In an effort to reduce healthcare costs down the road, many New Jersey hospitals are turning their focus on wellness by opening state-of-the-art fitness centers where members are coached toward healthier lifestyles.

"To reduce the nation's healthcare costs, we have to address wellness and not just illness," said Kerry McKean Kelly of the New Jersey Hospital Association. "These centers have all of the equipment you would expect from the cardio to the weights, but there is also a medical component with clinicians onsite."

"We all know that controlling our weight and eating healthy are important when it comes to wellness, but there can also be some unseen factors which is why having clinicians and doctors onsite to provide screening is so beneficial," said McKean Kelly. "While the facilities provide rehabilitation and the like for those who need it, they also help set up exercise and nutrition programs to encourage overall health and well-being for all members."

"Right now wellness initiatives are an expense that we are incurring that no one pays for," said Barry Ostrowsky, chief executive of Barnabas Health, in a report published by NJSpotlight.com. "But we view this as part of our mission, so to the extent that we are earning a margin on sick care, we are applying some of that margin to support these wellness programs. Barnabas partners with other stakeholders to help spread the word to persuade people that there is a healthier lifestyle out there."

Health and fitness centers are operated by hospitals in the New Brunswick-based Robert Wood Johnson healthcare system, VIrtua in South Jersey, CentraState in Freehold and University Medical Center of Princeton, to name a few. West Orange-based Barnabas Health has a major ambulatory care facility in Livingston with a health and wellness center which also provides a wide variety of outpatient services.

"The idea is to keep people healthy and that, in turn, will bring healthcare costs down," said McKean Kelly.