Return To Archive Index


Medical Wellness Archives

Purchasing Medical and Wellness Equipment

2005: Volume 2, Number 2

Christopher Breuleux, PhD, RMT

President, Medical Wellness Association


Each year, the process of evaluating and purchasing equipment becomes a bit more complicated. There are new companies and technology, categories, updates and additions to existing equipment, all which make the decision more difficult and time-consuming. Obviously, every business and facility has unique and different needs. Whether you are developing a new program with the latest equipment or simply updating your facility, there are some basic processes and steps that should always be considered when purchasing.

Understand Your Needs


1. What market segments are you targeting? Beyond traditional therapeutic and resistance exercise equipment, there are considerations for specialized populations such as women, children, seniors, post-injury athletes and rehab patients.

2. What kind of space do you have? Nobody wants to work out in a confining and crowded space. A general rule of thumb is 40 square feet of floor space per individual exercise unit. If you’re dealing with special populations, such as users in wheelchairs, that number may need to go higher.

3. What are your facility constraints? Certain equipment, such as treadmills, have large motors that require a lot of power. Some elliptical/cross training units are wireless, which is a useful feature when adequate power is not available.

4. What are your staffing and programming capabilities? Make sure you have or recruit the appropriate staff to provide programming and supervision for the machines you purchase.

5. What is your budget? This will determine whether you purchase new, upgraded or refurbished items. As the level of equipment sophistication increases, so does the cost of buying new.

Evaluate & Compare Supplier Vendors

1. How long have they been in business? New companies may be eager to offer attractive pricing incentives, while more established companies may have proven track records and be worth the extra cost.

2. Are they financially stable? You obviously want to avoid buying equipment from a company that is about to go out of business. Imagine trying to get parts or service from a manufacturer who no longer exists!

3. Are they an MWA partner or member? All MWA partners and members pledge to follow the association’s code of conduct for ethical business practices and quality.

4. Confirm the warranty. Each part of a machine (e.g. frames, belts, chains, upholstery) may be covered under a different warranty, and for a different length of time. Be sure you understand all the terms of warranties.

5. How complicated is it to service the equipment? Most manufacturers will train your staff to make routine repairs. Some offer a certified technician training program, and may reimburse you for the hours your maintenance person spends on repairs.

Due Diligence and Reference Checks

1. Ask for their service record and references. The best way to find out what type of service a company provides is to call reference list to ask pointed questions. If you know of other clubs that have the type of equipment you are considering buying, contact them. Ask to speak to the maintenance staff. You want to know what the service will be like after your order clears.

2. How is the installation? Did the delivery process go smoothly? Did the manufacturer take care to get the equipment through the doors, around the corners, and up the stairs without gouging walls and tearing the carpet? Was installation painless and trouble free? Once installed, was the equipment thoroughly tested, and your staff properly trained on safety, operation, and routine maintenance?

Considerations by Equipment Type


Desirable features include: a user-friendly operating display, easy-toread instructions, smooth operation, comfort, well-designed bottle/reading racks, appropriate programs and heart rate monitors.


Bikes should have seats that are comfortable for both women and men, and should adjust easily and smoothly.


Elliptical/cross training machines should allow for a comfortable stance full range of motion through a variety of stride lengths.


Treadmills will have large and flexible/ resilient decks and belts, adequate motors, self-lubricating roller bearings, a decline feature for special training, good handrails, and automatic stop/clear features (useful in resetting between users).


Stepping/stair machines should position users to work the gluteus maximum muscles more so than the knees. They should also have large foot pads and a special coating on the handrails so that they are durable, non-slip and easy to clean.


Upper body ergometers and rowing machines should provide a smooth rowing motion, with the cable, seat and flywheel operating smoothly.

Rehab and Resistance Equipment

Desirable features include: solid and ergonomic frames, easy seating and quality upholstery.


Selectorized equipment should contain clear directions and illustrations. Information on equipment should clearly explain the muscle groups being exercised and the appropriate range of motion.


Such equipment should be of biomechanically sound design and should allow for independent movement.


All selections should be easy to use, and provide quality negative resistance.


Other desirable features include: smooth bolt heads, rubber-coated covers which cut down on the noise, ergonomic grip design, and on/off controls.

Remember that you are buying equipment for all of your participants and patients. The appropriate selection of equipment along with appropriate safety procedures will provide positive results.

Medical Wellness Guide, http://

American College of Sports Medicine
International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association


Back To Top

(C) 2006 The Medical Wellness Association