The gym just got serious

PUBLISHED: 14:23 03 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:50 20 February 2013

Senior Wellbeing Advisor

Senior Wellbeing Advisor

A new breed of health club has emerged recently. Gone are the gyms that were only interested in building up your pecs and your abs. It's not just about body sculpting anymore. The gym has been taken over by a new style of 'health and wellbeing' ad...

A new breed of health club has emerged recently. Gone are the gyms that were only interested in building up your pecs and your abs. It's not just about body sculpting anymore. The gym has been taken over by a new style of 'health and wellbeing' adviser who's just as interested in your cholesterol levels as your flabby thighs. Jane Sullivan reports.

If you've kept tabs on these things you may have noticed something interesting happening in the world of the gym. Companies that were once associated with private medical care, like the Nuffield and BUPA, have recently bought into existing health club chains and are transforming the gym experience for their users.

Ten years ago if you went to a new gym you might have a desultory check up along the lines of:

"Are you fit?"

"No, that's why I'm here."

"Do you have any medical conditions?"

"No."

"OK get on with it then."

...and you were generally left to your own devices to work out how the running machines worked.

But that's not good enough anymore. The penny has dropped. The reason the vast majority of us avoid gyms like the plague and can't seem to stick to an exercise regime is because we don't get enough help. Well now that's all changed. I was invited to try out the complete assessment that Nuffield Health offers at its Warwick and Worcester health clubs.

My senior wellbeing adviser is Norman Brown - one of 35 that the company has recently taken on around the country. He's a marathon runner, former personal trainer and ex-restaurateur.

The Vi1 health assessment that I'm booked in for lasts an hour and is pretty thorough. Normans wants to know everything from how much sleep I get to how much I weigh. He's asks endless questions about my family history. He takes loads of measurements including measuring my waist (eek), my blood pressure, cholesterol level and my resting heart rate which involves lying on the couch attached to a heart monitor and relaxing. By the end of it I think Norman knows more about my health than my GP!

Luckily my results are all pretty good but some of Norman's charges have a rude awakening. "Some people are completely unaware that they have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. That's why these are described as silent killers. People can be unaware that their risk of heart disease has increased and they suddenly discover that they aren't as healthy as they thought they were. The experience can be fairly traumatic and I've had people who've found it quite difficult to cope with finding they have a problem."

Discovering that you have a potentially serious health condition can be a shock but knowing about it means you can do something about it, says Norman. The next step is to follow a programme which is tailored for each person, according to the results of their tests. Anyone who is discovered to have a potentially serious problem is advised to contact their doctor and there are physiotherapists on-site for any joint or muscle advice.

After my hour with Norman is up I am presented with my 20 page health report and a clutch of leaflets about improving my health. The Vi1 assessment is free to all Nuffield Health Club members and I would highly recommend it, if only to put your mind at rest. And if something nasty does turn up, your wellbeing adviser can help you fix it.

· Contact the Nuffield at Warwick on 01926 314142, or visit www.nuffieldhealth.com

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