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Spa vs. Spa: How to Pick the Right One for You

June 12, 2000 -- Health spas are no longer just places where overweight people go for a week to drop 10 pounds and thousands of dollars. Nor are they all New Age hideaways featuring tarot card readings, reflexology, energy-balancing treatments, and aromatherapy.

Today, many spas focus on the big picture, with an emphasis on helping people learn health and fitness skills they can take with them when they return to the real world. "While the emphasis on health and appearance is still foremost, we're really starting to see a growing emphasis on fitness as part of a holistic experience" says Lee Baldwin, spokesperson for the International Spa Association (ISPA).

High-end spas, where guests can have their shoulders rubbed alongside movie stars, can cost $5,000 a week or more. At the other extreme, a trip to a more spartan spa can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. Along this continuum, the goals are the same: to restore a person to his previous fitness level, or help him develop new and better fitness habits.

But whether it's an old-fashioned "fat farm" or a newfangled fitness factory, how do you find the right spa for your needs? WebMD has compiled some spa-selection tips from experts in the industry.

First, they say, if you have any health problems or are new to exercise, you should talk to your doctor before booking a spa visit. You should know your exercise tolerance and find out if you have any conditions that could be made worse by certain activities.

Then, it's time to think about the type of experience you want to have. Some questions to answer:

  • What geographic area do you want to visit?
  • How much time do you want to spend at the spa?
  • How much money do you want to spend?
  • What would you like to focus on -- having an adventure? Do you want to be pampered? Do you want to focus on fitness? Do you want a spa that balances mind and body wellness? Are there specific treatments you would like, or disciplines you want to use, such as tai chi or yoga?

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