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Entries in inclusive fitness (7)


UFIT Spain Launches at IHRSA European Congress

The UFIT Conference and Launch of UFIT Spain took place at the IHRSA European Congress in Seville, Spain today.

Universal Fitness Innovation & Transformation (UFIT) is a global social change movement, led by the UNESCO Chair in the Institute of Technology Tralee, Ireland, aiming to increase fitness opportunities for all, in particular people with disabilities.

Catherine Carty, manager of the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Fitness, Sport, PE and Recreation, opened the conference by providing an overview of the UFIT program. Dr. Javier Pérez Tejero (CEDI), the lead of UFIT Spain, underlined the significance of this revolutionary initiative and its development and brought potential future Spanish taskforce members with him that are eager to roll out the UFIT programme in Spain. The official UFIT “SIVA” song and an inspiring message from its producer, Pati Umaga, concluded the welcoming address, and later inspired dancing of the attendees.

The conference included two keynotes. The first by Colin Milner who addressed the “The Aging Opportunity” and the second by Scott Goudeseune who discussed “Why [we should] do UFIT?” The two panel discussions, involving leading global experts, got to the crux of UFIT. Some of the topics explored: the needs, the benefits, the barriers and the opportunities of inclusivizing fitness and of implementing UFIT.  

The first panel, ‘Just do UFIT’ was chaired by IHRSA Executive Vice President of Global Products Jay Ablondi and included Scott Goudeseune (ACE, USA), Dr. Javier Pérez Tejero (CEDI, Spain) and Kilian Fisher (IHRSA, International) who shared their experiences and vision. On the second panel, Fred Hoffman led Mariusz Damentko (Special Olympics Eurasia), Lauren R. Darensbourg (President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, USA) and Graham Melstrand (USREPS/ CREPS, USA & Canada) on an exploration of ‘the Business Case.'  

One of the many key messages was made by Lauren R. Darensbourg stating, ”UFIT enables fitness professionals to open up their eyes to diverse group populations.” Gerard Masdeu Yélamos (UFIT Global Coordinator) then presented the global UFIT experience. In the closing address by Catherine Carty highlighted “the momentum and willingness to drive inclusion across the fitness industry is evident and energizing.” Dr. Javier Pérez Tejero then officially launched UFIT Spain and brought the conference to a great end uniting the Spanish taskforce with each other and also taskforce members of other countries.


Gainesville Health & Fitness Helps Special Needs Athletes Get Fit

Zig Ziglar, the American author, salesman, and motivational speaker, once said, “You can have everything in life that you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” 

Gainesville Health & Fitness in northern Florida has applied this belief to their business model since its opening in 1978. Owner Joe Cirulli was the first person to suggest a commitment to servicing community members by offering traditional programs focused on making donations to support local charities. And, since then, the club’s programming has expanded to include a wide array of initiatives that help the residents of Gainesville and the surrounding areas be more active. 

“Our ideas for programming come from simply answering a need,” says Noah Hastay, Gainesville’s operations manager. “With our vision of becoming one of the best companies for the world, we are striving to help those inside and outside of our four walls.” 

IHRSA Institute Inspiration 

The club’s latest venture was realized after attending the Health Promotion & Community Service session at the 2014 IHRSA Institute. The session, co-taught by Amy Bantham of IHRSA and Sandy Franco of Franco’s Athletic Club in Mandeville, LA, explained the fitness industry’s efforts to emphasize the benefits associated with daily physical activity and work to reduce the inactivity crisis. 

During the session, Franco spoke specifically about her club’s involvement in the community and how giving back acts as an opportunity to build brand loyalty. In particular, she spoke to the development of all-inclusive programs tailored to fit individual needs, and she described how Franco’s used this model to help children and adults with disabilities maintain strength and good health despite adversity. 

When Hastay heard about this program, he was inspired and immediately envisioned implementing a similar program in Florida. 

Gainesville’s FIT for ALL Program 

Gainesville officially launched their FIT for ALL program in February 2015, and now, the program has gained traction, offering three program tracks per week which serve more than 50 special needs athletes. 

“We are always looking for ways to disrupt the segment of the market that has been ‘untapped.’ When I started this program for individuals with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, I quickly saw that it was answering so many needs—such as the needs for inclusion and structured, individualized, training—while keeping the social component, and making exercise fun and rewarding,” says Hastay. 

Continue reading about Gainsville Health & Fitness' special needs programs.

Click to read more ...


This Week in the Fitness Industry: Augie’s Quest Wins $100K for ALS Research

IHRSA Members Help Augie’s Quest Win $100K for ALS Research
Earlier this week, we posted that Augie's Quest, Life Fitness Co-founder Augie Nieto’s cure-driven effort focused on finding treatments and cures for ALS, was in the running to win $250,000 from CBS' Viewers to Volunteers Challenge. At the time, Augie’s team—headed up by Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’dell—was in fourth place, so we asked the IHRSA community to join the team and spread the word on social media—and that’s just what you did. Thanks in large part to your efforts, Augie’s Quest rose to second place, winning $100,000 for ALS research. 

Apple Watch Update Will Support Fitness Tracking for Wheelchair Users
A new Apple Watch feature will extend its fitness tracking and reminder alerts to wheelchair users for the first time, according to ABC News. The smartwatch’s new feature is part of a free software update, watchOS 3.0, and will prompt people in wheelchairs to wheel or spin their chairs around regularly. It will also track speed, distance, and calories burned during wheelchair use, just as it does for running and walking. "We want to make products that serve every walk of life," Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, said in an interview. "We realize that while it was great for messages on the wrist, we wanted to offer this group of people the same opportunity to get healthier using Apple Watch." 

Apply for the 2016 IHRSA European Club Leadership Award
We’re currently accepting applications for the 2016 IHRSA European Club Leadership Award, which annually recognizes a leader in the European fitness club industry who has done the most to advance their company and the industry through strong leadership and performance. This year’s award will be presented during the 16th Annual IHRSA European Congress, October 17-20, in Seville, Spain. The deadline to apply is September 9th. "I am truly honored to receive IHRSA's European Club Leadership Award,” said Martin Seibold, managing director of Fitness First UK in Dorset, England, received the 2015 European Club Leadership Award last October in Marseille, France. “It's amazing to look through the list of previous winners and be part of this history."


The Claremont Club’s Virtual Blueprint for Inclusive Fitness

It really doesn’t take much to get Mike Alpert going. Mention people who have disabilities or have suffered chronic injuries, and the passion quickly rises to the surface. 

For Alpert, the president and CEO of The Claremont Club, in Claremont, CA, that zeal has prompted a long, ongoing struggle to include such individuals in club activities to help improve their lives.

“It’s about an opportunity to do some truly meaningful and purposeful work in our industry,” he said, his voice filling with emotion. “We—and, by we, I mean all of us club operators—have the ability to save lives. We have the facilities and the skills to do this great work. However, I’m sad to say that many of us aren’t doing so right now.”

The Need for Inclusive Fitness

“Inclusive” is a rather broad category, and includes people who have been born with physical and/or intellectual or emotional disabilities; and those who, due to accidents or other events or circumstances, have acquired them. The disciples of inclusive fitness programs believe that everyone should be able to take advantage of the services that clubs can offer.

While the number of inclusive clubs is growing, the need is clearly great.

A 2014 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that half of the 21 million Americans with disabilities don’t exercise, which further jeopardizes their health. An additional 22% of disabled adults aren’t active enough, which means that approximately half of them are more likely than their active peers to develop serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

A Virtual Blueprint for Health Clubs

If there’s an exemplar, a poster boy, for inclusive fitness in the U.S., that person might well be Alpert.

His club, a multipurpose athletic, aquatic, tennis, and social facility set on an impressive 18-acre campus, employs a staff of more than 270 to look after some 10,500 members. It could also easily serve as a virtual blueprint for clubs that want to become more inclusive.

The Claremont Club is currently treating people with spinal cord injuries (SCI), multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy (CP), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and those who have suffered strokes or are battling cancer.

One of the highlights of Alpert’s efforts is the Project Walk Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centers franchise that he acquired in 2013, the first situated inside a health club. These centers, managed and operated by SCI Business Solutions, Inc., of Carlsbad, CA, help people with SCI via education, training, and intense activity-based recovery programs.

Alpert transformed a racquetball court into a 5,100-square-foot studio to accommodate the program.

 “It’s incredibly rewarding to walk through this facility every day and see the difference we’re making,” he said. “I’d encourage every club owner to think beyond the bottom line, and recognize the potential that inclusive fitness offers to create an incredibly meaningful legacy.”

Such initiatives serve critical needs, increase club utilization, drive memberships, enhance a club’s standing in the community, boost the morale of staff and current members, and—most importantly—actually improve people’s lives.

Continue reading about IHRSA members’ inclusive programs in the May issue of CBI.


More options for those with special needs

Fitness for Health founder Marc Sickel and a client.Before joining Fitness for Health in Rockville, Md., the last time that Locla Byron, 70, had walked up a flight of stairs without holding on to the railing was when she was six years old.

Byron was born with cerebral palsy, a general term for a set of neurological disorders that severely impair muscle function, and, so, throughout her life, she’d struggle to do simple things that most take for granted - things like maintaining good balance.

Then, through her doctor, she heard about Fitness for Health, a fitness center that works exclusively with people with disabilities.

Six months into her training at the facility, s regimen that involved a variety of exercises, games, and equipment adapted specifically for the handicapped, Byron walked up a flight of stairs without the support of a railing - for the first time in 64 years!

Fitness for Health is at the forefront of the emerging inclusive fitness (sometimes called adaptive fitness) movement, an effort to create and provide exercise facilities, equipment, and programs tailored to individuals with special needs.

Read on for more on inclusive fitness.


Congratulations! to Humanitarian Clubs  

Each week, CBI learns about a variety of fund-raising initiatives conducted by IHRSA-member health clubs throughout the world. Name a charity or a worthy cause—cancer, multiple sclerosis, the hungry, the homeless—and, in all likelihood, some club, somewhere, has staged an event, a program, or a campaign to benefit it.

Click to read more ...


Mobile Fitness: The Business Behind Being Exclusively Inclusive

By Mia Coen

 I’d like to think that we all have a passion for something that’s outside our realm of knowledge or occupation. It could be something we don’t understand or something we’d like to know more about.

For Greg Kirk, founder and president of Fitness Therapy Unlimited (FTU), his passion is helping adaptive needs individuals achieve physical competence through fitness therapy.

What makes FTU so special is its unique niche and what it brings to the health and fitness industry: mobility and specialized knowledge. Though FTU doesn’t even have its own facility, it thrives as a mobile business. “We travel to different communities throughout the state of Michigan,” said Kirk. “We travel to the client’s home, local gym, and pool to conduct the fitness therapy. We encourage our clients to get out in their own community to socialize. It’s more than physical fitness; it’s to help improve their cognitive and social state.”

Kirk and his team of fitness therapists hold Fitness Therapy certifications from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), an IHRSA Associate. They work exclusively with disabled individuals who have conditions like spinal cord injury, brain injury, MS, muscular dystrophy, visual impairment, and different orthopedic and geriatric issues. He and his team travel to different health clubs, community centers, and pools within the same communities where his clients live, in order to provide convenience and a familiar social atmosphere. FTU staffers practice a range of specialized services, such as fitness therapy, aquatic therapy, massage therapy, and nutrition. Frequent stops are made at Warren Community Center (WCC) and Romulus Athletic Center as well as such IHRSA facilities as the Great Lakes Athletic Club, the Beverly Hills Club, and Bally Total Fitness, to name a few.

In the fitness industry, the disabled community is a population that goes decidedly underserved. Though many clubs make an effort to make their facilities handicapped-accessible or equipped with user-friendly machines, adaptive needs individuals may find it difficult to integrate themselves among their able-bodied peers at the gym. In addition, many trainers don’t know how to develop a regimen for someone who’s had a catastrophic injury. And most certified nutrition counselors are unable to recommend a diet plan without knowledge of drug interactions. FTU has one up on the industry by being able to provide specialized services to the adaptive needs population.

“Fitness Therapy is an actual certification. The name separates us into a niche that other people aren’t addressing. It’s not fitness training, it’s not physical therapy; it combines both, the fitness and the therapy,” said Kirk.

FTU is doing something extraordinary: meeting the demands of the disabled community by opening the fitness market to them. In turn, clients develop strength and physical competence, partake in social activities, and get involved with their communities.

“It’s pretty inspiring to help these people every day. We teach them, but they teach us just as much. We appreciate the opportunity, just as much as they do.”