WACO, TX -- Curves International franchise owners are adding automated MYTRAK technologies to their clubs’ workout equipment. The system recognizes users at each machine once they scan their key cards, then tracks their heart rate, repetitions, exertion rate and tempo. A computerized dashboard tells members if they’re working out at peak performance levels.

The MYTRAK programming at Curves is called CurvesSmart and is in use at 4,000 Curves facilities. In addition to helping members work out in their ideal performance zones, the interactive software helps keep members engaged in their fitness routines, says Katie Mitchell, continuing education and research spokesperson for Curves.

“It’s an optional program for franchisees, but a majority of them have decided to upgrade,” says Mitchell. “Members are loving it because it’s holding them accountable to a certain intensity level, and they love that accountability. Members are getting the most out of every workout.”

Members can track their progress with reports generated on club kiosks and will be able to check their results online soon with new upgrades planned for 2009.

By keeping the members engaged, the program also helps franchisees lower their attrition rates.

“Our members are really excited about CurvesSmart,” says Robin Sandlin, owner of Curves of Caldwell, TX. “We did have one member jokingly ask for three years of membership back. She said she was not working out before and now sees a difference not only in the workout but in her weight loss and fat loss as well as inches. We have had several cancelled members come back. They are talking [about CurvesSmart] all over our community.”

Baylor University studies sponsored by MYTRAK found that CurvesSmart program participants had a 21 percent greater work output, lost more body fat and gained more strength than a control group who didn’t participate in the program.

Mitchell says franchisees typically charge members about $5 more a month to use the CurvesSmart program.

When a club installs MYTRAK, the owner selects a sequence of circuit machines for the mini-computers, says Reed Hanoun, MYTRAK founder. The MYTRAK computers can be retrofitted to be used on a club’s existing equipment, regardless of manufacturer or age, Hanoun says. The club owner then pays a monthly access fee, depending on the setup.

The Riverfront YMCA in Des Moines, IA, began using the MYTRAK system in February 2007. Program Director Joel Moore says the club charges users a fee for the key tags. He notes that the Y is working with the local medical community to allow them to track members’ workout results.

“We’ve been working with physicians in the area and physical therapists to get them on board so if they send patients to us we’ll be able to track what they’re doing,” Moore says. “It gives doctors a better way to understand how their patients are working out.”

Hanoun notes that the MYTRAK system is an effective way for both physicians and insurance companies to gauge patient health.

“In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in employers doing wellness programs,” Hanoun says. “More employers are starting to provide exercise benefits or health club memberships. Companies realize healthy employees cost less. What employers are looking for is an objective process to keep people engaged. It’s a great opportunity for lots of fitness clubs to migrate from just a fitness population to a broader-based health model.”

Although Curves currently isn't sharing member information with insurance providers, Mitchell doesn’t rule it out for the future. The franchise is planning a 2009 upgrade to CurvesSmart II that includes enhanced compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).