Offering Holistic Health Programming

by Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES on Jun 30, 2009


Find the missing “peace” of your business by going beyond yoga and Pilates.

Your facility has it all—cardiovascular equipment, free weights, fitness classes and experienced personal trainers. You provide everything anyone could desire for achieving an optimal physique. However, you may be missing an important opportunity with your members. Certainly, physical fitness is vital to overall health, but it is not the whole story. The mind plays a crucial role in our well-being, and mind and body work together in everything we do.

By embracing a “mind and body” approach to fitness, you can enhance members’ total health while increasing your client base and revenue. Happy, healthy members are more likely to renew their memberships and refer friends. In this piece,we’ll review the benefits of programs that embrace a whole-person wellness approach— programs like Reiki,meditation, Ayurveda, acupuncture and homeopathic medicine—and we’ll look at ways to incorporate theminto your business.

Why More Mind-Body?

Facilities that adopt the whole-person wellness model enrich members’ lives. Mind-body activities improve mood, reduce feelings of stress and, in turn, lower the risk of stress-related illnesses (Brehm 2006). Did you know that a top concern in our society is the growing amount of stress and the diseases that stem from an inability to deal effectively with elevated stress levels?

The good news is that you can help clients find positive ways to handle stress by providing opportunities to integrate holistic practices into their daily lives. Facilities that offer these services attract more members because multidimensional programming draws participants across all age and fitness levels. Furthermore, holistic classes and services are typically associated with an additional fee, providing your facility with a supplementary profit center. In other words, what’s good for the customer is also good for business (Milner 2002).

Reiki is a Japanese method of stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It involves the transfer of energy from practitioner to client to enhance the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Reiki uses specific techniques for restoring and balancing the natural life-force energy within the body. Proponents agree that Reiki brings about deep relaxation, destroys energy blockages, detoxifies the system, provides new vitality and increases the body’s vibrational frequency.

Reiki should not be confused with massage treatments. Many Reiki treatments do not involve actual touching. Some practitioners hold their hands a few inches away from the client’s body and manipulate the energy field from there. Reiki also works in conjunction with other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.

To find a Reiki practitioner in your area, contact the International Association of Reiki Professionals (


Meditation is a mind-body practice that originated in ancient spiritual traditions. People practice it for many reasons—to increase mental and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance and to cope with illness, among others. Practitioners attempt to get beyond the reflexive “thinking”mind into a deeper state of relaxation and awareness.With training, they learn to develop an inner spaciousness and clarity that help them maintain equanimity regardless of external circumstances.

Generally, meditation uses certain techniques, such as a specific posture, focused attention and an open attitude toward distractions. The practice can promote a deep state of peacefulness, a tranquil mind and emotional stability. These effects don’t end when the meditation session ends. Meditation has lasting effects on emotional and physical well-being (Mayo Clinic 2007). In addition to the relaxing benefits of meditation, this practice may also be useful in easing certain medical conditions, including allergies, asthma, depression and chronic pain (Mayo Clinic 2007).

“I think combining meditation with exercise is absolutely essential because the mind is the ultimate ground of our experience,” explains Ryan Redman,meditation instructor at Zenergy Health Club Spa in Ketchum, Idaho. “Therefore, if we exercise our body while leaving the mind in a state of distress, then inevitably our ordinary experience of the body will also be that of distress, regardless of how much exercise we do.”


Ayurveda is a healing system that treats the whole person rather than treating individual symptoms.An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify the client’s ideal state of balance, determine where she is out of balance and offer lifestyle interventions using diet, herbs, aromas, massage and music to re-establish balance. Ayurveda offers practical tools and information for living without interference from illness.

Simone deWinter from Marin Ayurveda in Fairfax, California, explains that when we incorporate Ayurveda into our lives,“our physiology will function better; we will function better; [we will] have more resistance to disease,more ability to heal when we are ill, more energy; and [we will] feel more optimally alive.”

In fact, the wisdom of Ayurveda is designed to help people stay vital and realize their full potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the dynamic integration of our environment, body, mind and spirit.

According to the Chopra Center in Carlsbad,California,“The guiding principle of Ayurveda and the other Eastern healing arts is the interconnection of all things. From this perspective, health isn’t merely the absence of illness or symptoms it is a higher state of consciousness that allows vitality, well-being, creativity and joy to flow into our experience.”


Acupuncture, which is among the oldest healing practices in the world, promotes health by reducing tension, increasing circulation and enabling the body to relax. Part of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of “qi” in the body. Acupuncture seeks to restore this balance, leading to emotional and physical healing and strengthening resistance to disease.

Treatments aim to restore and maintain health through the stimulation of specific points on the body. The most common technique involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid,metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation. People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel minimal or no pain as the needles are inserted.

“When energy flow is disrupted by things like poor diet, stress, injury or an unbalanced lifestyle, pain and disease result,” explains Julie Hackmann, LAc, of Retreat Acupuncture in San Francisco. “Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with Western medicine to treat a variety of health conditions or used as a preventive form of medicine.”

According to the 2007 NationalHealth Interview Survey, an estimated 3.1million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the 12 months prior to polling (Barnes, Bloom & Nahin 2008).


Homeopathic medicine uses natural remedies that stimulate the body’s own healing processes. Homeopaths view the individual as a whole and prescribe a remedy to cure the emotional, physical and spiritual imbalances that underlie physical symptoms. Homeopathy is used to treat acute and chronic health problems, to prevent disease and to promote health. The success of homeopathy is fueled by several factors:

  • When the correct remedy is taken, results can be rapid, complete and permanent.
  • Homeopathy is completely safe with few, if any, side effects.
  • Homeopathic remedies can safely be taken alongside other medication.
  • Homeopathic remedies are based on natural ingredients.
  • Homeopathy works in harmony with your immune system, unlike some conventional medicines that suppress the immune system.
  • Homeopathic remedies are not addictive.
  • Homeopathy addresses the cause of the condition, not the symptoms. This often means that symptoms tackled with homeopathy do not recur.

Homeopathy is the second most widely used system of medicine in the world. In the United States its popularity has increased by about 25%–50% per year throughout the last decade (ABC Homeopathy 2003).

Incorporating Holistic Programs

Integrating holistic health offerings into your existing programs is simple. Some of these practices can be seamlessly added to your current services with little additional investment.

Approach #1: Conduct Classes. At Crunch Fitness, with locations throughout the United States, two different classes offer members the opportunity to meditate: “Nap time” is a guided meditation class, and “World Meditation Styles” introduces participants to meditation practices from all over the world.

Approach #2: Start New Services. While this strategy may require more of an investment, it can differentiate your brand in the marketplace. For example, Castle Hill Fitness in Austin, Texas, has an acupuncturist on staff. Members and nonmembers are welcome to use this service for a fee. Individuals can book single sessions or purchase a 5- or 10-session card. “Coupling acupuncture with a health club creates a wellness-centered culture, not just a gym,” says Amy McNair,manager of program marketing for the facility. “We’ve found that when you cater to your clients in many different areas, you not only help improve their health but also boost your business with value-added services,” she explains.

Approach #3: Become a Community Resource. By partnering with local holistic health experts and naturopathic centers, you provide your members with the knowledge to explore these practices on their own. For example, consider hosting an educational workshop led by a homeopathic pharmacist or a Reiki practitioner. Additionally, provide references and pamphlets to members in order to spark an interest and educate them on these health practices. Motivation for joining a health club has migrated from a desire to improve physical appearance to an interest in overall well-being for mind, body and spirit. Your facility can meet this need by expanding programming to include specific holistic options; in doing so, you will enrich people’s lives and bolster your bottom line.


Interested in learning more about the mind-body disciplines described in this article?

Check out the following resources:

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture,

The American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists,

The Chopra Center,

The International Center for Reiki Training,

Marin Ayurveda,

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,

National Center for Homeopathy,

Reiki Peace Network,

The Transcendental Meditation Program,

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About the Author

Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES IDEA Author/Presenter

Valerie Applebaum, MPH, CHES, is a certified health education specialist with a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina. She currently resides in Connecticut, where sh...