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Weight Loss Drugs and Gym Memberships

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Weights, aerobics, and now...Wegovy? Some fitness centers are beginning to offer popular GLP-1 medications to their members, blending modern, easier weight loss methods with traditional, more challenging ones.

Take Life Time, for example. Last year, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Zwiefel announced a pilot program to prescribe weight loss drugs to members.

The plan involves bringing healthcare professionals into the gyms to administer the medications, working alongside members’ primary care doctors, trainers, and nutritionists to create a "comprehensive plan" that includes not only the medication but also exercise, nutrition, counseling, and social support.

Life Time, which operates about 170 locations nationwide, aims to expand this offering across the country.

 The goal is to offer a long-term solution for individuals struggling with obesity who do not want to rely solely on medication, said Jim LaValle, a registered pharmacist and nutritionist involved in the pilot program at Life Time fitness centers.

“A lot of people struggle with weight loss despite going to the gym and eating right,” LaValle explained, emphasizing his hope that offering GLP-1s will be transformative.

Following Life Time’s announcement, Equinox made similar headlines in People magazine.

“We’ve noticed an increase in members using or interested in using GLP-1 weight loss drugs, such as Ozempic and Wegovy,” Equinox club coach Michael Crandall, who leads the new program, told the publication.

“We’re developing an internal education program at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, incorporating GLP-1 protocols to guide the many members using these drugs.

The medications are highly effective, but we believe integrating them with training programs will yield the best results.”

But what does this mean for the fitness industry if weight loss becomes as simple as taking a pill? Industry leaders hope these drugs will serve as a gateway to fitness and lasting lifestyle changes.

“Many people feel embarrassed about entering a fitness center due to their weight,” LaValle noted.

“This approach changes their perspective because they can lose weight before coming to the gym, then receive support and learn healthy habits, rather than just taking the medication and staying home.”

There are concerns, however, such as the potential for muscle loss along with fat, and the risk of regaining weight after stopping the prescriptions.

 By promoting healthier habits, Life Time and Equinox aim to provide lifelong benefits to their members.

LaValle suggests that smaller fitness businesses can participate by forming relationships with local healthcare providers. This strategy could not only boost their membership but also help bridge the gap between fitness and healthcare.

Eric Durak of Medical Health and Fitness, a clinical exercise physiologist and health educator, sees this as potentially beneficial for users. Gyms and trainers could educate their members about body composition (the ratio of body fat to muscle) if they are on Wegovy or similar drugs.

Still, questions remain. Can gyms effectively teach members the healthy lifestyle habits needed to avoid lifelong dependency on these drugs?

“The industry needs to take a proactive stance on this issue,” Durak stated. “If Life Time and Equinox are starting these programs, others will follow soon.”

“Rather than having someone on this medication for decades, we should aim for a six-month period, during which we develop a robust strength and conditioning program to build muscle mass, improve bone density, change their diet, and then gradually wean them off.

 We still don’t know the long-term effects of these drugs," he added. “We know they are effective, but we need to integrate them into mainstream health club practices.”

Source: webmd

The opinions shared in the GymNation blog articles are solely those of the respective authors and may not represent the perspectives of GymNation or any member of the GymNation team