SAN ANTONIO, TX — Virgin Life Care may have created the missing link connecting health clubs, health care and corporations, said Matthew Stevens, president of Spectrum Clubs. And he has jumped on board to be a part of it.

Spectrum is teaming with Virgin Life Care and insurer Humana Inc. to offer certificates for goods and services to individuals who work out. The program also is in place at some Gold's Gyms in Tampa, FL, and at the Louisville Athletic Club in Louisville, KY. Virgin Life Care plans to roll out the program nationwide this year.

Participants in the program earn Virgin Life Care HealthMile points by exercising or taking measurements at a Virgin Life Care HealthZone, a free service to participants. Points earned can later be converted to Virgin Cash, which can be used to purchase a variety of products and services offered by 40 partnering merchants including Amazon.com, Bath & Body Works and Target.

The HealthZone allows fitness facilities to connect health care companies and corporations with data that tracks the health progress of employees. While many of the HealthZone elements are available in the industry, this is the first time all of the elements have been integrated, said Stephen Thornton, CEO of Virgin Life Care.

“There are kiosks that exist where users can check blood pressure, but they aren't integrated and linked as part of a single, turnkey system which allows you to get online and track your results, get on the Web site and track your health and nutrition, access incentives for the application and effort,” he said. “It's the integrated nature of the program that's unique.”

Some corporate fitness facilities have similar programs , Stevens said, but smaller fitness facilities hadn't been able to afford them, leading Stevens to believe that the Virgin Life Care program could change the way clubs do business.

“It will be a major step for our industry,” Stevens said. If corporations sign up their employees for the program, sales reps would work to get a set percentage of those employees participating rather than selling individual memberships.

“It's going to be a big win for the industry,” Stevens said.

In late February, two months after the first HealthZone installation, Virgin Life Care had installed approximately 30 HealthZones. The company plans to expand that number to 5,000-8,000 during the next few years. As of late February, Virgin Life Care had 28,000-29,000 log ins to the HealthZone systems.

A similar program in place in South Africa for five years has attracted 500,000 members.

“I would suppose if you did a comparable in terms of market size and penetration that would equate to 4 million members [in the United States],” said Thornton.

Spectrum members have been using the system since Jan. 10. Of Spectrum's 40,000 adult members at its 10 San Antonio clubs, 6,000 had registered on the HealthZone after 45 days and are using the zones more than four times a month. Stevens' goal is for half of his adult members to be registered and using the HealthZone regularly, something that he hopes will help him reach his membership goals. He plans to implement the program at Spectrum's California clubs soon.

While Spectrum members have used the HealthZone to get their measurements and track their progress on the Web site, they have not been able to earn rewards because they are not part of the corporate HealthMiles program, which is offered to employees of corporations that have signed up for the program.

However, Stevens is working with Virgin Life Care to develop a ClubMiles reward program that would be similar to the HealthMiles program but designed for club members. While the HealthMiles benefits are funded in part by Virgin Life Care and in part by employers, club owners would pay the cost of the Club Miles benefit.

“The concept would be that those are dollars well invested into my membership,” Stevens said.

Stevens and Thornton hope to make the ClubMiles program turnkey for use by other interested health clubs.

Health clubs won't be the only hosts for the HealthZones. Virgin Life Care also plans to install them at corporations and retail outlets. However, the company is looking for more health club hosts who can deliver the Virgin experience — service, fun and value for their money — to the member.

Fitness facilities interested in hosting a HealthZone must adhere to a set of reciprocal service level agreements. The facilities also must offer connectivity, visibility and accessibility for the HealthZones.

Clubs pay a fee to lease the HealthZones, but Thornton declined to provide the leasing fee. Instead, he said the program “provides good value” for the clubs and offers them several benefits.

“We are enlarging the number of people who might normally be health club goers,” said Thornton. “When people have additional motivation and incentives, it gets more people moving. We like to think we can get more foot flow into health clubs. We also provide an accountable system that allows one to track what one is doing.”

The costs associated with being a HealthZone provider are worth it, Stevens said.

“If everyone who comes through my door can track their progress, get rewards and have a Web site that gives them a tracking system that is a motivator pushing them to be proactive, they'll stay with me longer,” he said.

Stevens expects the program to entice corporations to sign up their employees at his gyms. He's already working on packages for interested corporations.

Thornton would like other companies to offer programs similar to HealthZone, making the term HealthMiles as generic a term as air miles and adding validation to the concept. However, Thornton plans for Virgin Life Care to be the gold standard in terms of reward programs.

“I'd like for us to be the benchmark that other programs are measured by,” he said.