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The Latest Trend In Fitness Blends Exercise with Medical Care

medical-fitness-trend.jpgPhoto: baranq / Shutterstock

For a while, boutique fitness—barre, indoor cycling, a treadmill class, or yoga—has been ruling the scene. But if you tweak your calf or need to make a PT appointment? That'll land you somewhere else—a chiropractor's office or a medical facility. (And we're guessing your go-to fitness instructor and your sports medicine doctor have never met—or talked.)

Now? More and more companies are going big, incorporating not only other aspects of fitness (personal training, high-tech recovery tools, group fitness classes, and spa—à la Equinox) into their facilities but also sports medicine capabilities: chiropractic care, PTs, nutritionists.

Take Physio Logic, a Brooklyn-based holistic wellness facility. Here, you can work out but also get physical therapy and chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy. You can speak with dietitians or health coaches—and even get stem cell therapies (!). (Yes, the company has doctors on staff.) Physio Logic even has the ability to prescribe a medical marijuana card, says Lynda Salerno Gehrman, one of the company's founders.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Life Time Athletic (with 139 locations across the U.S. and Canada) offers similar perks: chiropractic care, physical therapy, and daycare (included with membership), on top of expansive fitness programming and facilities such as in-house tennis leagues and pools. The company also recently launched a shared workspace and luxury apartments in Dallas, says Tom Manella, vice president of personal training at Life Time.

Modrn Sanctuary, a wellness center in New York, offers yoga and Pilates as well as all kinds of wellness treatments—both alternative and traditional—including an infrared sauna, IV nutrient drips, meditation pods, psychotherapy, physical therapy, and nutrition consulting.

Urban rock climbing space Brooklyn Boulders (with locations in New York, Chicago, and Boston) is set to open a high-end adventure training facility called BKBX in Allston, MA, in 2019. It'll include cryotherapy, muscle therapy treatments, and an infrared sauna.

Houston-based SCULPT U also merges "medical fitness training"—individual training programs based on functional movements and core lifts—with physical therapy (spinal manipulation, dry needling, and soft tissue work), as well as nutritional counseling.

It's all part of a push toward a more blended approach to fitness.

After all, for years, doctors have preached the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, but there's largely been a disconnect between the office and the gym. Rudy Gehrman, D.C., Physio Logic's executive director, notes that with varying facilities all under one roof, personal trainers, sports medicine doctors, massage therapists, and nutritionists all know each other. They can more easily work together, ultimately helping clients reach their goals.

"Trainers often need feedback from other trained professionals to get to the bottom of an obstacle that a client might be having," says Gehrman. "We all benefit from each other."

Say you had a running injury that could have had something to do with your running form. (Related: How to Determine Your Running Gait—and Why It Matters) One stop at Physio Logic and your trainer might pass along feedback about your gait to your PT, potentially speeding up your recovery.

"Not only does having an on-site movement specialist (such as a physical therapist) allow for easy rehab access for current injuries, but it also serves as injury prevention," says Clay Ardoin, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., physical therapist and cofounder of SCULPT U. "Proactive—not reactive—health care is the future of the industry."

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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It's not that this couldn't or wouldn't happen if the two worked at a different facility. It's just that the accessibility of it all leads to a certain seamlessness. "When you can work health and fitness into your daily life, it all becomes easier," says Manella.

Sometimes, facilities offer discounts on medical-like services or include some in membership. For example, cryotherapy at BKBX is $35 to $40 a session (significantly more affordable than at other locations around Boston) and use of the infrared sauna as well as a 3D movement assessment is included in membership. SCULPT U also offers a 10-week program that includes a movement examination, work with a PT, and a nutrition and fitness plan.

Often times—as is the case with Life Time and Physio Logic—you pay out of pocket for à la carte medical services. (They aren't included in membership.) The good news: Most facilities do take insurance. In these cases, the #worthit factor comes down to accessibility. "While our chiro and PT pricing is on par with outside competitors, the benefits are significantly different given the environment. We have trained chiropractors and physical therapists who are working right alongside our personal trainers and nutrition coaches, and can holistically put plans together with an active mindset, recovery, and alignment. The convenience factor of having all in one healthy spot can't be topped," says Manella. (Here's why even healthy people should see a nutritionist.)

It's this well-rounded approach that helps the body operate at an optimal level, says Gehrman, who's a chiropractor himself. (After all, we've all been to spin class after spin class after spin class, only to develop a cranky hip or other ailment.)

Experts agree: The best way to take advantage of these all-encompassing facilities is to make the experience personal. Sitting down with someone to understand the offerings and how they work, outline your goals, and ask questions can better help guide your experience, says Gehrman.

Getting to know owners, instructors, doctors, and staff who have a pulse on the business can also help the experience feel more like a community. (And, FYI, a sense of community can help you reach your health and fitness goals.)

But most importantly, be open to trying something new. "Our bodies are ever changing and need different things from time to time," says Gherman.

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