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Aging Population Is Helping Medical Fitness Growth

RICHMOND, VA — A perfect storm is brewing that is helping the medical fitness and wellness industry grow.

Worldwide, 1,100 medical fitness and wellness centers are in operation, according to survey results and analysis included in the “Benchmarks for Success 2010, Eighth Edition,” which is published by the Medical Fitness Association, Richmond, VA. That number has been growing by 6 percent since 2003.

“With the advent of health care reform, the international launch of [American College of Sports Medicine's] Exercise is Medicine initiative and the continued escalation of chronic health conditions in America, the need for the expertise and services provided by medically integrated centers are greater than ever before,” Brad Roy, chairman of the Medical Fitness Association, said in a press release announcing the report.

John Greene, CEO of MedFit Partners, a Chicago-based club management company, says that the aging population and the fact that one in two of them have at least one chronic condition are significant factors in the growth of medical fitness and wellness centers.

The number of centers might have grown even higher had it not been for the recession.

“From my experience, hospitals have been hurt by the same factors that have hurt other businesses,” Greene says. “They are not immune. Over the last two to three years, they've been hit in their investment portfolios. Their reimbursements are constantly changing by insurance companies and Medicare. The financial environment hasn't necessarily been that strong for them.”

Although some large institutions may have good enough credit ratings that they can still go to market and raise money, Greene says a lot of hospitals are small community facilities with lower credit, and many face consolidation.

Greene adds that what is considered a medical fitness and wellness center at one facility might look completely different at another.

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