Edy Seaver, a 61-year-old artist from Venice who swims and kayaks for fitness,
had osteoporosis. Yes, had — as in past tense. After four months of once-a-week
10-minute workouts at OsteoStrong, a wellness studio in Mar Vista that features
proprietary resistance machines, a DEXA scan showed that her bone density
improved by more than 7%. That moved her up out of the osteoporosis category
into osteopenia, a less severe degree of bone thinning. “This is a radical
improvement in a tiny period of time — after years of getting worse and worse,”
she says. “And on top of that, I feel so much stronger that I can swim 20 laps
instead of my old 12.”
Stefan Oeggi, a 41-year-old naval officer and runner from San Diego, had back
pain that interrupted his sleep and limited his training. Then he began
once-a-week, one-on-one stretching sessions with a “flexologist” at StretchLab,
which now boasts more than a dozen locations across Southern California. After
six months, the pain was gone and his personal record for half-marathons dropped
from 2 hours 10 minutes to 1:50. “I used to get massage once a week, but that
didn’t help,” he says. “Now, with my muscles lengthened and joints opened up, my
back’s great and I can train more.”
Thinning bones and constricted muscles and joints impact health, longevity and
athletic performance, but addressing them usually falls between the cracks of
regular exercise training. That has presented opportunities for new franchise
operations such as OsteoStrong and StretchLab, which in the last few years have
emerged as key players on the fitness scene, where flexibility and
strength-training programs continue to dominate.
OsteoStrong was founded in Texas in 2012 by biomechanics engineer Dr. John
Jaquish, who wanted to help his mother, a lifelong tennis player who’d been
diagnosed with osteoporosis.
He found some interesting information in a study from the osteoporosis research
center at Jyväskylä University in Finland, which said that the world’s densest
bones belong to gymnasts — due to their ability to absorb the force of 4.2 times
their body weight when they “stick the landing.”
Knowing that his mom wasn’t likely to do a pike-position dismount, Jaquish set
about creating a safe, doable gymnastics level of “osteogenic” loading. The
result: Four super-resistance machines that cover every section of the body — a
chest press, leg press, core pull and skeleton-stressing vertical lift — that
resemble standard gym weight machines without weight stacks and include digital
feedback monitors, which give clients instant numerical feedback on their
Wearing comfortable clothes, OsteoStrong clients come in once a week, briefly
stand on vibration platforms to warm up, then exert 30 seconds of all-out force
at each workout station. The handlebars they push barely move, even when the
data on the screen jumps. For some, that two minutes of total workout time has
yielded striking and documented results.
With DEXA scans to prove it, 61-year-old Fran Lasker of Los Angeles grew bone
density in her spine and femoral neck (top of the leg bone) by about 8% in 25
sessions over nine months from July 2018 to April 2019. “My doctor was shocked,”
she said. “I started with borderline osteoporosis. I still have osteopenia, but
growing this much bone back this fast is just not done.” She has continued with
OsteoStrong now has 65 locations in the U.S., including Mar Vista, Laguna Hills,
Lake Forest, Pasadena and Studio City. Plans start $199 per month for weekly
The idea for StretchLab, founded in Venice in 2015, came from the hands-on,
cool-down stretch that Los Angeles attorney Saul Janson got from his personal
trainer, Tim Trost. If personalized stretching worked for him, wouldn’t it have
a wide appeal — to athletes, the elderly and anyone who works eight hours a day?
So they partnered up, hired Australian stretching guru Brad Walker to design a
program and trained “flexologists” to do the bodywork.
“Stretching is the thing you forget to do because you don’t know about it or are
overly focused on getting a hard workout,” says StretchLab’s director of
education, Austin Martinez. “A massage breaks up knots and relaxes you, and
yoga’s good but nonspecific and too much work. Stretching gives you what your
muscles absolutely need: elongation — where you need it.”
Muscles constrict and joints get compacted during and after hard exercise. They
tighten with age. When you sit in a car or at a desk, hip flexors contract,
hamstrings get imbalanced, shoulders roll forward, posture slumps and your back
gets strained. The bent-over cycling position, indoor or out, can make it worse.
Runners overwork their quads. Swimmers get tight neck and pectoral muscles,
overworked shoulders and chronic impairments. All mono-sport athletes by
definition are imbalanced. Everyone needs more flexibility.
Don’t be a mono-Maniac: Here’s how to mix up your workouts
But getting it on your own often isn’t enough. Although Dierdre Gainor, a
68-year-old school administrator from Venice, did yoga, Pilates and stretching
on her own, none of it helped a left knee that had been in constant pain for
years and a shoulder that hurt whenever she raised her arm. She could not ski or
hike, her passions, without pain.
That changed after one month of once-a-week hourlong sessions at StretchLab.
“It’s been revolutionary, “ she says. “My knee was closed, bound, with very
limited range of motion. I couldn’t bend it below 90 degrees. Beyond a certain
point, I couldn’t go there. Now I can go there.
“You know who’s happiest? My dogs. Before, I couldn’t walk them very far. Now we
can go all day long.”
Stephen Martin, a 51-year-old international lawyer from Denver, has a similar
story. Constant pain from years of 14-hour days, plane flights and skiing
accidents left him in constant pain and led to endless visits to physical
therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and personal trainers. Six months of
StretchLab changed that.
“My flexologist totally released my hips and back,” he says. “I’m pain-free and
back to normal for the first time in a decade.”
StretchLab’s Martinez says stretching rebalances the body, lessens postworkout
soreness and lowers recovery time. “We’re all tight and imbalanced because
hardly anyone stretches on their own,” he says. “But you can’t do it on your own
Suzanne Kelley, 72, a Valencia paralegal, says StretchLab immediately improved
her walking and sleep after her first session in September. “I went in lurching
side to side like a drunken sailor and came out walking a straight line for the
first time in 10 years,” she says. “I turned around to my flexologist and said,
‘Nick, I’m a new woman!’”
Kelley is bone-on-bone in both knees from old basketball and horse accidents.
“Every step used to be snap-crackle-pop with every step. I couldn’t bend my
knees to 90 degrees. I’m up to six sessions now and my knees are quiet,” she
says, speculating that her sessions opened her joints and decompressed the scar
These types of results are leading other fitness centers to put more of an
emphasis on flexibility and strength training, and more boutiques are popping up
to fill that need. StretchLab currently has 18 locations nationwide, including
four in L.A., where 25-minute sessions start at $39. A competitor to StretchLab,
for example, is StretchPro (founded by a StretchLab alumnus) which is now in
three L.A. County locations, Pasadena, West Hollywood and Brentwood. A 25-minute
session starts at $45.
“If you ask me, stretching is the single most important thing a human can do —
and it’s never too late to start,” Kelley said.