Club Insider

Exercise IS Medicine!

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Mike AlpertMike Alpert

If you have been reading this column, you know that we are very passionate about making all IHRSA Clubs inclusive and available to everyone. This means being welcoming and accessible to people who have physical and mental challenges. You should be in compliance with the 2010 ADA (American Disability Act) requirements that make it easy for those members to navigate through your club and to use your products and services. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will also speak volumes of your culture and character. And, guess what? It will also prove to be a very good business model.

I want to tell you about a young man by the name of Jason Smoot. Jason was injured in 2010 when he dove into a swimming pool and hit his head on the bottom, causing him to be paralyzed from the neck down. When we first met him in 2014, he was unable to do anything but turn his head. He could only move his power chair by blowing through a tube. One day, I was in the studio talking with his father, who told me how worried he was about Jason because he was gaining function in his right arm and right hand. His father thought that, as he gained use of his hands, he might try to take his own life because he was so despondent and depressed. I asked Jason if he would like to come to work at our Claremont Club, and he immediately responded by saying that, "I can't do anything." I asked him if he could read stories to children, and after some thought, he responded by saying that he thought he could do that. So, Jason began going to our childcare department three times a week before his training sessions and reading stories to 4- to 7-year old boys and girls. To most of us, working six hours a week would be terrible, but to Jason, it has been a game changer. The kids love him and see past his legs. They see his heart and soul, and it has given him back a little bit of his purpose. He is back in college and will graduate with a degree in the near future. He is now able to hug his son for the first time since his accident along with all the other kids in our childcare department.

This is just one example of how we in the health club business can change lives, not just for someone like Jason but also for our members and our staff. It sends a message that you are not just about being a health club but that you are about making life better for those in need. It gives your staff purpose and meaning, and it brings out the best in others. Your culture becomes one of making the world a better place by using your core technologies and competencies to help human beings. Who in our business does not want to do that?

Most people might have looked at Jason the same way he saw himself: someone with very limited physical capabilities. We saw him as someone with character, passion and integrity who simply wanted to be able to contribute again. It is up to each of us to find and create opportunities for talented people, regardless of what we might think they are capable of.

People feel good about working at an organization that creates meaningful and purposeful work. It brings out the best in everyone. Members support organizations that are doing good things in their communities. It is a win-win for everyone.

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