Demystifying FAs for the Deconditioned

There is an abundance of new technologies that are designed to aid our members in monitoring and maintaining their exercise habit. However, before a member can utilize these systems effectively, they must first have a starting point.

In no group is this more important than the special populations such as the elderly or deconditioned. Fitness assessments (FAs) are the foundation on which we build a strong commitment to an exercise program. The dilemma is how do we market the value of fitness assessments to special populations?

The best time to introduce the fitness assessment is when closing a prospect. We must first remember that the level of understanding among the general population is limited in matters of exercise. Start throwing words like systolic, diastolic and VO2 max around and you quickly lose the interest of the new member. Keep exercise science out of it, at least for now. To establish a value for the assessment, it must be made meaningful to that individual. Remember the population you are dealing with-the elderly and deconditioned. They are unlikely to understand the components of the test, so don't try to use those to sell it.

To establish value, use a concept that they do understand. One such concept is the stock market. Paying a monthly investment into a stock and watching it grow is understood by most. Have the members think of their physical condition as a health stock, and their membership dues as their monthly investment. If using a computerized assessment system, the printout produced is referred to as their health stock sheet.

Retesting is a vital element, as this will show improvement or a return of investment. Have sample printouts readily available to show the member, preferably of someone who has made significant gains. Remember the old adage: A picture's worth a thousand words. A graphical representation of the different test results makes it understandable and less intimidating for members.

When marketing to special populations, the actual term "fitness assessment" may turn off certain individuals or groups. It may be prudent, therefore, to refer to it as a health screening or continue with the stock market theme and say you're going to check their health stock. Avoid anything that draws attention to their deconditioned state.

One of the key selling points of the fitness assessment, in any population, is that the fitness counselor is there to listen to what the members want. It's a natural desire in us all to be listened to and, if new members believe they will be listened to, they are more likely to agree to the assessment.

To market to special populations, we must demystify the fitness assessment, establish a value for it, make it meaningful and make it visual. If you focus on these key areas in your marketing strategy, you will certainly see an increase in takers for fitness assessments.

--Mark Sinclair is the genreal manager of HealthWorks in Fort Collins, Colo. He is a graduate of Brighton University, England, in exercise science.


Making Fitness Assessments Successful

* Avoid information overload

* Avoid technical jargon

* Make assessments meaningful

* Make assessments fun

* Show a sheet that tracks results


Industry Update

* E-Zone has formed a strategic sales and marketing alliance with Cardio Theater Holdings Inc. The companies will work together to bring a wide variety of exercise, education and entertainment options to the industry.

* The Performance Ball, a serious but fun fitness training program, has launched its Web site (www.performanceball.com). The site highlights inventor Ralf Henning; the Performance Ball; a products display page; videotapes and accessories; an ACE certification page; a fitness tip page; an e-mail order page; and a contact page.

* Thanks to E-Zone, Stomp, the group exercise class run on StairMaster stairclimbers, has been featured, virtually, in more than 225 clubs since March 2000. Stairmaster reports that Stomp offers a fun workout for individuals of all fitness levels.

* Treadmill manufacturer Woodway USA has purchased a 50 percent stake in Woodway GMBH of Weil am Rhein, Germany. Concentrating in medical specialty models, such as those used in the rehab of paraplegics and stroke patients, Woodway GMBH has been supplying treadmills throughout Europe since 1975.