Rx: Thirty Minutes on the StairMaster Twice Weekly: Hospitals Court the Sweaty Set with Health Clubs

By Stone, Brad | Newsweek, March 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Rx: Thirty Minutes on the StairMaster Twice Weekly: Hospitals Court the Sweaty Set with Health Clubs


Stone, Brad, Newsweek


Hospitals court the sweaty set with health clubs

HE HOTTEST NEW HEALTH CLUB IN Geneva, Ill., doesn't look anything like the gyms advertised on TV. In those unsubtle commercials, brawny men pump iron while shapely women ooze sweat as they strut through high-impact aerobics. At the club in Geneva,you won't find a high-impact class--they're orthopedically incorrect. Nor will you find the high-hormone singles scene that is common to traditional clubs. That's because the Geneva club is a "wellness center," owned and operated by Delnor-Community Hospital, the largest health-care provider in this western suburb of Chicago.

Delnor-Community is one of a growing number of hospitals that are operating health clubs. They're called wellness centers because they offer the paying public everything from nutrition classes to the kai array of modern exercise amenities, like Olympic-size swimming pools and cardiovascular machines. All aim to build on the expertise of the hospital to provide a medically supervised workout environment that is friendly to those who wouldn't go near the traditional dubs. The formula must be working: the prospect of competing with hospitals has many in the fitness industry scared out of their spandex.

Today there are 349 hospital-run fitness centers, with many in suburban areas. The wellness bandwagon is attractive to hospitals, health-care experts say, because managed care is giving them strong incentives to keep patients healthy and limit costly medical procedures. Of course, the facilities also help hospitals with the all-important bottom line--85 percent of the larger centers are in the black, according to the Association of Hospital Health and Fitness. Advocates contend that wellness centers are also smart advertising: "We are bringing in people who maybe now don't need to utilize the hospital but will think of us if their children get hurt," says Kirk Kruse, director of the Rush-Copley Healthplex in Aurora, Ill.

Medical muscle: The hospital health clubs offer plenty of medical muscle to back up their mission to improve members' health. …

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