For years, our country has focused on medical management of chronic illness rather than on prevention of health issues. The recently passed health care reform act would help shift the trend from disease management to prevention. Exercise could be a large part of that. Exercise science is about regaining and maintaining good health and quality of life, as much as it is about athleticism, strength, agility and flexibility.

Because of this act, almost everyone will soon have health insurance. This means more opportunities to uncover hidden illnesses, diagnose serious illnesses earlier and begin treatment sooner. It also means more people will be aware of their health risks and will be given information about prevention, which includes regular exercise.

Once the government sorts through the act, defines some of its terms and perhaps makes some changes, some club operators will see an immediate boost in new clients and interest in their clubs’ services. The clubs that will benefit the most from the upcoming trend of personal accountability for health and wellness are those with brands that stand on a message of health and fitness as opposed to beauty and brawn. The act may allow some club operators to expand their business into niche markets, such as corporate wellness, Medicare recipients or other special populations.

The Health Reform Act provision for a trained medical workforce that will actively prescribe and recommend exercise for preventable chronic illness opens the door for club operators to partner with local medical personnel. Here are a few things you can do if you want to consider this option:

1. Talk with local medical staff about how they will be directing patients to become healthier and exercise more as part of the preventative efforts.

2. Ask how you can help.

3. Talk to your current clients about their concerns and issues regarding their health and health benefits.

4. Gather together all the information about the act and lay it out in front of you to see which elements align with your business plan.

5. Decide how to act upon the information you’ve received. You may decide to take your business in another direction or advertise another specialty service.

The corporate wellness market will see some positive effects immediately, and more down the road. Most of these effects translate to dollar amounts and percentages of tax credits and incentives. Businesses will be able to apply for grant money for their corporate wellness programs if they meet certain criteria. Interpretation of the act’s use of “evidence-based” treatments and “preventive” care as it relates to corporate wellness still is pending.

The Medicare market is the one with the prevention pilot program. As with any pilot program, the more successful it is, the better the chance of it becoming the norm. It’s not clear how successful this program will be. In 2006, 16 percent of Medicare recipients were disabled, and 83.7 percent were considered aged. Forty-seven percent of them are below, at or just above poverty level, so they would not have discretionary income to spend on fitness.

More information about the prevention of illness and obesity is getting out there as more groups garner publicity for what they are doing. First lady Michelle Obama is tackling the childhood obesity issue, and the government provides tips on its LetsMove.gov website. Government funding also will be available for prevention efforts at the state and local levels. The funding focus will be on community services. Club owners should talk with their local health department, local city government offices and elementary schools to see how they can help. Each state has its own budgets and its own definition of community services.

Although Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic disorders are some of the main health issues caused by obesity, they also provide opportunities for niche markets to target, each with preferences and needs that are quite different from those of the average client. As the medical community begins to get on board and as government funding increases, programs should begin springing up specific to these groups. If your club also has a sound nutrition program, you will be able to market to these groups quite easily.

The fitness industry and club owners who promote the health benefits of exercise will see benefits from the Health Reform Act, mainly in the ability to reach more people in their communities and lead them to wellness.

Greg Justice is founder and creator of the original Corporate Boot Camp System and AYC Health & Fitness, Prairie Village, KS. He has mentored, taught and partnered with more than 100 trainers in 40 states and seven countries to provide on-site workplace corporate boot camps. You can reach him at aycfit@gmail.com.