Rodale launched Men's Health into that popular culture in 1988, joining Weider Publications' Men's Fitness as the other main entry.
It was a new breed of publication directed at men, says Michael Lafavore, who was Men's Health editor in chief from its launch until 1999. Mr. Lafavore is now a consulting editor.
"Ralph Lauren was first and foremost, for me, an advertiser who understood how important and upscale the category was," Mr. Lafavore says of the title's early days. "Every piece of research shows that people who spend time exercising are better educated and more affluent. [Polo] Ralph Lauren was one of the first to recognize that environment was a good fit. So, for me, that was a turning point." Automotive and fragrance were the two other strong ad categories that built Men's Health.
GQ and Esquire responded to the success of Men's Health by adding personal fitness sections of their own, he says.
The category continues to attract new readers, and Men's Health, which started out as a 90,000 circulation quarterly, is still holding the lead. The title, which now appears 10 times a year, has a paid circulation of 1,606,221 for the six months ended December 1999, a 1.1% dip compared with the same period the previous year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Neck and neck with Men's Health is Dennis Publishing's Maxim, which ended the second half of '99 witha circulation of 1,663,686, a 126.7% increase over the same period in '98.
Although it is not a health and fitness publication, Gina Pipia, media supervisor, BBDO Worldwide, New York, says Maxim is Men's Health's primary competitor.
"It's a different buy," Mr. Lafavore says. "The guy looking for Men's Health is not going to buy Maxim."
Circulation of other, more traditional category titles pale in comparison to Men's Health and Maxim.
According to the audit bureau, Men's Fitness' total paid circulation for the second half of 1999 was up 51.1% to 530,647. Weider's Muscle & Fitness's circulation popped up 4.6% to 477,013 for the second half of '99.
Men's Health leads Esquire, which had a total paid circulation in the second half of '99 of 687,946, a 1.9% increase over the same '98 period, and GQ, with circulation of 757,558, a 6.9% boost for the same period.
Mr. Lafavore predicts that as the bodies of the baby boomers change, the fitness category will follow suit.
"Baby boomers now face 50 and beyond, and as a result they have to become more realistic. . . .Rock-hard abs aren't going to resonate with the 50-plus crowd."