Wendy Williamson, PhD, is a nationally sought-after speaker in the areas of general personal training education, medical exercise service and post rehabilitation. She was recognized by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2005 and 2006 as one of the top three personal trainers in the nation. A contributing author of the 2008 Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist – ACE Training Textbook, Williamson routinely writes and reviews national certification testing criteria for personal trainers. She has an extensive track record in teaching and curriculum development and is the owner of Williamson Fitness Consulting (www.williamsonfitness.com). Williamson continues to provide hands on post rehabilitation training at Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita, KS.

If you don’t already offer medical exercise servicing (MES) at your facility, it may be time to consider doing so. MES is providing post rehabilitation to individuals who have been ill, injured or have been diagnosed with a medical condition. Positioning fitness facilities and fitness professionals to provide quality MES will present an opportunity to collaborate and earn respect from the medical community.

The American Academy of Health, Fitness and Rehabilitation Professionals offers three classifications of MES: cardiovascular, neurological and musculoskeletal disorders.

Generally, the most common conditions that may enter your facility in need of MES would be orthopedic conditions (i.e. hip replacements, knee replacements), low back pain, cardiac rehabilitation, diabetes, obesity, fibromyalgia, cancer, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and stroke. These conditions can be broken down into orthopedic, metabolic disorders, neurological disorders, cardiac rehabilitation and immunological disorders.

Regardless of the economy, these conditions will continue to present themselves. The demand is there, and, ultimately, the higher the quality of the service you provide, the more success for your facility.

First, you’ll need to ask: Do you have the facility to provide MES services? Does your staff have the education, certifications, expertise and networking support to provide MES services? What is required? What is expected?

Let’s start with the facility. Although it is not necessary, having a medical presence (either a physical therapy business or medical clinic) in your facility is beneficial. The opportunities that exist with this relationship are tremendous and should be handled carefully. Interaction with a medical professional who does not share your building takes more work and diligence, especially in getting this relationship started. I highly recommend that if you don’t have a medical presence in your building that you first contact the physician assistant, nurse or someone else who works directly with the medical professional. Once you make this person aware of your club’s services and skills, he or she can get you into the presence of the medical professional.

In addition to a medical presence in your building, you ideally want to locate the MES work area near the front door or elevator and create close parking spaces plus easy building access for your MES clients, many of whom will have challenged mobility. Logistically, all you need are balls, bands, light dumbbells, balance pads, cable equipment and a massage table. Special and expensive equipment is not absolutely necessary although some existing and emerging cardio equipment already focuses on upper body workouts or easy accessibility on and off the equipment.

The Medical Fitness Association (MFA) (http://www.medicalfitness.org/) has a program for facilities to become an MFA center after you meet their criteria. Meeting this criteria is difficult, but doing so establishes which centers are willing to become a quality MES facility.

Fitness professionals willing to take on MES need to be specialized. Advanced education, experience and mentoring are necessary to provide the best quality service. However, the skill sets and knowledge to be prepared to address these conditions take time, energy, focus and discipline.

Many advanced training certifications for MES are available, including the Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist offered by American Council on Exercise, Muscle Activation Technique – Resistance Training Specialist or Medical Exercise Specialist – American Academy of Health, Fitness and Rehabilitation Professionals.

An advanced degree, including perhaps a master’s degree in exercise science with emphasis in special populations, also is important. During the course work, students often can direct their plan of study towards a certain area and spend time in an apprenticeship or internship with medical professionals in that area. The fitness professional must position themselves as ready to receive the hand-off in what we now call post rehabilitation.

Our certification status will always be subordinate to the licensure of physical therapists and other medical professionals. That means that engaging the respective medical staff in dialogue regarding patient/client continuation of care is critical. It takes work, being available, and being prepared to listen and discuss what is best for the client with these medical professionals. Again, we must be prepared and understand the subject content and the applications for the respective client. It is our respect to gain. Once the respect is gained, the reciprocal referrals will begin to occur.

Offering MES will broaden your club’s offerings, provide high-quality servicing and assist in the final medical rehabilitation stage of a client’s injury, illness or disease. The demand for MES continues to increase. Positioning ourselves is a must. It is right there waiting to happen. We just have to step forward and offer MES. The rewards will be amazing.