no effort to block certain types of programming.
Anytime Fitness, the Woodbury-based company with roughly 2,500 franchised centers in the United States and nearly 4,000 worldwide, said each location can choose its own stations.
Anytime spokesman Mark Daly said, “To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any franchisee who has limited programming on their TVs.”
At YMCA fitness centers in the Twin Cities, there has been no rollback on viewing options, which are extensive, said spokeswoman Joan Schimml.
“Most of our members are using fitness equipment that has personal options on the machines that offer television, music, guided fitness routines, Netflix and other news and entertainment channels,” Schimml said.
The YWCA in Minneapolis has overhead TVs at each of its three locations that offer various channels that include lifestyle, news, family fare, game shows, cooking and sports, said spokeswoman Emily O’Gara. There is a specific radio channel for members’ private listening.