Learn to use your assessment software to its full potential to help members achieve their fitness goals.

Assessment software is far from impersonal. Fitness centers can use it not only to help members achieve their fitness goals, but also to connect with them and improve retention. "The personal fitness assessments give us an opportunity to have one-on-one time with our members," says K. Shawn Ware, general manager at Blomeyer Health Fitness Center at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga. "[It's] a time when our members can share with us what their personal fitness goals are, which, in turn, allows us to make a personal connection with them by sharing some of our knowledge and expertise in a non-aggressive atmosphere." Fitness assessment software can even help a facility achieve many of its membership goals. "[We] purchased assessment software in 1999 for ... membership retention and as an incentive to signing on new members," says Terri Arnold, personal trainer at Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club, Millersville, Md.

Make the right purchase

There are plenty of options for purchasing fitness assessment software. The key to making the right decision is figuring out what you want the software to do for you before you buy it. "The Blomeyer Health Fitness Center at Emory purchased a complete computerized testing system when the facility opened in 1997," says Ware. "Emory saw the benefit of giving direct feedback to members upon joining the center. Our members have used the testing equipment to get an initial assessment of their fitness levels, as well as tracking their progress on an annual basis. For the first six months after opening, we were completely booked with assessments."

Simplicity was important to Blomeyer Health Fitness Center, and it chose a product that was easy to use and comprehensive. "We liked the fact that it was integrated into one system," Ware says. "You can perform a number of tests in one comprehensive assessment, or you can do one specific test. Each test comes with a nice color print-out of the results. These results can be compared to previous tests and/or people in their age group."

Delta Clubs, Nashville, Tenn., researched the marketplace and determined none of the available products met its specific needs. So, the facility had its own fitness assessment software designed: DeltaTrac. "We needed a tool that could not only provide insight about the unique benefits and limitations of every individual, but could help keep a person centered by providing constant progression feedback, a coach communication loop and, perhaps most importantly, provide a way to take the results at the end of a period and use them to build a future plan," explains Randy Holland, Delta Clubs founder and chief executive.

Meet demand

When purchasing fitness assessment software, it's also important to be sure your staff can meet the demand. "At our City Club location, we completed an assessment on 86 percent of the new joins in 2006," says Holland. "At our Delta Fitness locations, we completed an assessment on 34 percent of the new joins during the same period." Ware says anywhere from five to 10 people receive fitness assessments each week at Blomeyer Health Fitness Center. At Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club, "staff are available to conduct fitness assessments 24 hours per week, which has been found to be sufficient hours to meet demand," says Arnold.

Free or fees?

Facilities have different ways of managing their assessment software. Some charge fees; others offer it as a free amenity to members. Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club and Delta Clubs have similar pay structures. The first assessment is free, and there is a charge for follow-ups.

At Severna Park Racquetball & Fitness Club, the free fitness assessment is part of the new membership package. "When new members join, they receive a complimentary fitness assessment to help determine their fitness goals," says Arnold. "We schedule one hour for the test, but the actual test typically only takes about 30 minutes." Follow-up assessments cost $15. However, if members fail to take advantage of their free assessment when they join, they are charged $25 for their first assessment. "We offer re-testing in three to four months so members can track their progress, and take the extra time left over in the [hour-long] appointment to speak with the trainer further regarding their fitness plan," Arnold says. "Assessments can also be done on personal training clients if the client and/or trainer feels it is warranted. Particularly if a client has a measurable goal, and most do. Most trainers include the test with their personal training fee."

At Delta Clubs, "there is no charge for the assessment, or start-up wizard," says Holland. "Ongoing monitoring and feedback is part of one of three coaching packages for which fees apply."

Blomeyer Health Fitness Center does not charge fees for members. "It has always been our policy that members can be tested and retested at no charge," says Ware. "Fitness assessment testing here at Blomeyer Health Fitness Center is looked at as a perk for our members. We regularly use the system to assess our members who are participating in certain fitness challenges. We also promote that we offer free fitness testing to each new member." Non-members are, however, charged for assessments.

Make time - and space - to talk

Conducting a fitness assessment "is a great opportunity to sit and talk to new members if they have questions or concerns," says Arnold. "It's also a great opportunity to share your knowledge of fitness with interested members." Space is at a premium at every facility, but conducting fitness assessments at a desk on the outskirts of the fitness floor can often hinder the connection process. Consider setting aside a separate space solely for assessments. "Our fitness assessment room is set up in a private area of our club so our members feel comfortable and confident, regardless of what their fitness level may be," says Ware.

See results

If your fitness center can achieve the potential for fitness assessments, your members should meet their fitness goals while you meet your financial ones. Ware says he has "absolutely" noticed an effect on member retention and success since implementing fitness assessment software. "The re-assessment of members ... adds consistent value to our facility. With setting the initial foundation during the first assessment, our staff becomes personally familiar with each member's fitness level ... and, therefore, can regularly offer encouragement and motivation."

"We have been operating for nine years at the Delta City Club location and five years at the Delta Fitness location," says Holland. "Coaching clients at both locations have an average membership duration of four years and three years, respectively. When you realize that these numbers reflect the average tenure of all our members, you can see that we are losing virtually no coaching clients at all."

Ware says the benefits of fitness assessment software simply can't be measured: "Having the opportunity to educate our new members on the benefits of exercise, and identify their health and fitness levels, is priceless."

Purchasing Guide

ActivTrax 866 879-8729; www.activtrax.com After using ActivTrasx assessment software, members receive a customized workout each time they visit the fitness center. The workouts are based on their attendance commitment, exercise experience and individual abilities. ActivTrax provides the facility with member tracking capabilities, as well. Printed reports provide opportune times to contact ActivTrax members to check in on satisfaction and recommend other services.

Aspen Information Systems Inc. 800 414-0343; www.aspensoftware.com Visual ClubMate Assessment Software includes BioLog to record and track calories, exercise and activities; BioProfile to display and graph the cardiovascular-respiratory function, body composition, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility; BioPrescriptions to design a workout program; Club Rewards to award and track points for exercise participation; and DecisionMate to provide a snapshot view of all the assessment activities. Assessments and comparisons are displayed on-screen and also on color reports. Assessment software modules can be combined with Aspen's member management, check-in and video imaging software tools.

BioEx Systems Inc. 800 750-2756; www.bioexsystems.com Fitness Maker assessment and testing software aides trainers in maintaining fitness test results, tracking goal achievement and performing health-risk screenings. It creates workout programs, color graphs, fitness informational handouts and detailed client summary booklets. It also contains numerous fitness calculators and fitness tests. Fitness Maker can integrate with BioEx Systems' complete fitness suite to provide detailed exercise handouts, nutritional counseling, meal plans, dietary analysis, scheduling, invoicing and client retention management.

BSDI 888 273-4348; www.bsdiweb.com BSDI offers customizable fitness assessment software for both Windows and the web. Its systems support the protocols and norms from ACSM, CSEP, YMCA, Cooper (including the FitnessGram), the President's Council, the Senior Fitness Test and the Fullerton Advanced Balance Scale Assessments. Reporting focuses on change over time and progress toward a goal. BSDI has served the industry since 1991, and has won the Nova7Award for "Best Computerized Technology Supplier" every year from 2004 to 2007.

Coheso Inc. 877 750-2300; www.coheso.com CalorieSmart is a handheld calorie counter that helps people tailor their fitness and weight-loss plans. The food database built into the CalorieSmart calorie counter provides access to the nutritional content of more than 35,000 different food items, including those from more than 500 brands of food and 250 restaurants. CalorieSmart calorie counter helps users track their exercise and diet progress.

eFitnessTracker 866 4-eFitness; www.efitnesstracker.com eFitness Tracker offers body composition and health-related measurement tracking. It includes strength, cardio and flexibility tests, as well as a functional exam to help gauge overall fitness. An assortment of statistical and analytical reports are provided with both text and graphs, along with special reports for trainers such as schedule, upcoming client workouts, invoices and other liability/waiver forms. eFitnessTracker provides access to clients' profile information, lifestyle evaluation, medical history, BMI, body fat percentage, recommended daily calorie intake, average weekly calories burned, fitness schedule, planned workout sessions, session rates, total billed revenue and progress toward goals.

Health & Fitness Network Inc. 800 SHEDFAT; www.healthfitnet.com Health & Fitness Network distributes and represents point-of-care fitness and medical testing equipment, including the Futrex Body Composition Analyzer and the Bodygem Resting Metabolic Rate Analyzer. The Futrex analyzers come with Bodyometry fitness analysis software. Bodygem analyzers come with Bodygem Analyzer software.

InnovaTech Software 800 275-8636; www.innovatechsoftware.com InnovaTech offers HealthCalc desktop software and online products, integrated health/fitness assessment and member management solutions. Its member management module includes front desk check-in and activity logging, with incentive program management. Its fitness assessment is built around ACSM evaluations and norms, and includes setting up exercise programs with photos of equipment. Paper- and web-based health-risk assessments are available. Data management tools include mail merge, labels, broadcast email features and more than 200 individual and management reports. Data can be imported and exported. Online tools can tailor the site to your needs.

IntelaMetrix 877 838-9918; www.intelametrix.com Intelametrix offers assessment tools that measure body composition using ultrasound technology. The BodyMetrix product line is easy to use, affordable and non-invasive. BodyMetrix has been validated against underwater weighing and skinfold calipers at Pepperdine University and Appalachian State University.

MicroFit Inc. 800 822-0405; www.microfit.com The HealthWizard fitness assessment software from MicroFit allows fitness centers to properly screen clients to limit liability and provide effective fitness counseling; make an impact at health fairs, corporate events, etc.; work with the medical community to increase referrals; and grow personal training revenues. MicroFit has offered fitness assessment solutions for 20 years.

New Leaf Health & Fitness 888 826-2751; www.newleaffitness.com The New Leaf Active Metabolic Training System provides true metabolic measurement (O2 and CO2) to accurately determine how many calories the body needs, and to assess exercise metabolism. Based on unique results, a personalized nutrition and exercise plan is created. The New Leaf Active Metabolic Training System can be used as a profit center, to attract new customers and to help clients reach their goals.

Personal Fitness Products Inc. 888 349-7289; www.perfitprod.com Strength Training for Adults, Vol. 2, is an interactive personal training multimedia program that creates exercise programs for adults. After completing a personal assessment questionnaire based on age, gender, general health and injury history, the program creates an automated workout program consisting of strength training with cardiovascular recommendations at the user's target heart rate. The program works with Windows XP and lower.

Visual Fitness Planner 877 VFP-1212; www.vfp.us Visual Fitness Planner (VFP) technology provides a turn-key system for marketing, capturing and integrating new members. It calculates health risks for diseases, predicts "health age," creates a 3D image of the body and calculates how long it will take to achieve fitness goals. Other features include auto email function, paperless contract generation, automated sales summary, fitness assessment, member education platform, lifestyle calculator, and before and after imaging.