More than a gym: Henry Mayo Fitness & Health

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If you’re intimidated by health clubs and their passing parade of perfect bodies, Bill Holstein has another option for you. He is general manager of Henry Mayo Fitness and Health, and he says Santa Clarita’s newest fitness facility has a different approach, in part because it’s owned by Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

“I’ve been in the fitness business for 30 years, and have worked for the top corporate clubs,” Holstein said. “This is my first time with a hospital-based fitness center and it’s an amazing experience. The things we’re doing here are why I got my degree in this field. We’re helping people achieve their goals.”

Henry Mayo Fitness and Health is part of a growing national trend toward medical fitness facilities that are integrated within larger health delivery systems. About three million Americans are member of about 1,400 such facilities across the country, up from 79 in 1985, according to the Medical Fitness Association in Pinehurst, N.C.

Reception area at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health in Valencia. Courtesy photo.
Reception area at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health in Valencia. Courtesy photo.

The average age of members is 50, older than typical members of commercial gyms, and includes many formerly gym-averse baby boomers trying to reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. About half of these members have at least one chronic health condition.

Two key elements differentiate such centers from commercial gyms, said association president Bob Boone: medical oversight that aligns with the parent health system’s current clinical approach (and broader national clinical thinking), and programs that connect with other types of care the system provides.

“Fitness centers add a new dimension to care,” Boone said. “Historically, we haven’t had a health care system so much as we’ve had a sick care system that treats symptoms. As we move more toward value-based, preventive care, we’ll see more of this kind of integration.”

Such connections come in several forms at Henry Mayo. The hospital has moved its physical therapy and occupational therapy departments to the fitness center, along with its health education center. A clinical integration coordinator works with physical therapy patients during and after their active rehabilitation.

Holstein, a 12-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley, points to a thorough three-stage “onboarding” of new members’ health status and risks as another example of medical integration.

Members working out at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health. Courtesy photo.
Members working out at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health. Courtesy photo.

Conducted by a trainer with a four-year degree in exercise science or kinesiology, the study of the mechanics of body movements, the first step is a one-hour overall health assessment. This captures data on resting heart rate, body composition, flexibility, strength, functional movement, and lung capacity. Results are fed into the center’s MicroFit fitness assessment software, used to track members’ progress and status.

Next, new members have a 30-minute cardiovascular evaluation, based on the FITT principles, used to determine a person’s capacity for exercise based on frequency, intensity, time and type. Finally, there is a half-hour strength orientation to familiarize members with how to use gym equipment, including settings and breathing techniques.

Then, 90-120 days into membership, a follow-up evaluation looks at what’s working and not working in order to revise an exercise program as needed.

Opened Sept. 1, the 53,500-square-foot facility includes 40,000 square feet for fitness equipment and a basketball court, 7,500 square feet for physical therapy, a 2,500 square-foot education center, and a 25-meter pool partly covered open-air pool, and sauna.

A group exercise studio currently hosts 40 classes a week, including yoga, HIT (high intensity training), and PIYO (Pilates combined with yoga).

The club has a full circuit of Life Fitness strength machines, cardiovascular fitness equipment, each with a personal viewing screen, a free weight area, specialized circuit equipment for those who require a softer touch, an indoor cycling studio, child care, steam and sauna, and massage services.

One difference from commercial health clubs is that Henry Mayo, which now has 700 members, will cap membership at 3,500, a goal Holstein expects to reach within two years. Commercial clubs can have 8,000 to 10,000 members, he said, and with that comes pressure on employees to sell memberships. Membership is $75 a month on a month-to-month basis, with no long-term contracts.

The hospital is leasing the building, which had sat empty, and worked with Boulder Associates architects and Intertex as general contractor on the overhaul. The fitness center, at 24525 Town Center Drive in Valencia, is open Monday-Thursday, 5:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Friday, 5:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Saturday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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