Science driven exercise the key to 20 years of rehab success

Body Synergy co-owners Kylie Ellis, Rowan Ellis, Ricky Stewart, and Jo Cockroft
Body Synergy co-owners Kylie Ellis, Rowan Ellis, Ricky Stewart, and Jo Cockroft
‘‘If you want to be healthy and free from any pain, then go to Body Synergy.’’ (Richard Roberts) 

Dunedin rehab gym Body Synergy is celebrating two decades of offering clients a better quality of life.

There are multiple reasons why Body Synergy has thrived over its first 20 years, but time and care are key contributors.

Company directors Rowan and Kylie Ellis launched the rehab-focused facility in 2004. Rowan explains that the precise structure of the programs maximises the possibility of success.

‘‘Without a plan, you're planning to fail,’’ he says. ‘‘Our goal is to get clients in here for 40 sessions in 13 weeks because it gives us time to coach and support them. People have a structured exercise plan and understand what’s ahead, and that's the key to our success.’’

Over a 35-year career as a manual and movement clinician, Rowan has always been passionate about helping people with long-term back pain.

That led to the 2002 foundation of a trial gym at the back of the beauty clinic he and his wife Kylie owned on Dowling Street.

There's an excellent group training environment at Body Synergy.
There's an excellent group training environment at Body Synergy.

‘‘I was a remedial massage clinician, and you realise after doing that for 10 years, hands-on treatment is not appropriate for everyone in pain,’’ he says. ‘‘You can't massage people's muscles stronger. They need exercise and guidance on movement, support and encouragement.’’

By identifying that unmet need, the gym's success led to the opening of a larger operation at 161 High Street. That's where the company is still based, although there's been a continual evolution over the years.

Initially, they shared the facility with other businesses, but as it grew, Body Synergy expanded into all the available space; four years ago, a full refurbishment was achieved in a very short window.

That was one milestone in the development of the business. Another big moment came 11 years ago when Ricky Stewart bought into the business.

He already had a long association with Body Synergy. Firstly, he was a client as a teenager and subsequently worked there for seven years as an exercise coach before heading overseas.

‘‘Establishing a career, I was lucky to find my passion through my injury,’’ Ricky says. ‘‘Then having someone believe in you, having a mentor, going away, and then reflecting on what you actually wanted to do, and serve the community.’’

He and Rowan adhere to robust values guiding the Body Synergy team. They start work at 5.30am, and their other team members join them from 6am. Their passion for exercise and service on the gym floor is a key to their success. They're always looking to do things better and instil that same drive in the team.

‘‘We place a high value on the philosophical foundations of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’’ Rowan explains, referencing Stephen Covey's 1989 book. ‘‘It's the team culture that we build and work on. We employ highly skilled staff and want them to evolve and grow personally and professionally.’’

Building relationships with clients is paramount, and coaches work regular shifts on the gym floor to establish rapport.

‘‘We've got qualified exercise coaches with rehabilitative expertise developed from the Body Synergy methodologies to support our clientele,’’ Ricky emphasises. ‘‘Whether that's through motivation or support. Instead of merely offering services and thinking we were making people feel good, requirements greatly differ, and we focus on providing solutions to hold clients accountable. That's a big factor, and where it's evolved a lot.’’

Home rehabilitative exercise routines have limited success. The structure of the program, along with consistent customer contact and monthly follow-up EMG muscle screening helps support clients throughout their rehab journey and gets better outcomes.

Rowan Ellis using the MR EMG biofeedback technology to assess his clients Trapezius muscles.
Rowan Ellis using the MR EMG biofeedback technology to assess his clients Trapezius muscles.

Once customers have completed their rehabilitation journey Body Synergy offers a variety of membership options including workouts of the day, strength and conditioning programming. They also offer remedial massage treatments.

But another factor that keeps them on track is the MR EMG biofeedback technology that Rowan has developed in collaboration with Michael Macknight from innovative Dunedin company ADInstruments. It provides real-time data on muscle activity, presenting a powerful visual illustration of what is happening with the muscles.

‘‘Clinicians don't have magic eyes,’’ Rowan says. ‘‘The days of saying ‘that muscle's not working' are over; you've got to measure it. People are demanding more science and information. It's an age of information, and it gets better results because we can show people the effort required to create change.’’

Over the last twenty years, Body Synergy has built its reputation by getting those results for its clients. By providing the right environment, care, and support, they've helped many people nationwide, where other options hadn't worked.

Looking to the future, both directors are just as passionate about helping their clients as they have ever been.

‘‘We are dedicated to our passion, and it really doesn’t feel like work,’’ Ricky says. ‘‘The opportunity to build positive connections in our community, educate and mentor staff and clients is something we treasure. If you can shine a light for someone where the light’s not there, that’s satisfying for me.’’

Body Synergy: 161 High St, Dunedin. Phone (03) 477-7226, or see for more.

You're in the best hands at Body Synergy, with superb service on the gym floor.
You're in the best hands at Body Synergy, with superb service on the gym floor.