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Obesity is a rising epidemic in this country affecting nearly 40% of the United States. Every time you flip on the television or radio there is someone telling you about a new study that says you should eat this, or eat that. While diet is a huge factor contributing to the obesity problem, people are less willing to sacrifice taste for more bland and healthier options.

Our society has grown dependent on high sodium and sugar diets that are leading to increased cases of both heart disease and diabetes. It is clear people need to eat better, but another immediate factor that is harming our country is our lack of desire to exercise.

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The facts are out there, the average American lifestyle simply does not include nearly enough exercise. While I could spend the duration of this article ranting about what us Americans should be doing to improve our health, I'll cut to the chase and begin explaining how investors can capitalize on health and wellness in this country.

People that aren't in the best physical shape should have heard from their physician at least once by now that they should be making lifestyle changes (If not, I'd recommend a physician change). There is no magic pill out there that lets you eat whatever you want, not exercise, and still be in good health. Staying healthy takes a commitment of time and money.

Companies like Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) and The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAIN) produce organic, healthy products that might cost more, but will contain higher-quality nutrients. These two stocks will continue to grow because people are slowly but surely beginning to read nutritional labels and question why some substances are in their food. (The most recent example being "pink slime")

When it comes to investing in physical activity, the best investment here is buying fitness center stocks. One of the best fitness center companies available is Life Time Fitness, Inc. (NYSE:LTM). Life Time Fitness has 98 fitness centers across 22 states in the United States and more than 700,000 members. Life Time Fitness accumulates 65% of its revenues from memberships and 30% from internal services such as personal training and fitness classes. Life Time Fitness is terrific because the company offers a premium fitness experience to its members, so it applies to a wealthier demographic.

Life Time Fitness has a ton of room to grow because it only operates in 22 states and has one center in Canada. Life Time Fitness sells for 14.4x forward earnings and has a 16% long-term growth rate. It currently trades about $8 below its 52-week high of $52.68.

Stock chart for: 03NA000000LTM

I personally like this stock and think it's the best of its class, however I would not purchase it at this time. When the economy begins to show signs of life, or pulls back enough to the point where you simply can't resist buying, then that's when I would pull the trigger. In the meantime though, keep these stocks in your head when you want your portfolio to include a health/fitness stock.

Source: Battle Of The Bulge