Fit 4 Everyone's Business Model Leads to Proven Medical Results, Provider Referrals
Alayna DeFalco, M.S. is the founder and owner of Fit 4 Everyone in Conway, South Carolina. DeFalco holds a Bachelor’s in Communications from Rutgers University and a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from Kean University. She has taught and developed a variety of courses related to Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology and Recreation Sports Management for UNC, Excelsior College and Coastal Carolina University. DeFalco Fit 4 Everyone opened Fit 4 Everyone in 2014. Since then the facility has tripled its size in staff, members and equipment, and in the process Alayna and her team created a model with proven medical results.
We recently chatted with Alayna to learn more about Fit 4 Everyone's unique model and her vision for continued success.
EIM: What is Fit 4 Everyone?
Alayna: Fit 4 Everyone is a clinical fitness facility in Conway, South Carolina, that specializes in personal and scientific-appropriate strength training for those 50 and older. Our staff hold bachelors, masters and/or doctoral degrees in Exercise Science or Physiology from some of the best schools–including Coastal Carolina University–in the United States in this field. We utilize the local university’s Exercise Science Department, which increases our creditability with the medical field and increases referrals.
EIM: What prompted you to open Fit 4 Everyone?
Alayna: Most fitness facilities do not hire experienced staff or utilize scientific programs for each client who walks through the door. Most facilities require a mass quantity of members to be able to offer lower-priced memberships. This business model allows for cash flow yet does not address obesity and the increasing cost of health care. Education needs to step in and be part of the medical model. Doctors need to know that there are professional facilities their patients can go to for chronic condition management or prevention. We know the medical field tries to encourage patients to exercise, eat better and lose weight. The problem lies beyond that statement. Doctors are not referring to gyms because they are concerned patients can possibly hurt themselves or the facilities do not have qualified, educated staff.
My colleagues and I opened Fit 4 Everyone in conjunction with Coastal Carolina University’s Kinesiology Department professors, interns and graduates. We only hire staff with a degree in exercise science, physiology or sports physiology. Our staff train members every time they walk through the door, and our programs cater to each person’s chronic illness and/or physical setback. Fit 4 Everyone is the ONLY facility in the U.S. with this business model.
EIM: Tell us more about Fit 4 Everyone’s unique business model.
Alayna: As Exercise Science and Physiology professors, we noticed a problem with exercise adherence. Average gyms allow members to purchase a membership just to walk through the doors and use the equipment. Education within the exercise science realm is vital for someone's adherence to exercise. Some researched barriers to exercise include fear of injury, lack of motivation, and lack of knowledge. To achieve success within goal setting, education must be present.
Take a dentist office for example. Most do not expect to perform their own procedure. It takes those with an education in the field to guide them through the process. This should also apply within the exercise science field. The human anatomy is a very complex machine, each with individual differences that are affected by internal and external forces.
EIM: How does Fit 4 Everyone connect with referring providers?
Alayna: Our business model guides members each time they walk into the facility. Our high level of management and expertise creates a respected referral source, bridging the gap between the medical field and the fitness industry. Our exercise programs are created on an individual basis after an assessment period and built based on the scientific principles of training. Gradual progression models are implemented to ensure appropriated adaption time periods for the human anatomy. This progression model allows for long-term exercise adherence, as the body slowly adapts to the physical and physiological stresses placed upon it. Each time our member walks through the door, their own personal chart is pulled, and they are guided by an Exercise Physiologist each session. This diminishes the uncertainty of progression and goal setting, therefore increasing participation and continuation of healthy lifelong behavior changes.
EIM: What is your favorite member success story?
Alayna: It’s hard to pick just one. Maybe it’s our 84-year-old client who can bench press 50 lbs. for four sets of 12 repetitions. She recently got engaged and moved out of an assisted living home into an independent neighborhood. Another favorite is our cancer patients who have shown such positive medical results that the owner of the cancer center wants to train at our facility. Or, the client with multiple sclerosis who tells you each time he walks into the facility, that without the facility, he would not be walking. Or the countless clients with cardiovascular disease who have been able to lesson or delete medications. We have so many stories to share…I could go on and on.
EIM: What’s your long-term vision for Fit 4 Everyone?
Alayna: To have our model connected to every university exercise science program throughout the United States. Most universities teach and follow ACSM guidelines within our line of work. It would be beneficial if each program started a clinical fitness model like ours connected to each university (favorably grant funded) for the surrounding communities. This could have numerous benefits:
- increase research development and opportunities for professors working closely in the program;
- increase jobs for exercise science majors (required they also become ACSM certified);
- provide more hands-on experience for our upcoming seniors/interns;
- decrease chronic disease;
- increase referral systems from the medical field;
- give physicians confidence that there are standard measures for their patients and professionals in the field to trust; and
- change some coding for health care companies as physicians look for professional organizations where they can refer their patients, especially for special populations.
EIM: What do you like to do when you’re not teaching or running the facility?
Alayna: I’m with my two children, Roman and Raegan, and husband. I met my husband at Rutgers when I worked at the university fitness center. We started lifting weights together. We are still avid weight lifters today. I’ve also been working on an app to better communicate with the medical field.