- Perspective by Bahram Akradi -

With Power, Responsibility

It’s time for us to start taking better care of our amazing bodies — and for healthcare to start raising its game.

A profile picture of LIFE TIME founder Bahram Akradi

The human body is among nature’s most magnificent pieces of handiwork. It performs countless complex functions, from circulating our blood and digesting our food to creating millions of new cells (and shedding millions of old ones) daily.

Incredibly, this system is largely self-maintaining. The body repairs most daily damage without any outside aid. It regenerates damaged skin, muscle, and bone. It tracks down and destroys pathogens. We breathe and blink all day long without having to think about it.

The problem, of course, is that because so much reliably gets handled without our having to do anything at all, we tend to take our bodies for granted.

When we are born, each of us is given what amounts to a trillion dollars worth of highly advanced, very powerful equipment. But we are given little counsel on how to take care of it. For the most part, we don’t feel we have any responsibility to take care of it.

And so, over time, our bodies accumulate damage — from neglect and, in some cases, protracted abuse. The result: a chronic-disease crisis, and an entire population operating at a fraction of their true capacity.

This situation isn’t helped by our broken healthcare system. It’s a reimbursement-driven system in which providers are better rewarded for medical interventions than they are for health creation.

It’s a system in which primary doctors are so rushed, they don’t have time to fully understand their patients’ health woes, much less provide an integrated, personalized healing treatment plan for them. The best they can do is write prescriptions and recommend procedures that address their patients’ most pressing complaints.

And, because most mainstream doctors aren’t well educated in health creation (few are receiving the required 25 hours of nutrition instruction in med school), it’s a system in which patients may be told they have to “change their diet and lifestyle” without being given solid guidance about how to do that.

This is the kind of problem that drives me crazy — and that gets me excited about finding a solution.

So last year, we began working on a concept for a new primary-care model we call LT Proactive Care Clinic.

The idea: Assemble a specially trained, collaborative team — including a medical provider (MD, NP), dietitian (RD), and personal trainer (PT) — to provide smart, integrated care at a thoughtfully designed facility within our club environment.

The team’s goal: Help individuals resolve the fundamental drivers of existing health problems while also empowering them to create and sustain optimal health.

The process typically starts with a detailed health history and appropriate labs. Then the team huddles to come up with a customized optimal-health plan.

The plan zeroes in on relieving any present health problems while also addressing the genetic and lifestyle-related factors (including nutritional challenges, digestive troubles, stress, and sedentary patterns) that may have had a role in creating them.

The ultimate aim: Help each client achieve the highest level of health, vitality, and resilience he or she desires.

But there’s a bigger objective, too: to beta-test a concept we think could ultimately help save millions of healthcare dollars and change millions of lives for the better.

At the outset, of course, this sort of high-touch health-optimization approach isn’t going to be highly profitable. But we believe that the longer-term payoff — getting people off prescription-drug regimens, sparing them surgeries, and returning them to full health — is worth the investment.

As a $1.4 billion company, Life Time can make that investment. And so, in light of our Healthy Way of Life mission, we must. If it works as well as we think it can, we believe it could be a model that changes minds and sparks ideas for even bigger and better solutions.

It is said that with great power comes great responsibility, and I think that’s true both individually and collectively.

Our first LT Proactive Care Clinic opened at our St. Louis Park, Minn., location last fall, so if you’re in the area and interested in an optimized, integrated health solution, check it out. And if you’ve been thinking about taking more responsibility for your own health, consider this your invitation to start now.

Bahram Akradi is the founder and CEO of Life Time Fitness.

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