Kirmayer Center earns medical fitness facility certification

January 24, 2017

By Greg Peters

Corie Cutshall, a program assistant at Kirmayer Healthy Lifestyle Center, works with patient referral John Mendez

Kirmayer Healthy Lifestyle Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center has been named a certified medical fitness facility by the Medical Fitness Association (MFA), making it the first university-based facility to earn this certification, joining more than 40 other facilities worldwide to receive this distinction.

The hope is by achieving the MFA certification, Kirmayer will be able to better integrate fitness into a patient or client's ongoing healthy lifestyle plan or continuum of medical care. Among the most important benefits of the designation is that it certifies Kirmayer has demonstrated the ability to provide safe and effective fitness programs and services, which meet critical needs for the community and those with a medical prescription for exercise.

"Medical fitness centers play an essential role in the health and wellness of those they serve," said Vince Loffredo, Ed.D., vice chancellor of student services at KU Medical Center. "Kirmayer will be able to provide the professional expertise and fitness services required to safely and effectively assist people - regardless of their health status - develop and maintain an active lifestyle that minimizes the risk of illness and disease while promoting health and wellness."

How the certification came about

Amber Long, M.Ed., former Kirmayer director, and the center's staff began working on the certification more than three years ago.  One of the key components is the physical facility itself, a 50,000-square-foot structure on the south edge of the KU Medical Center campus that contains areas for cardiovascular and strength training, two group fitness studios, a 75-foot lap pool, a basketball court and a jogging track.

Part of the certification process was an on-site inspection to ensure Kirmayer provides a high level of quality and safety in its programs and services.  Among the services Kirmayer offers to the public are a variety of group fitness classes, nutrition guidance and individual personal training. Ensuring a high-level of quality will help make the center a key part of a prescription for exercise as medicine. 

"A lot of it is understanding that exercise can be a prescription, too, instead of having so many medications" said Leslie Ranney, senior coordinator at Kirmayer Healthy Lifestyle Center. "It's a lifestyle that is proactive rather than reactive when it comes to your health."

Kirmayer and The University of Kansas Hospital

In recent years, doctors affiliated with the KU Medical Center have been referring patients to Kirmayer for eight-week medical exercise program as a way to address chronic or acute disease along with helping with general wellness, and this certification should build on this relationship (the Kirmayer physician referral form is available here.)

In these sessions, participants meet one-on-one with a certified personal trainer to determine their fitness level and movement efficiency before developing a plan for the best course of action.

The personal trainers use a multidimensional approach to help participants make lifestyle changes, including basic nutrition education, behavior modification and physical activity. By working with the individual and their health care provider, the personal trainers are able to create a plan that is custom-made for the participant's needs.

Talks are currently ongoing between leaders at Kirmayer and The University of Kansas Hospital on expanding the ways medical professionals can better integrate the resources the fitness center offers into health plans for their patients and clients. Loffredo said plans are in place to expand programming and staffing should the need arise. There are even discussions about integrating patients' electronic medical records into the system to make things more accessible.

"Our hope is that it will create an interactive relationship with the hospital, and we will be able to meet the needs of the hospital and the community it serves," Loffredo said.

About MFA certification

The Medical Fitness Association is the country's largest organization dedicated solely to integrating wellness and fitness facilities. Certified medical fitness centers differ from traditional gyms or health clubs because their focus is on helping each individual get fit inside and out, as opposed to emphasizing physical performance and personal appearance. In addition, the staff at a medical fitness center incorporates exercise as medicine to help prevent diseases and control or reverse many chronic health conditions.

Last modified: Jan 30, 2017