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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fit lifestyle begins with education

Joe Marchilena

It’s not every day someone talks about getting off one drug by taking another.

It’s not every day someone gives out the formula to a healthier lifestyle.

That’s what happened Thursday in Studio A of the Executive Health & Sports Club.

“Let’s make something clear, exercise is a drug,” Mike Benton, president and CEO of Genavix, said during a press conference to officially unveil the New Hampshire Wellness Network. “We’ve had many come off hypertension medicine. I’ve seen a few come off cholesterol medicine.

“One participant was told that if she didn’t change her lifestyle, she would, in fact, be on cholesterol medicine. (Exercise) can keep you off drugs and keep you more active and healthy in your lifestyle.”

That lifestyle starts with an education, and the network provides that through the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program.

“We sell education, we sell motivation, we sell our expertise,” Benton said.

The program started at Executive, and is now also run at Hampshire Hills, Salem Athletic Club, Laconia Athletic & Swim Club and the Seacoast Sports Clubs. There are also plans to get clubs in the Keene, Concord, Nashua and the North Country to partner up as well.

Each club ran a pilot program, and at Hampshire Hills, it exceeded expectations, according to Tom Sapienza, the director of operations at Hampshire Hills.

“Everyone had tremendous success,” he said of the pilot. “This program is about education and behavior change, not just a workout. The education has given people the tools they need for success. This program provides an opportunity for our clubs to demonstrate our differentiation from the low-cost, low-service fitness clubs.”

At one time, all these clubs would have thought of each other as competitors. Now there’s something different between, something Benton called a “co-opetition.”

“We are hopefully on the map to help New Hampshire become the healthiest state in the nation,” he said. “We’re going to do that not just by leveraging what we’ve already done for years, but by pulling it together with a comprehensive network that will allow individual, small- and medium-sized companies to have solid wellness plans to help their employees with their own individual and family health.”

While larger companies have the resources to create their own wellness plans for their employees, one of the goals of the network is to provide for smaller companies in the state that can’t do it on their own. The hope is that will lead to discounts on health care and possible sponsorship from community businesses.

“It’s difficult for a small- or medium-sized company who might have anywhere from five, 10, 15, 20 or even 100 employees to take advantage of a wellness program,” Benton said. “The New Hampshire Wellness Network changes that. It’s on the map to allow those companies, at little to no cost just by promoting the program, leveraging what we already do best to take advantage of lowering health care costs.”

What makes the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program different from what other fitness chains offer is the personal experience of working with a coach.

“Coaches are key to the network,” Benton said. “That’s what makes a difference. It’s not a virtual experience. You learn how to customize your wellness plan with guidance of a nationally certified wellness coach face-to-face, over the internet or by the phone.”

By coming together, the network’s clubs, along with Genavix, have set in motion a plan to get people understand what it takes to have a healthier lifestyle.

And the only drug needed comes in the shape of a treadmill.

Joe Marchilena writes a weekly fitness column for Hampshire Hills. To find out more information about the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program, call 603-673-7123 or e-mail