NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 13 Many gyms fail to pre-screen members for heart disease and dont have a written and practiced medical emergency response plan in place, according to a study released today at the American Heart Associations Scientific Sessions 2000.
Both practices are recommended in the 1998 American Heart Association Recommendations for Cardiovascular Screening, Staffing, and Emergency Policies at Health/Fitness Facilities.
There has been a dramatic change in health club demographics in America, with more than 50 percent of fitness clubs now having a membership base of people over age 35. The fastest-growing health club membership segment is in the over-55 age group, says Kyle J. McInnis, Sc.D., associate professor of exercise physiology at the University of Massachusetts and lead author of the study. This group is hardly the same as younger healthy people in their 20s, and 30s who typically went to health clubs in the past.
Researchers randomly surveyed 122 fitness clubs in Ohio with more than 110,000 members each. They found that 28 percent failed to conduct pre-entry screenings of members, as recommended by the American Heart Association, to identify cardiovascular problems. Seventeen percent of the clubs reported at least one heart attack or sudden death at their facilities during the past five years.
The screening questionnaire asks such questions as whether a person has had a heart attack, chest pain or dizziness. Participants are directed to contact their personal physician if they answer yes to one or more questions.
Even more worrisome was the low level of emergency preparedness at many of these facilities, which flies in the face of American Heart Association recommendations, says McInnis, who is also director of research at the Rippe Lifestyle Institute in Shrewsbury, Mass.
Ninety-two percent of health clubs in the study failed to conduct quarterly emergency response drills and nearly 60 percent had no written medical
Contact: Karen Hunter or Carole Bullock
American Heart Association