It is common for fitness centers to perform basic health screenings such as blood pressure and body composition testing, but some facilities are taking a big step further by offering blood profiles and bone density testing. They are following the lead of drug stores that have been offering the service for years, and the mobile laboratories, such as West Coast Health Services, that perform the testing.
The blood tests that mobile laboratories are currently providing include total cholesterol, HDL-C (high density lipoprotein cholesterol), LDL-C (low density lipoprotein cholesterol), triglycerides, ALT and AST (alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase), glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and allergy screening. The fee for each test ranges from $6-$65 depending on whether an item is tested by itself or as part of a panel, and does not require a doctor’s order. Results are available in 10-15 minutes, except for the allergy screening, which may take up to 10 days. In the latter case, members are mailed the results.
HDL-C, also known as good cholesterol, carries fat from the arteries to the liver where it is later excreted as a component of bile, whereas LDL-C, also known as bad cholesterol, deposits fat in the arteries. Long duration cardiovascular exercise can increase HDL-C and decrease LDL-C and triglycerides, another type of fat.
Hemoglobin A1c, also known as glycosylated hemoglobin, and glucose are predictors of diabetes. The former translates to a 3-month average of daily glucose levels. In the case of type 2 diabetes, higher values indicate glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. In type 1 diabetes, high glucose and Hemoglobin A1c suggest nominal or absent insulin production. Exercise can help prevent type 2 diabetes and help manage both types by limiting the body’s demand for insulin.
ALT and AST are liver enzymes that do not appear in the blood stream unless the liver is damaged. Fatty liver, or steatohepatitis, is normally the cause of liver damage and is more often a result of alcohol abuse and in some cases a result of diabetes and obesity. Exercise can help keep these enzymes in check by controlling glucose and lipid levels.
The bone density test is performed on the heel and is a good predictor of fracture risk. If indicated, the next step is to recommend a DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan that measures spinal and femoral density, a more comprehensive determinant of fracture risk. Exercise, particularly strength training, can help preserve bone mass and even increase density in previously sedentary individuals.
By offering a wider variety of health screenings, you demonstrate that exercise and proper eating habits elicit a much more comprehensive effect than weight management. Increase membership and retention by emphasizing that your services and equipment not only help treat some diseases and conditions, but also help prevent some.
When to Offer Screenings
Who pays for the screenings depends on your goals for making these available. Some clubs pay for the tests, some share the cost with participants, and some will make a profit by charging more than the lab does. Do you want to offer a free service to your community? Are you looking to increase revenue, membership, and personal training clientele? Whatever your intention you will provide a great service particularly to those people who would otherwise avoid going to the doctor.
Offer testing on a special day, like an open house, and invite the public. Have one of your nutrition counselors and trainers available to explain how lifestyle modifications may improve blood profiles and bone density. The lab results are a great way to sell membership and personal training.
When I started working at a health club that had just opened, I had very little personal training experience. Although my co-workers had been trainers for much longer than I, they didn’t possess the sales techniques that I had. I took advantage of the free fitness evaluations that my club was offering and tested as many people as I could. Six months after the club opened, I had a thriving personal training clientele while the other trainers had no clients.
Besides my honed sales techniques, the fitness evaluations sold training packages. When people see concrete proof that their health has room for improvement, they are motivated right then to do something about it. People who take the time to get tested are strong leads. The same applies for blood and bone density tests. If the values translate to increased morbidity and decreased vitality, and you highlight your staff’s expertise and ability to reduce health risks, you will make your facility and services more marketable.
About the Author
Jeanne “Bean“ Murdock, is the owner Beanfit Health and Fitness Services. She is the host/producer of Celiac Radio and the author of “Ask Bean“, an online column and “Successful Dating at Last! A Workbook for Understanding Each Other“ and “The Every Excuse in the Book Book: How to Benefit from Exercising, by Overcoming Your Excuses.“ Contact Jeanne for more information at 805-226-9893 or through her website at www.beanfit.com.