More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on health and fitness club memberships in the Dallas and Houston areas and throughout Texas, so it may be a good time to join a health club to stay in shape and continue to improve upon your overall health. But be careful. If your health club cuts corners when it comes to safety, sanitation and staff training, you may actually be jeopardizing your health by working out there. Now that you know that you should keep your eyes open, here’s what you should expect from a health club:
1. Instruction on the proper use of equipment and facilities.
When you join a health club, someone from the club’s staff should ask you to fill out a health history questionnaire. If you have a serious health problem (e.g., a heart condition or a bad back), the club should require that you obtain medical clearance before starting an exercise program. You should also be invited to a new member orientation session, which is usually a one-on-one session to learn club rules and how to properly use the exercise equipment. Staff members should also work with you to design an exercise program that meets your needs, taking into account any health problems or physical limitations you might have.
2. Staff members who test your fitness when you start an exercise program.
Staff members should check on you periodically after your initial consultation. Even after you’ve been there for a few months, they should be readily available to answer questions and teach you proper exercise techniques. This is possible only if there’s an adequate instructor-to-member ratio. If there are only a few staff members on duty, they may not be able to give you the personal attention you need to exercise safely.
3. Qualified and well-trained staff members.
All staff members should know about health and fitness issues and should be trained in CPR and first aid. In addition, exercise instructors should be certified by a nationally or internationally recognized organization such as the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America or the American College of Sports Medicine.
4. Equipment and facilities are clean and safe to use.
Check out the condition of the equipment and the cleanliness of the facility. Even though state and/or local governments must license health clubs, there’s a chance they may not be closely regulated. However, they may be certified by a national organization, such as the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association, which requires members to maintain clean, safe facilities and adhere to a strict code of ethics. So dirty locker rooms and broken equipment can sometimes signal that the club is in financial trouble, especially if the condition inside the club has recently taken a turn for the worse. These are signs that your health club is adequately maintained:
– The club should have routine sanitation procedures.
– Members should be instructed to clean off machines after use. So look for adequate paper towels and spray bottles of disinfectant.
– The facility should be big enough to accommodate members, even during peak periods. Find out if the club limits memberships to keep crowding to a minimum.
– Exercise equipment should be relatively new, not outdated.
– All equipment should be clean and in good repair. Worn or torn equipment may be a safety hazard.
– Instructions for use should be attached to each machine.
– Mats and flooring should be clean and resilient enough to protect against injury.
– Showers and locker rooms should look and smell clean, with absolutely no mold or mildew visible.
– The pool and hot tub should be sanitized regularly. Signs of inadequate sanitation include pool water that burns your eyes or foam in the hot tub.
– Rules of use should be posted in the pool or hot tub area.
– First aid kits should be well stocked and readily accessible to both staff and members.
5. Adequate security in and around the club.
Health clubs often post signs warning members not to leave valuables in their lockers. Because lockers are notoriously easy to jimmy open, petty thieves often target them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the health club has lax security, but it does mean that you should find out if the health club is going the extra mile to protect you and your possessions. Determine if your club has:
– Security measures in place to ensure that only members or their guests can enter or leave the building, such as membership cards, surveillance cameras or gates.
– Well-lit parking areas.
– Security guards, if the area is especially dangerous.
– A well-attended child-care facility, if the health club offers childcare.
If you notice that your health club is not as clean or safe as it should be, talk to the club’s director. If your concerns aren’t resolved or if serious health violations exist, contact the local or state authority responsible for monitoring business or sanitary practices in your area, such as Texas’ Attorney General’s office or your city’s Health Department.
Whether you go to a health club or work out on your own, make exercise a high priority in your daily routine because staying active contributes to lasting health.
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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