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Guest Column - September 2013

Fitness

Putting the Scale in Upscale

By Samuel E. Baker


Thankfully there is a growing trend and admission that locker rooms are an integral part of the health and fitness world. Some facilities are even featuring spas and massage rooms, which by their very nature seem to call for a bit more than gray steel lockers and painted cement floors. Facility operators recognize that even the occasional flower arrangement won't help that uninviting environment. They are now opting to lighten and brighten the area to make it more inviting and to create a positive overall reflection of the entire facility. In other words to make it more "upscale."

Locker rooms are expected to provide all the usual facilities for safe storage of personal property, changing and showering. Alert operators are now adding amenities to enhance convenience and ambiance. Hair dryers, comfortable seating, bright colors, graphics and good lighting are all intended to create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere while still meeting the basic needs of a locker room, perhaps even calling it a "lounge."

In far too many fitness facilities, health clubs and gyms, one piece of equipment often sadly missing in the lineup of necessary and very appropriate amenities is a dependable and easily accessible scale. With statistics showing that more than 35 percent of adult citizens fall into the "obese" category, we have a population of dramatically overweight and often weight-conscious Americans. As a result, one of the main reasons why people attend fitness facilities is in an attempt to manage their weight. The locker room becomes an important part of the process since it is generally the place where the scales are located.

In a survey of fitness facilities, it is very apparent that scales are at best an afterthought! We have seen scales that were of the Wal-Mart or Target variety, old-fashioned balance beam scales, scales with readouts hanging off the wall and all manner of inaccurate, inappropriate and generally unacceptable, and in some cases non-working, scales.

The reality is that in a facility where a major number of visitors attend with weight management as a serious consideration, the management does not often take scales seriously.

Fitness facilities have a major emphasis on generating additional revenue. Membership charges are very competitive, so they want to encourage members to sign up with a personal trainer, or in a "fitness plan." Increasingly a comprehensive weight loss program is made available. One would think that would lead to careful consideration of good quality, accurate, easy-to-use and highly reliable scales that can be depended on for years of trouble-free operation—the same expectation we see in hospitals and clinics. Sadly that does not appear to be the case for fitness facilities. In checking with a local fitness club representing one of the largest worldwide franchises, we were told that the corporate office recommends an old-fashioned mechanical balance beam scale—not easy to use and of questionable accuracy. Many also have a small platform, not particularly stable and often a challenge for plus-size members to stand on.

Many fitness facilities spend money to include luxurious lounge areas, whirlpools, Internet access, private showers, LED lights and more. Some even cover the cost of pumping in an illusion of daylight! All these things are provided in an effort to attract long-term members who won't mind paying for a facility they can be proud of.

Even on the tightest of budgets, operators shouldn't compromise on the features members really want in the locker room. In our evaluation, it seems one thing "really wanted are properly working professional looking scales! They can easily provide an additional source of revenue for the well-organized facility, possibly enhancing the need for a personal trainer, nutrition program, etc. It's an amenity that pays!

Facility operators need to accommodate individuals who have disabilities with ADA-compliant facilities. Scales are available that will accommodate a standing individual or a person in a wheelchair. They can also be built in to the floor and fitted with a printer to provide a dated reading. In addition, scales can calculate BMI. They can also be fitted with Bluetooth capabilities so the information can be "logged in" to a handheld device fitted with the appropriate app. Users' information could be incorporated as soon as they swipe their membership card when using the scale. This simple action benefits the facility since they can see if goals are being met. If not it provides an additional revenue opportunity. It is not unusual for members who take fitness and weight management seriously to "log" their progress. Increasingly that is done on a handheld device. Tracking weight is part of a comprehensive fitness program.

Members often regularly check weight on scales at home. Some models are quite sophisticated with high-tech features including links to wristband readouts or handheld devices. This amenity at home should be duplicated at the fitness facility with scales that are dependably accurate, easy to use and easy to find within the facility, with a look as "upscale" as the rest of the facility.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samuel E. Baker is director of Global Development for SR Instruments Inc. For more information, visit www.srinstruments.com.

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