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Working through a new diagnosis of heart disease can have its share of ups and downs. Recently a friend, a 63-year-old man, completed a cardiac rehab program and was eager to quickly transition his workout routine to a supportive gym. He found a nice facility with state-of- the -art equipment and a friendly staff, but after a few weeks he started to notice that no one ever cleaned the equipment.

Quick access to an AED that works is a top priority for any credible fitness center

I asked him about the staff. He said they were friendly, but most of them were member volunteers with little formal training. Only the floor manager had a fitness degree, and no one at the gym had cardiac care experience or any advanced certifications. This discovery left my friend feeling insecure about exercising there.

Finding the right fitness center in which to continue your post cardiac rehab exercise program sounds like a simple task, but the reality is that it can be a challenge. To make the search easier, there are three key questions you should always ask of any fitness center before joining. The answers will save you time, money and help you to make a safe transition to self care, which will decrease your stress and further enhance your journey back to health.

Question One

Do you have Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) and how often are they checked for maintenance? Are the staff working in the facility trained to use the AEDs?

The Best Answer

Yes, we have them. (more than one is an even better answer, just in case one is out for repairs or is already in use). They are checked for proper working order at the beginning of every day.

An AED is the best lifesaving tool to have if someone goes into cardiac arrest. Quick access to an AED that works is a top priority for any credible fitness center.  The facility should keep a log verifying each day the AED has been checked and confirmed as working.

The AEDs should be clearly marked in the facility so anyone walking into the space can clearly identify them. In many centers, all the employees are trained in basic life support and the use of an AED, so it’s important to confirm that the fitness staff is trained in the use of the AEDs.

Question Two

How do you keep your equipment clean?

The Best Answer  

We have staff clean the equipment on a regular basis. We expect members to clean the equipment when they are finished with it.

Sweat and oil from our skin, the common cold virus, or even Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus and MRSA can be transmitted via exercise equipment. To protect the community, most centers post signs asking members to clean equipment after they use it and employ a staff who cleans the equipment several times a day.

It is rare that a fitness center has enough staff to clean every piece of equipment throughout the day, so most rely on members to wipe equipment down with various products ranging from disinfecting wipes or natural sprays that will destroy most forms of bacteria. The last thing you want is to frequent the gym to get into shape and then get laid up with a cold or a dangerous form of bacteria.

Question Three

What credentials does the fitness staff have? Specifically, do any of them have cardiac care experience?

The Best Answer

Our trainers have a basic understanding of cardiovascular disease, its signs and symptoms as well as some basics about cardiac medications. 

If you have a history of cardiac disease, you want to make sure there are credible staff who understand your situation. Most fitness centers only hire trainers and instructors with fitness related degrees or certifications from several organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine or the American Council on Exercise. These credentials verify a level of knowledge about anatomy, physiology and safety, and this training can include advanced knowledge of disease processes such as cardiovascular disease.

It’s a major bonus for both your safety and the effectiveness of your training to find a fitness center that employs staff with experience in caring for cardiac patients. The gym will be safer if there are credentialed and experienced staff. It will also be a more effective place to help you achieve your fitness goals.

Asking these three pointed questions will guide you to a professional fitness experience that has your best interest at heart.

What aspects of a fitness center do you find the most valuable given your history of cardiovascular disease?

Contributed by

Phil Hardesty
Exercise Physiologist

Have a healthy, happy and fit week!!

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