How to Reach a Large, Underserved Segment in Fitness

People with disabilities are one of the most underserved markets in fitness.

It’s hard to look past this quote by DJ Homann, an education specialist for Life Fitness and Cybex.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have some sort of disability. But, only half of adults with disabilities who are able to be physically active get any aerobic physical activity. Physical guidelines established by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 suggest that adults should perform 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (or a combination of both) each week.

Because someone has a diverse ability, doesn’t mean that the activity guidelines don’t apply. And it's a segment that shouldn't be denied the right to exercise.

What Are the Roadblocks in Fitness Facilities?

So, why isn’t access to fitness always easy for those with diverse abilities? There are myriad reasons, but here three key obstacles.

  • Lack of training knowledge. Good health clubs and gyms are staffed with knowledgeable and caring trainers, but even the best trainers aren’t always equipped to work with those with diverse abilities.
  • Lack of overall facility knowledge. Health club managers might be afraid to be more inclusive simply out of fear of insulting those with diverse abilities. Also, with so many business issues to take care of, considerations like ADA compliance aren’t something that managers are necessarily adept at.
  • Non-inclusive fitness equipment. The fitness equipment industry hasn’t done the best job of providing those with diverse abilities with cardio and strength machines that they can use effectively. The overwhelming majority of equipment has traditionally been designed for the non-disabled.
Overcoming These Obstacles

Simple awareness goes a long way when it comes to inclusive fitness, but there are other ways to break barriers.

  • Inclusive fitness certification. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) collaborates with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) to provide certification. ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainers understand ADA requirements and are qualified to work with people who have health risks or physical limitations. This added knowledge empowers trainers who might have otherwise felt unqualified to work with people with disabilities.
  • Consult with the experts on facility design. Check with ADA Standards for Accessible Design on ADA.gov to ensure that your facility meets the needs of those with disabilities. Many fitness suppliers are well-versed when it comes to ADA requirements around equipment in health clubs. For example, Life Fitness has a team of layout specialists who know ADA spacing requirements and can assist with properly laying out an entire facility.
  • The right fitness equipment. The versatility of a functional training system like a SYNRGY360 unit provides trainers with plenty of options to fit their clientele. It can accommodate those who are undergoing rehab or those who are disabled. There are also options for ADA-compliant fitness equipment. SCIFIT has 26 compliant cardio products that offer wheelchair access, and color-coded adjustment points for easy visibility. The Cybex Total Access selectorized strength line consists of 8 ADA compliant units. Seats swing out of the way for easy wheelchair access and weight stacks are accessible while seated.