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The Pros of Being Medically Certified


For some gyms, having a medically-integrated fitness facility has been a great way to better serve the local community.

Take Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center in Winchester, Virginia, as an example. In 2012, the gym became a certified medical fitness facility by the Medical Fitness Association (MFA). It was the 21st facility in the U.S. and the 30th in the world to achieve the distinction from the not-for-profit member organization.

According to Jeff Jearn, the director of Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center, the benefits of the certification were many. “Being a nationally certified fitness center means our community can trust the programs, methods, and staff have been designed and approved to ensure safety, efficacy and quality,” he said. “As such, Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center can meet the health and fitness needs of a diverse range of individuals and help them with disease prevention and management, health-risk reduction, and therapeutic-lifestyle activities.”

Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center just completed the re-certification process in December 2015. Club Solutions caught up with Jeran to hear more information on the original certification and the re-certification process as well as how having the cert is benefitting the gym, even still today.

picture of Jeff copy 2CS: Why did you want to get certified?

JJ: We believe that voluntary accreditation should be part of any business’s process improvement strategy. To achieve and maintain this certification, centers must meet specific guidelines and conditions, so earning this “seal of approval” shows that a facility meets the highest industry standards and employs top-quality industry professionals.

CS: What are the benefits of a medical fitness certification?

JJ: There is a focus on quality management and measurable results. The overall goal is in line with the health system’s mission to improve community health. Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center exists to equip our community with all of the health, wellness and fitness tools needed to live empowered. We have seen a high number of individuals enter our facility who have never exercised in a fitness center before and feel more comfortable because we are a certified medical fitness center. We have also seen a higher regard and legitimacy from our medical community which has led to increase referrals for our services and programs.

CS: What’s the initial certification process like?

JJ: The certification process requires months to years of advance preparation in order to ensure that all policies and procedures are up to date and being followed consistently by team members, the facility meets all safety requirements, and the center has outcome measures on programming. The culmination of the preparation ends with a visit by MFA site examiners who tour the facility meet with staff, meet with hospital senior and medical leaders and ensure that all guidelines and standards are being followed as stated by center policies and supporting documentation by all.

After the site visit, recommendations for improvement are provided to the facility and the examiners submit their findings to the MFA Certification committee for review. The final step is a vote by the MFA board to certify the Center. Medical fitness facilities are certified for three years. After that period, they must re-apply to maintain the certification and go through the entire process again.

CS: Why did you want to get re-certified?

JJ: We decided to re-certify because we believe this process helps tighten up what we are doing, improve the services to our community and grow as a team. Just like our members, if we do not have a goal it is easy to become complacent and process improvement stagnates. I found the re-certification process to be extremely valuable in engagement of team members and in our mission to equip our community with all of the health, wellness and fitness tools needed to live empowered.

CS: What it the re-certification process like?

JJ: This process is very similar to the initial, but not as intense and time consuming. The initial certification is new and has a bit of a learning curve for operators, unless the center was conceived or designed with the MFA facility standards and guidelines in mind, then it takes a little more time to hardwire these processes.

CS: What could other gyms learn from your experience with re-certifying?

JJ: Simply, you may have a very good fitness facility, business and team around you, as we did. But, I found in my experience in this process has helped us take the next steps in becoming a truly great fitness facility for those we serve and that should be our goal, constant and consistent improvement.


Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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