Meeting Diverse Needs

Our industry has seen a lot of changes in the past couple of decades, but perhaps one of the most profound is the diversity of clientele we serve. Gone are the days when gym-buffs were the 20- and 30-somethings who fit the “fit” stereotype still often portrayed in fitness center ads. Today, we must not only meet the needs of all populations, but we must also pay particular consideration to these clients’ specialized needs.

Who are these clients? They range from the young to the old, from the injured to those who need to manage a disease. And their need for fitness spans far beyond the basic “look-good” philosophy of yesterday; now, more than ever, it is a “feel-good” philosophy that drives their need for fitness. Being fit means not only to be able to live their lives to the fullest, but also to keep from being a burden on society.

In this issue, we take a look at three populations whose need for fitness straddles the line between healthy living and a cost to society. Wayne Westcott and Avery Faigenbaum present strength-training protocols that have proven successful in getting children fit. But their point is not to have youth grow muscles; it’s to keep them from being fat. According to a report to the President titled Promoting Better Health for Young People Through Physical Activity and Sports, “Our nation’s young people are … inactive, unfit, and increasingly overweight. In the long run, this physical inactivity threatens to reverse the decades-long progress we have made in reducing death from cardiovascular diseases and to devastate our national health care budget.”1 In the report, 10 strategies are outlined to promote activity among youth, including helping to provide access to fitness programs for all young people — a strategy upon which fitness centers can have a profound impact. We can also take part by offering our services to Surgeon General David Satcher who announced on Jan. 8th his plan to develop a national strategy to deal with the epidemic problem of obesity in the U.S.2

Older adults are the second population of focus in this issue. As the number of people growing to advanced age continues to increase, the need for them to be able to take care of themselves through activities of daily living becomes ever more important. Fitness is one of the most crucial components to keeping older adults active and healthy, and sustaining their independence. Here, Betty Perkins-Carpenter (p.32) and Richard P. Borkowski (p.36) outline strategies for meeting the needs of this group through fitness programming. While you’re thinking of ways you can put these ideas to use in your facility, keep in mind that the Administration on Aging has designated May as Older Americans Month with “The Many Faces of Aging” as this year’s theme.3

And, lastly in this issue, Jim Peterson and Cedric Bryant (p.40) take a look at a disease known as fibromyalgia — a disease that has cropped up in the last decade, affecting 2 percent of the population. While not much is known about how to treat the disease, exercise has recently been found to help.

This is one of a number of diseases, both less- and well-known, that with treatment, can help sufferers live normal lives. And it is a disease that can be treated in your facility.

What percentage of your members makes up these populations? Whatever it is, be sure you have identified programs and services to meet their needs. It will affect the health of your facility, as well as the health of society.