Ask an Expert: Dr. Greg Degnan on Medical Fitness

Greg Degnan

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Dr. Greg Degnan, medical director at ACAC, about medical fitness.

How do you define medical fitness in a club setting?

GD: There are a number of definitions. We believe medical fitness is the application of fitness and lifestyle change principles and practices to a deconditioned or disease-specific population.

What’s currently trending in medical fitness in the club industry — what should operators be aware of?

GD: Trending strategies include short-term programming aimed at disease-specific cohorts (diabetes, movement disorders, etc.) driven by patient referrals from healthcare providers.

Third-party reimbursement is the perceived holy grail. We are a long way from that being a reality, so design your programming around inexpensive introductory programs that will generate membership. Membership is still our primary business.

What should clubs keep in mind before pursuing medical fitness opportunities?

GD: You can’t market direct to consumer. The population you are going after are the deconditioned who have either never tried to become fit or have failed. They have not heard our message for the last 30 years and won’t now. As a result, you must have a strategy to market to and partner with the “keepers” of this population — their physicians, employers or allied healthcare providers.

How can clubs secure referrals from health practitioners?

GD: If you want providers to trust you with this special needs population, you must demonstrate you provide a safe haven with the expertise to manage their patients. Credentials, licenses, continuing education and letters after your name do matter to the medical community.

Is there anything else club operators should know about medical fitness?

GD: Exercise is not enough. This population also needs nutritional help. It must be a part of your programming. This is true when marketing to providers and also true if you are to produce the results which will earn their trust.

This population is intimidated by our facilities — spandex and chrome are not a comfort zone for them. Set aside a specific area of the club for this population and staff it with someone who loves this type of client. Make it someone who is willing to teach exercise 101.

Your facilities must be set up to be user friendly for this population. Specifically, you must have adequate room between stations to accommodate the morbidly obese and people with ambulatory assists, such as walkers and canes. Machines should be chosen with this population in mind — changing plates or adjusting seats can be difficult for the arthritic or less dexterous elderly population. Create a basic circuit with some machines, dumbbells and cardio. Keep it simple so they are guaranteed to succeed.

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