FITBuddies Program: Increasing Awareness in the Fitness Industry

Mar 30, 2011
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Health and fitness professionals have opportunities to connect with people of all ages and abilities. I have been fortunate over the years to meet many instructors who are passionate about working with individuals with mixed abilities. However, this is still an untapped market in the industry, and I believe this is primarily because we have not adequately publicized the need for programs and created awareness through national organizations, seminars, social media, and professional networks.

During the recent IHRSA conference in San Francisco, I attended a session that focused on training individuals with intellectual disabilities. There were six people in the audience. I asked myself why so few fitness professionals in attendance to listen and learn. Do we not understand there are an estimated 50 million people with some type of disability in this country who need our services? These are the young, adults, and seniors with physical, cognitive and/or sensory challenges—a wide range of individuals who must incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

Is there a fear of training someone who does not fit the health club “mold”? One of the answers might lie in a statement I heard recently, “We don’t have those kinds of people in our club.”  The good news, however, is that there are established health club programs that provide a seamless environment for all people regardless of ability or physical challenges.  FIT, Los Altos, CA, leads the way. This facility is host to FITBuddies, started in 2006.  The session I attended during IHRSA was an overview of the program.  The presenter, a personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist, provided an in-depth discussion of the structure and format of this successful group-training program for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  The goal is to improve the health and wellness of this population by providing professional instruction in a fun and safe environment.  It is an environment where physical activity takes place in a friendly, social atmosphere to help foster friendships and increase confidence and self-esteem.

FITBuddies is an example of a club and fitness professional identifying an opportunity; being confident in straying from the norm; and, taking the necessary steps to implement a program. Can others in the industry do the same? How can we create awareness and show the need to reach out to this untapped market? Share your thoughts and ideas.

Watch FITBuddies on You Tube:

Learn more about FITBuddies on the website at http://buddiesinaction.wordpress.com/about/ or contact Jen@focusedtrainers.com for more information.

Author: Cary Wing