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more information than ever at their disposal. One of the best ways that fitness


business owners can provide better results to their communities and get more for their bottom line is to develop niche programming and services. Fitness services for special popula-

tions is one of these niche markets. For the purpose of this article, “special populations” refers to groups who have a specific medical condition and who require special expertise and supervi- sion to manage their medical situation. Special populations medical condi-

tions cover numerous categories, in- cluding the physical – arthritis, dia- betes, asthma, hypertension, heart disease and obesity, for example – as well as the mental – such as depres- sion, anxiety and ADD. Offering special population pro-

gramming has many advantages, in- cluding the following:

1. A direct connection to the medi-

cal community 2. Increased credibility and pro-

fessionalism in the eyes of your community 3. Differentiation from other fitness

providers 4. Provides a vehicle to develop your

coaching programs which appeals to highly-credentialed staff 5. Creates an additional revenue


Consider these six steps to successfully implement a special populations program at your facility:

46 Fitness Business Canada November/December 2012

n the last several years, the fit- ness club landscape has changed. There is more competition for the fitness dollar, and consumers have

as a Niche Market

Get creative to keep pace with the competition. BY GREG LAWLOR

1. Appoint a program champion This should be someone who is

qualified and passionate about fitness services for special populations.

2. Make people aware Promote the research findings

around regular exercise and the spe- cial population you support. Send this research information out via your website, social media, fundraisers, live events, etc., and tie it into your pro- grams and special offers.

3. Hire appropriate staff Be sure that all staff members in-

volved have the appropriate exper- tise and certifications for the specialty area.

4. Contact the medical community Connect with local physicians, and

make sure they know the quality of your services. If possible, provide a newsletter for their waiting rooms that is branded to your facility.

5. Offer coaching sessions Small group and individual coach-

ing options allow more people to ex- plore what is possible in a format that is best for them.

6. Provide equipment and space that accommodates all Choose equipment that is versatile

enough for all populations. A special populations program can

increase your club’s profile and cred- ibility, increase referrals, and create advocates in the medical communi- ty. Like any new program or offering, take time to map out a plan, assign human resources roles and design a program that will lead you to suc- cess. FBC

Greg Lawlor is chief customer officer at STAK Fitness Int’l Inc., a company that serves the commercial fitness market in supply and educa- tion. Greg did his graduate degree in Adapted Physical Education at McGill University. Contact him at @greglawlor on

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