Entrepreneurs: Meet the couple championing ‘clinical exercise’ for fit people

·4-min read
 (Beyond Health)
(Beyond Health)

Have you ever attempted to lift weights and ended up knackering your back? Or done in your knee after taking up running, with no idea why? Or are you just a bit unfit and unsure of what you should try out exercise-wise?

If so, you are one of the people Joseph and Carrie Lawrence of Parsons Green-based physio clinic Beyond Health are hoping to target.

The clinic overlooks a park, and Joseph says he sometimes looks out of the window and wants to shout down to runners he can see giving themselves an injury in real time.

Preventative medicine is a buzzword of the moment. Startups such as Oxford University biotech spin-out Genomics is currently piloting a DNA test that can help calculate personal risk of conditions such as heart disease. The idea is that if we know early on that we are at high risk of developing heart disease, we can get medical direction on actions to take that will help ensure we never develop the illness.

The Lawrences are championing the same principal for exercise. The Kiwi couple call people on their roster clients and not patients, because the word patient "infers you need to be injured to see a physio" and they want to see people before they ever do themselves harm.

Joseph and Carrie Lawrence in their Parsons Green clinic (Beyond Health)
Joseph and Carrie Lawrence in their Parsons Green clinic (Beyond Health)

"We want to flip the public perception of physio from being only about injury and rehab to being about building resilience and performance - to raise awareness that physios are well-placed to help people achieve their fitness goals," Joseph says. "We want to be somewhere people go to learn how to get strong and fit and healthy."

The team has developed a biomechanical screening that helps physios identify individualised factors that leave clients at risk of injury from certain movements, or that are preventing them from achieving fitness goals.

They still complete most of these screenings with patients who have recovered to help them avoid re-injury, but want this to change. Londoners can book an appointment and leave the clinic equipped with knowledge about their body and its weak points - and a personalised "clinical exercise" plan designed to avoid injury.

Physios can offer tailored exercise programs designed to avoid injury (Beyond Health)
Physios can offer tailored exercise programs designed to avoid injury (Beyond Health)

Plans include “clinical strength and conditioning” and classes available include “clinical pilates”.

In the clinical pilates classes students work to their own personalised program within a class environment, led by a trained physio who can spot if they are going wrong.

The couple set up Beyond Health in West London a decade ago, and managed to see 2019 revenues of £1.1 million after growing by around 7-10% a year between 2015 and 2019.

Today the business has a wide-ranging team of physiotherapists, osteopaths, sports massage therapists and clinical exercise specialists. They recently moved into a new Parsons Green office, and despite seeing 2020 revenues plunge by 45% due to Covid, saw "the biggest two months in our 10-year history" in April and May as clients returned in droves after lockdown lifted.

Now they hope to push their clinical exercise offering further.

"The PT [personal trainer] industry is claiming a lot of space and so people think they can do everything, but the knowledge on how to safely exercise is not always there. We can offer a robust framework - a prescription for life, if you like," Joseph says.

"We can feel like a safer place than the gym," Carrie adds. "It [clinical exercise] is more and more relevant as you get into middle age, especially if you have gone back to the gym and picked up another injury and are thinking of giving up.

"We look at the body in total, and if there are problems we will find a way to address them safely."

To find out more go to: https://beyond-health.co.uk

My biomechanical screening

I discovered in a biomechanical assessment with Joseph that I have a high kneecap, which means the cartilage is more likely to be worn away by extreme runs. He suggested it would be good to avoid ever running a marathon, but instead opt for frequent 5-10km runs. It was the best news I have ever received in a medical setting - I now have an expert-approved reason to refuse to run for too long.

The expert also assessed a long-term knee injury I sustained while skiing, and (thankfully) said that I should be fine as long as I do some strength work to build up the surrounding muscles.

Beyond Health offers sessions to teach the exercises to help clients understand the reason for each practice, and to ensure they are done perfectly “as it is critical to excellent outcomes”. The clinic then provides an app with videos detailing the exercises to follow from home.

My exercise/ “life prescription”: Continue doing yoga 2-3 times per week, get in a couple of 5km runs weekly, and do a program of simple strength work to help both my knee and desk work-related back pain.

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