By Heather Creamer
In her recent article, “Recalibrating the Fitness Industry,” Sara Hodson points out, “We are standing inside an opportunity – to rebuild our industry, …and offer a new product that champions the success of every person that walks through our doors.”
As a practitioner within the Medical Fitness Exercise space, I could not agree more. There is an exciting and growing opportunity for those fitness professionals who are forward-thinking and looking for longevity in the fitness industry. As we recalibrate to our new post-covid normal, now is the perfect time to develop new skills that will bring a whole new demographic of clients seeking successful outcomes; those looking to progress from medical management and/or physio and towards regular fitness. These potential new clients represent a huge opportunity for the fitness industry and, in return, we in the fitness industry can help these clients safely and effectively reach and even exceed their goals. By specializing within the Medical Fitness Exercise space, we can help to champion their success!
What is Medical Fitness Exercise?
Medical Fitness Exercise encompasses the space on the fitness continuum between medical management/ physio and regular fitness; it represents the solution to the gap in the services for those individuals who have been released from care but who still require the support of someone knowledgeable in their unique fitness requirements. It takes into consideration what stage the client is at for every session and the limitations that may result from the clients’ condition, treatment and/ or surgery.
A fitness practitioner specializing within this Medical Fitness Exercise space can help their clients bridge that gap and provide much-needed guidance to those wishing to follow their doctor’s recommendation for continued or increased physical activity.
Who are the clients seeking these services?
Many of the potential clients seeking these services are not currently being served in the fitness industry; they are typically in the fifty-plus age group and are living with one or more chronic health concerns such as prediabetes, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer, cognitive decline, stress, and others. Their diagnosis may be recent, or they may have been living with the condition for years and, often, their health care provider has directed them to exercise or increase their physical activity and make the lifestyle changes that would fall within the scope of practice of a specialized fitness professional.
How can Specialized Fitness Professionals help these clients?
Specialized fitness professionalscan help these clients improve their fitness levels and decrease their risk factors for disease or recurrence. They have the knowledge and skills for designing, implementing, and modifying exercise programs for their client’s individual needs. They understand the roles of various healthcare professionals and will collaborate with them to enhance their clients’ exercise programs. Specialists can work with individual clients or in group sessions and can even incorporate their specialty into existing classes, for example, Pilates or Yoga for Cancer Survivors, Pre or Post Natal exercise classes for participants with Prediabetes or Diabetes or cognitive training exercises to increase mental processing speed in athletes or to reduce the risk for cognitive decline in older individuals.
Those fitness professionals who have the specialized knowledge that will enable them to help these individuals will be rewarded with clients who remain with them well beyond the typical timeframe of session packages. In most cases, the goals for these clients are not physique or event-oriented, but instead, they are looking to increase their functional ability and improve their overall health and wellness. Typically, they are with you for a much longer time, and with their continued progression and success comes loyalty. This is especially true for the older demographic who have the time and the disposable income to pay for these services.
What is the opportunity?
There is a huge and still growing opportunity within the Medical Fitness Exercise space. The overlying factor that is driving this growth is the increasing average age of Canadians. As the median age of Canadians continues to rise, (currently it is 41.1), the average age of your clientele will also continue to climb, and their risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer increases with every year.
Currently, there are more than seven million Canadians over the age of 65, and this segment of the population continues to grow. By 2030, it is estimated that one in four Canadians will be 65 or older. This demographic is most at risk for chronic illness and has the greatest need for specialized support and represents the biggest opportunity.
As Canada struggles with increasing diagnoses of chronic disease, more support is required, and nobody is better positioned to support their clients’ needs as they progress along the fitness continuum than the elite fitness professional with specialized knowledge in the Medical Fitness Exercise space.
As a result of the COVID pandemic, many people who live with chronic health concerns now understand the significant benefits of exercise to their overall health, especially in mitigating COVID effects associated with underlying conditions, and want to take steps to improve their fitness. But will the specialized support they need be available to them? By integrating more fitness professionals who have this specialized knowledge into our fitness industry, we open our doors to a growing and underserved portion of our demographic, providing them with their best outcomes, and in return, we can develop new streams of revenue that will help ensure our longevity in the industry we love.