Adding physical therapy to your gym’s offerings is a great way to boost your amenities roster. Every year, millions of people recover from an injury, leave their physical therapist, and then head to a gym, only to reinjure themselves. But also consider this: The demand for physical therapists is on the rise as baby boomers—all 75.4 million of them, as of last year—enter their late 60s and maintain a very active lifestyle. While the 65-and-older set might not be your target clientele, they are out there and they are willing to pay for a gym that offers them a very safe one-stop-shop.
A SAFER STUDIO
Clients who have suffered from injuries in the past often feel nervous about stepping foot into the gym again—both from fear of reinjuring themselves and from embarrassment about needing more assistance than their neighbor. That’s why offering an on-staff physical therapy component would be encouraging to anyone currently or previously suffering from an injury. They’d have access to someone who could help them improve their movement, manage their pain and get them on the path to a continued healthy recovery.
Even though you and your staff are excellent at what you do, many of your clients are likely working out the wrong way, and thus putting themselves at risk for injury, whether it be soon or in the distant future. Most students are focused on using exercise to change their appearance, and not focusing on their joint health or flexibility. Having a physical therapist who can periodically roam the studio and correct students misusing equipment, weights or even adjust their mat workouts would be another perk to anyone considering buying a membership.
“The goal is to allow people the opportunity to learn how to exercise the right way and continue to pursue a healthy lifestyle after therapy,” Jonathan Di Lauri, owner of the two medical-oriented gyms JointCare Physical Therapy in New Jersey, recently told WebPT.com. “The difference is that as therapists, we are the fitness experts and we needed to be the ones to help people understand the correct foundational techniques to avoid injury and get results.”
PREPPING YOUR SPACE
So you’ve decided that physical therapy is the right fit for your gym—now, how do you get started? From a very basic point of view, you need space and machines to run a successful physical therapy practice, as well as a small office space where therapists can converse with clients privately. Di Lauri says 1,000 to 2,000 square feet of space should suffice and suggests a 12-piece circuit of weight machines and cardio equipment. Many gyms likely have this space and circuit already in place—and you wouldn’t need this in addition to what you already have.
That being said, you’d have to work with your PTs when booking clients to ensure there aren’t too many patients being worked with at once, and that your regular members also have access to the equipment.
BREAKING DOWN THE DEAL
For business owners, adding a physical therapy component doesn’t pose much of a financial investment, especially for those who already have the space and machines in place. Di Lauri recommends hiring physical therapists as independent contractors who pay a usage fee to work in your space, as well as a percentage of their revenue. The upside for them is zero overhead and access to your clientele. When looking for the right therapist, make sure they have their Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, as well as a waiver of liability form (to show that their PT business is separate from your gym).
Depending on how many therapists you take on, the usage fees and return percentages could result in a significant added revenue stream for your business.