Baby boomers are the first generation to express en masse an aversion to the concept of physical aging—and to become a driving financial force in the quest to defy the inevitability of growing older. They’ll mature without kicking and screaming, but they won’t watch their faces fall, their hair go gray or their abdomens expand. These beliefs are catapulting the antiaging industry into a massive marketing force in America.

The marriage of antiaging services, skin and body care treatments and conventional medicine has resulted in a new type of business model: the antiaging “medical spa.” This type of spa offers a combination of physician-supervised medical care, alternative health care, skin care treatments, fitness consulting and instruction, stress management and relaxation treatments. Fitness professionals can catch the wave of this exciting new market and ride it to profit and career satisfaction.

Growth of the
Spa Industry

To envision how fitness professionals can fit into the medical spa arena, it helps to understand the tremendous growth in the spa category in general. Spas are thriving:

  • The spa industry continues to grow at an extremely healthy pace, with industry revenues approaching
    $11 billion annually (Bemis 2002).
  • The American spa industry has been growing by an average of 19 percent annually (Bemis 2002).
  • Canadian spas attract over 7.5 million visitors annually and capture revenues of $345 million to $500 million. The industry’s average growth rate in Canada is 16 percent. Exercise programs are found in 48 percent of Canadian spas. The Canadian spa marketplace predicts a 37 percent expansion in exercise programs (Bemis 2002).

How do baby boomers impact the spa boom? “[Baby boomers] by far account for the largest group of spa goers, with 76.8 million graying baby boomers over 50,” according to the Medical Spa Association in 2001. Antiaging and medical spas are especially attractive to this population, whose members want to defy aging, relax, reduce stress and live well.

DeAnn Mix, PhD, and Alex Martin, MD, FACP, creators of the Ergonique medical spa in Newport Beach, California, have watched industry trends in antiaging treatments for the last two decades. “Originally, this concept was unique to coastal cities such as Los Angeles and Miami, but investor interest has spread throughout the Midwest, too. This is a good indication that medical spas are more than a passing trend,” they add. Mix adds that Europeans created medical spas years ago and Americans are finally starting to catch on to their benefits.

Currently, only 3 percent of spas claim to be medical spas, but Bernard Burt of Healing Retreats and Spas Magazine expects the category to double in size by next year. Medical spas are multiplying to offer busy boomers a “one-stop” shop for quality antiaging, weight management, relaxation and personal care services. The medical spa model can also include doctor-administered antiaging treatments such as human growth hormone treatments, facial rejuvenation and plastic surgery, Botox and collagen injections, and nutrition and weight management programs. Medical spas add on fitness services, stress management services, body treatments and personal care salon services to give clients a full-service facility.

Fitness Professionals
at Medical Spas

Medical spas offer fitness professionals opportunities to create new revenue streams. Medical directors—usually medical personnel—
want help determining what forms of exercise are workable for their clients, given their demographic profiles and the physical constraints of the spa structure and location. To assist a medical spa director in planning a fitness initiative, you can

  • help plan an appropriate exercise space
  • explain the mandatory safety regulations that pertain to an on-site fitness/personal training initiative, and offer current information about legalities and liabilities
  • research and contact sources for equipment, flooring, a sound system and props
  • search for and recommend credentialed professionals
  • create promotional programs for marketing fitness services within the medical spa facility and in the surrounding community
  • build a clientele for the fitness services, keeping accurate records
  • advise the medical director about the costs involved for each of the above services, and assist with budget development

Fitness services that work well in a medical spa environment include yoga, mat Pilates, a yoga-Pilates blend, core muscle group training, light resistance training with dumbbells and personal training.

Working With Medical Spas

How do you consult for a medical spa? There are three main options:

Option 1: Work at an Existing Medical Spa. While the medical spa is a fairly new concept, there may be one in your area. By networking with medical or spa professionals, you may find out about a spa or doctor’s office that is being converted to a medical spa and is seeking fitness instructors and/or personal trainers. ‰

Option 2: Help Start a Medical Spa. If you can’t find a medical spa in your area, approach a doctor you know who believes in the power of exercise. Ask if he or she has thought about getting involved in the antiaging industry.

Doctors are often open to the idea of turning their practices into medical spas or starting spas at separate locations. Why? Doctors are used to working inside the medical structure, which is extremely regulated. A medical spa gives them an opportunity to investigate and implement services outside this structure. Another reason they are interested is that doctors’ income opportunities are limited in a traditional medical practice. However, medical spas are a cash business. Many doctors have been hearing about antiaging services and wondering how to get involved. If they believe in exercise, they will naturally see its value as part of an antiaging program and will want to bring in fitness services. Doctors can help with the appearance part of antiaging, but they usually have no idea how to program exercise.

Option 3: Have Your Business Form a Partnership With a Medical Spa. Develop relationships with the personnel at a medical spa and suggest a partnership between the spa and your existing fitness facility or personal training studio. Under the partnership, the spa would send clients to your location and vice versa. For this to work, you need to be within a few miles of the medical spa. In fact, personal training studios or small fitness facilities could conceivably make clients from a medical spa the main focus of their business.

Charging for Your Services

Working at a medical spa means consulting as an independent contractor and providing part of the spa’s “menu” of services. Depending on your geographic location, you can expect to take home anywhere from $35 to $50 per hour (after the medical spa takes its cut) for either personal training or small-group fitness classes. Spas often take 60 percent of the clients’ costs but charge such high prices that you are still well compensated. Even if clients work with you at your facility, they pay the spa directly and you invoice the spa for your services. The challenge is that medical professionals have a certain way they must do business. Be sure to ask them how they need to set up a compensation structure.

You will find that medical doctors interested in switching to medical spa practices seek instructors and trainers who can create a customized mix of activities that can be integrated easily into a menu of services. You will probably be able to devise new compensation packages that blend consulting fees, hourly wages for classes or personal training, salaries for the responsibilities of directing programs, and bonus options tied into performance goals.

Toward the
Fountain of Youth

Martin explains that one of the most exciting aspects of the antiaging medical spa industry is the activist stance toward longevity. “We believe that we can create optimum health and vitality through antiaging treatments like human growth hormone therapy, exercise, nutrition and skin care technologies. That is how we hope to reverse the damage that accompanies the aging process for the current generations of boomers and seniors.”

Fitness professionals have an exciting opportunity to help medical and spa professionals build a much healthier group of retired individuals, who will have the vitality to maintain a high quality of life.