"SHREVEPORT, La. - "If it wasn't for this fitness section, I wouldn't have my house," said Rob Webster, owner of Play It Again Sports in Shreveport.

Webster is a busy man. When he's not on duty for the Shreveport Police Department he's been answering non-stop fitness questions from customers at his Play It Again Sports on East 70th Street.

Like many business owners, Webster was forced to shut the doors for nearly five months because of the pandemic. Slowly but surely shoppers started coming back, but they were all looking for one thing - fitness equipment.

"Everything shut down. When restaurants and non-essential businesses shut down, we had to shut down. It was three months before things started to open up under the fitness pretense. We started working with a lot of doctors who would send PT (physical therapy) patients up here," said Webster.

That small section of his store proved to be a saving grace for his business. According to Webster's research, in the two months since reopening the fitness section shattered records and was made possible thanks to a local connection.

"We were actually lucky enough to team up with X-Mark Fitness equipment, who is a local Shreveport company actually. They're here and sell nothing but commercial grade fitness equipment," Webster said.

The move turned out to be a win-win. X-Mark is company specializing in all things heavy in Shreveport. The company was able to supply the store with everything his customers were looking for.

X-Mark was even able to help him out with some hard to find items like this squat bar, said to be the Rolls-Royce model. Those using it can flip the grips to what feels best and get to lifting.

With certain COVID protocols still in effect, the personal home fitness business is expected to continue to boom, something that's making health officials happy.

"It's incredibly important, especially during the pandemic. One thing we're seeing is that COVID-19 isn't the only thing contributing to people's health decline," Craig Alger of Willis Knighton Health System said. "With everything shutting down, staying in and getting very little physical activity does as well. We've seen quite a bit of weight gain and people losing their ability to get out and do the things they want to do."

So whether you decide to stack the plates, or just toss a few dumbbells around in the garage, just having fitness equipment around may entice you to get healthier.

"Chemically, our body is in a better mood when we exercise more frequently,  typically we are mentally as well," Alger said.

If you're just starting a new workout, it's always a good idea to speak with a health professional to see what routine is best for you. 


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