In an industry mostly in tune with finding ways to sell a piece of equipment, LifeSpan by PCE Fitness has instead opted to kickoff a company emphasis on medical fitness, senior and cardio rehab markets.
The approach -- one that won't infringe on its traditional marketing or equipment -- will include programs, education and sponsorships that initially have little to do with its equipment. LifeSpan will kickoff the track as a part of the Athletic Business show the first week of December in Orlando.
"We're trying to take a little different approach, especially considering the LifeSpan name," said company President Pete Schenk. "Exercise is not just something you should do for your looks, but for your health."
The company has partnered with Janet Fletcher Brady, who established the health promotions program 16 years ago at the Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, Calif., near the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Fletcher Brady will give a talk at the Athletic Business conference Dec. 1-3 as a part of the Medical Fitness Association (www.medicalfitnessassociation.org) track, called "Fitness Forever! Increase Physician Exercise Prescriptions into Your Center." Other industry sponsors of the MFA meeting include Life Fitness (premier), Nustep (gold), FreeMotion Fitness (silver), Precor (bronze) and LifeSpan (bronze).
Fletcher Brady's company video and exercise program, Fitness Forever (www.fitnessforever.com), is geared toward seniors or anyone with a medical condition such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure. It is now being promoted by LifeSpan although the education offered in a current DVD doesn't use any equipment in its medically based approach to functional fitness. It is the only workout video approved by the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org).
"I applaud Pete (Schenk) and the LifeSpan company for their vision and forward-thinking," said Fletcher Brady. "They can set the standard for other companies.
"Exercise equipment is great," she added, "but seniors and others most importantly need functional fitness development, balance developmentâ€¦. If only others could get it like they do."
As a part of the emphasis, LifeSpan (www.pcefitness.com) is also working on educational solutions or features in equipment that could target consumers with some medical conditions. In addition, Schenk said the company is working with the American College of Sports Medicine to provide easier access for the consumer to its certified instructors and trainers through the LifeSpan website, a program that will be in place soon after the Athletic Business conference. Additional educational programs on DVD could include some equipment too, he said.
"Successfully targeting this audience means developing and marketing solutions and not just exercise equipment," Schenk said. "To do this we need to establish alliances and partnerships with the medical community."
As a part of those developing partnerships, Lifespan is looking at sponsoring research to find additional proof for the benefits of exercise that retailers can use and the consumer can understand.
All of the above should, he said, help the company's specialty retailers tap into a growing market that so far has been a difficult one to reach and to get to come into specialty stores.
"It's such a big new opportunity for the specialty guys," Schenk said. "It's a big market they are missing."
Meanwhile, the emphasis will also allow LifeSpan more access to hospitals and wellness centers, he said.
"We're promoting exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle," he said. "It's helping our brand, and if they do buy equipment, they'll feel more comfortable with our brand."
SNEWSÂ® View: It was astounding to hear about a company, whose stock in trade is selling equipment, jump aboard with programming that has so far nothing to do with equipment. We applaud LifeSpan also. Sure, down the road, some of the programming and features could spread to equipment, but this goes way beyond simply laying down cash to sponsor a piece of a conference or a speaker. This puts the company's money where its mouth is: Getting behind the promotion of and research into exercise for health's sake. With long-term thinking, that could then mean additional financial success for the company, but it's a forward-thinking plan that leaves out all here-today-gone-tomorrow thinking. Retailers should be the first to realize that this could indeed mean access to aging and rehab markets that don't normally venture into small specialty stores. Remember, next year, the first of the aging Baby Boomer wave turns 60. Be there.