What benefits does partnering with a physical therapist bring to your gym members?
As the collective age of United States citizens continues to rise, so does the rate of exercise-related injuries. For many people trying to stay in shape, effectively rehabilitating an injury now means that they must see both a physical therapist and a personal trainer, often at different facilities with no communication between them, and hope that the information they receive is consistent, safe, and helpful.
This is why, immediately, it seems obvious that bringing a physical therapist into your gym space would be of huge benefitto your members. They can consolidate appointments (for example, someone might see their physical therapist at noon to get loosened up and receive advice on exercises to do and ones to avoid before their appointment with a personal trainer for a workout afterward), receive care from professionals who interact with each other to provide cohesive care, and often end up paying less than they would attending two facilities separately.
Having a physical therapist on staff can also help injured gym members feel safer as they return to working out. This feeling of safety – that they will be well cared for and will have access to immediate help if an old injury begins to flare up – helps you retain members who might otherwise have fallen off of your roster.
You may not have considered the implications a physical therapist trained in proper movement techniques can have on regular gym members who don’t even see the PT for appointments. A physical therapist who would be open to wandering around the facility from time to time can point out safety and liability issues the untrained eye would easily miss. Clients misusing equipment, personal trainers teaching bad form for an exercise, weightlifters choosing more weight than they can handle for a particular movement, and many other dangerous situations could be intercepted by a physical therapist who would recognize these red flags and step in before an injury occurs.
Are clients actively looking for gyms with physical therapists on staff?
Perhaps not yet, but it’s a growing trend. As more and more gyms bring on non-exercise-related partners to round out their "health and wellness" services, prospective members will likely begin shopping around for a gym that offers the most useful services that fit their needs.
It’s natural that the free market encourages people to look around before deciding on an expensive membership or lengthy gym contract. While the core of your business is and probably should remain centered on providing an excellent workout experience, it will almost always be a good idea to make sure your business is as "feature rich" as possible.
Other health, wellness, and fitness professionals you may consider partnering with include:- A registered dietitian– A massage therapist- Health, wellness, motivational, or life coaches- Health food and supplement providers that can operate out of a small cafe or snack area- Specialty coaches for things like CrossFit, martial arts, TRX training, elderly fitness classes, or anything else that might fit into your gym’s demographics
How do you find a reputable physical therapist to operate out of your facility?
Before beginning your hiring search, you will need to make sure your gym can handle taking on the needs of a physical therapist and his or her clients. Remember that they will need a private space, preferably one that can be made into a quiet office, to conduct sessions away from the busy, loud, bright gym floor.
Thankfully, the other main requirement that usually costs the most overhead – a circuit of appropriate machines and pieces of exercise equipment – is one that your gym probably already has. With creative use of space and a willingness to rearrange some equipment if necessary, you will likely be able to avoid most or all of the costs of buying new equipment exclusively for physical therapy sessions.
If you already have a physical therapist you would like to approach, now is the time to reach out. If you can cover the costs of equipment overhead so the physical therapist doesn’t have to, your offer will likely be an attractive one right off the bat.
Many gym owners, however, know they want to partner with other health professionals but don’t always know where to start.
To find a reputable therapist to partner with, start with the American Physical Therapy Association website. They offer a "find a PT" tool that turns up therapists based on your search criteria. The benefit of doing it this way as opposed to finding a PT some other way is that the AAPT tool guarantees you will be finding a professional with current certifications and registration information.
Just be sure to make it clear in your contact message that you want to offer a business partnership rather than book a session as a client.
Keep in mind that qualified physical therapists may have different certifications and specialties. Brush up on the acronyms PTs use to make sure you’re finding someone with the specialties and certifications you are looking for.
Depending on your gym’s demographics, you may want to look for a specific specialty such as…- Sports- Pediatrics- Geriatrics- Women’s health
The full list of specialties with their corresponding certifications can be found on the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties website.
What are the drawbacks of partnering with a physical therapist?
Certainly, in most cases, the drawbacks of having a physical therapist operating out of your facility should be outweighed by the benefits to your business and your patrons. Collecting rent or fees in addition to a small percentage of the PT’s revenue from clients should offset any up-front financial costs of making the arrangement.
However, bringing on new staff with a broader scope of practice opens you up to new liability issues should something go wrong. Be very sure that any physical therapists you hire have the appropriate PT certifications and carry their own liability waiver and any necessary liability insurance. You may prefer to have your new physical therapist operate as an independent contractor instead of a full-time staff member, to maintain a degree of separation between your two businesses.