We all know that exercise is good for you; really good for you. Among many other benefits, it reduces your long-term risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity-related illness and has even been shown to improve mental health. But, unfortunately, we’ve also all heard that story of the guy who collapsed on the track, the heart attack at the gym, and the cardiac arrest on the treadmill. Public health studies focus on trends in populations and have to make sweeping generalizations: the bigger picture is that fit people live longer. However, for some people there is a correlation between that really good exercise and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Although everyone wants to think it’ll never happen to them, there is always that slight chance that the improbable becomes probable. The question we should all be asking is ‘does my gym have an AED?’
There’s already an onus on staff at fitness centers to have first aid and CPR training. In addition, public awareness of the need for automated external defibrillators (AED) is increasing – with legislation following closely behind.
In a random sampling of fitness facilities in the state of Washington – a state that does not currently require AEDs in health clubs – Revive Solutions identified how life-saving results are achievable when proactive gym and fitness center owners and employees have taken the initiative to provide accessible AEDs.
South Campus Athletic Club, Moses Lake
Jose Zambrano has been manager at South Campus Athletic Club since 2013, and his priority has been to create a space where people can feel comfortable and safe to push their body to uncomfortable conditions. It’s a place where they can exercise and do their best without judgement. The decision to buy an AED was an easy one, he says;
‘We’re in an industry where people are pushing their limits, raising their heart rates, doing more and more every day to try and better their health.’
‘You buy an AED hoping you’ll never need it, the same way you wear a seatbelt in the car: you might never need it, but could you justify not having one?’
When a gym member collapsed during a regular exercise class at South Campus Athletic Club, the instructor was ready. Finding no pulse, the instructor began CPR immediately, while another member of staff grabbed the AED. Like all the staff there, they’d had regular training and updates to prepare for anyone becoming unwell at the facility. Having that piece of equipment handy to deliver a life-saving shock as early as possible, together with the quick reactions and training of their employees, saved a life that day.
As it’s a facility where people come to train hard, to constantly challenge themselves and push their physical abilities, the management team at Crossfit Anacortes has planned for the worst-case scenario. Their decision to buy an AED was inspired by unfortunate but common stories of incidents at other fitness centers, a pragmatic approach to mitigating risk.
“I hope we never have to use it, but I really feel it’s something we need to have.”
AEDs are designed for the public with ease-of-use in mind, and having clear audio prompts was one of the key factors for Jesse Martin when choosing a device.
“Just being familiar with its operations and knowing where it is are the most important things. Ours is very easy to use, but practicing with it and being ready are the best tools one can have.”
Harbor Square Athletic Club
A regular gym-goer, Richard collapsed at Harbor Square Athletic Club while using the elliptical trainer. A staff member identified cardiac arrest and started CPR while another ran for the AED. When the pads were on, the machine advised and delivered a safe, life-saving shock. By the time the emergency services arrived, Richard was already beginning to come around.
He’d beaten the 10% survival rate of SCA because of the speed at which he received CPR and a shock from an AED.
A large facility, Harbor Square Athletic Club currently has two AEDs, and Fitness Director Megan Wood is mindful of the effect that AED placement, and optimal collapse to shock time, can have on survival. All employees get yearly CPR and AED training – “facilities can’t just have one; all employees need to know how to use it.”
Although the value is clear, the initial price of an AED is naturally a consideration; “I can see how the price could be a deterrent,” says Megan Wood, Fitness Director, “but one of our survivors got to see his first grandchild born. That alone is worth it.”
Harbor Square Athletic Club have used AEDs successfully on four separate occasions. That’s four lives saved.
Even with a small sample of fitness facilities in Washington state, where there is no legislation mandating AED deployment, there are still several life-saving cases. Imagine the success rate if AEDs were mandated in every facility! This issue of SCA in fitness centers is far more common and overlooked than most perceive. SCA in a fitness facility is inevitable; it’s the kind of thing that will absolutely take you by surprise. The gym is a challenging place for a heart, but thankfully the issue has a simple fix. Guarantee yourself a comprehensively healthy lifestyle by ensuring your gym has an AED and staff educated about AED protocol.