Tulsa-based fitness equipment manufacturer SCIFIT aims to create products that help everyone from elite athletes to seniors get in shape.
Laurie Simpson works out on SCIFIT equipment with personal trainer Andrew Bates at Fast Fitness Training Super Studios.
If you exercise, at some point you’ve likely used some kind of fitness equipment. But who comes up with these elaborate machines?
You may be surprised to know that one major manufacturer of fitness and wellness equipment, SCIFIT, founded in 1987, has corporate headquarters in Tulsa.
“SCIFIT’s theme is all about improvement,” says CEO Larry Born, who joined the private corporation two years after its startup. “No matter our age, we always want to improve ourselves, whether it’s for weight loss, training or playing with the grandkids.”
SCIFIT’s primary customers include medical facilities, such as physical therapy clinics and hospitals. However, it also supplies schools; corporations; military, fire and police facilities; and senior living homes with a specialty medical product line of ellipticals, stair steppers, stationary bikes, treadmills and upper-body and total-body machines. SCIFIT also serves the following markets: cardiac rehab, weight loss, sports performance/professional athletics, special needs and personal training.
The United States does not have a fitness equipment rating system, but SCIFIT complies with the highest European standard, CE Medical Class II.
SCIFIT has been the leader in upper-body fitness machines for the last 15 years and makes more varieties of the upper-body exerciser than any other manufacturer.
Upper-body machines work well for many individuals, including those with lower-body injuries or disabilities.
“P.E. teachers tell us about kids who injure their ankle — instead of having to sit out of class, they are able to participate using this type of machine,” Marketing Manager Tracy Barrett says. “It also works well in physical therapy clinics to add diversity to a client’s workout.”
The company aims to manufacture equipment allowing people of all sizes, ages and abilities to get a good workout.
Machines provide back support, wheelchair accessibility, easy-to-grasp handgrips and bariatric seats that hold up to 600 pounds.
SCIFIT’s PRO Series upper-body and total-body exercisers have seats that slide out for wheelchair access. The RST7000 recumbent stepper also has this feature. Equipment also utilizes step-through seating, meaning the machine is free of high bars that a patient would have to step over.
“We sometimes don’t think about the fact that many people can’t lift their leg over a 12-inch piece of plastic to get on a bike,” Barrett says. “It’s very important that we make our equipment accessible for all.”
The company has also developed a motivational tracking program called Fit-Key.
In its eighth year, the Fit-Key software allows users to create specialized workout programs. The program can be loaded onto a USB flash drive, which is then inserted into a workout machine’s USB port.
The software can record heart rate, calories burned, speed and maximum workloads.
Many medical workers and personal trainers have seen great patient success using Fit-Key because of its ease of use and tracking abilities, Born says.
“In the medical field especially, documentation is important,” Barrett says. “Fit-Key allows facilities to track patients’ successes, and it serves as a motivational tool for patients. It’s a way for them to be in competition with themselves and watch themselves progress.”
Personal trainer Andrew Bates uses Fit-Key with many of his clients at Fast Fitness in Tulsa.
“Fit-Key allows us to track clients and give them feedback,” he says. “With Fit-Key, we can see the patterns in their training. If their numbers start to lower, we can address it and possibly help them with bigger issues, such as nutritional needs or sleeping habits.”
Another of SCIFIT’s products is the Fit-Quik program, built in to each piece of equipment. It combines cardio and resistance training in as little as a six-minute workout and is geared toward those just beginning an exercise program.
One market SCIFIT doesn’t pursue is general fitness gyms.
“The general fitness markets can often be very price competitive, but SCIFIT’s niche markets are more interested in features our products can provide,” Born says.
For example, gyms, such as the YMCA, are geared more toward general fitness, while facilities like St. John Health Club are more in tune with clients who need special attention and guidance with their fitness goals. They also often serve clients transitioning out of rehabilitation or physical therapy, Barrett says.
SCIFIT currently has a partner corporation in England, covering Europe and the Middle East; dealers in Asia; and customers in Japan, China and Korea.
In 2011, 18 percent of SCIFIT’s customers were outside the U.S. and 98 percent were outside Oklahoma.
But Tulsa is still home for SCIFIT.
Nearly all the equipment engineering occurs in Tulsa, with equipment assembly, quality control and shipping happening at the company’s Tulsa headquarters.
Company executives also enjoy the relationships built with Tulsa businesses.
“With local customers, if we have a change in design, we can use them to run the changes by,” Born says. “Our local clients have been very supportive in allowing us to use them for learning opportunities.”
Mansion House, near East 17th Street and South Denver Avenue, is a living complex where 85 percent of dwellers are over 55 years old. An updated exercise facility, filled with SCIFIT machines, was recently added to the building.
“We chose SCIFIT because it is a local company,” Property Manager Shawna Hamilton says. “And we were looking for a company that produces quality products that work with seniors to help them become more mobile.”
Many residents have commented on improvements in their elbows and joints since they began using the equipment, Hamilton says.
“In the future, we will be working toward entering more senior living markets,” Born says. “We currently have product and technology advances that are being developed for that market.”
Regardless of what phase of life a person is in or the changes he or she wants to make, fitness can help, Born says.
“Everything we do at SCIFIT is geared at creating results,” he says. “We do our best to deliver that.”