Online Extra: Spas for the Desk Set

There's been a huge rise in executive health spas. Here are some that come highly recommended

More companies are discovering that a healthy body keeps executives productive and working longer. That, in part, explains the rise in executive health spas. But with more than 12,000 spas to choose from in the U.S., finding the right executive program can be a daunting task. Here are five spas recommended by industry experts that cater to executives:

Canyon Ranch Health Resorts

Tucson, Ariz. and Lenox, Mass., 888-719-9470,

One of the most celebrated spas in the U.S., Canyon Ranch rolled out an Executive Health Program with a minimum four-day stay in February, 2003. The program integrates the annual physical exam with highly customized fitness, nutrition, and stress-reduction instruction. Participants should expect to spend about three hours of face time with the staff physician. "When I was in private practice, I used to see 25 to 30 patients a day. Now on a busy day, I see seven," says Dr. Mark Liponis, Canyon Ranch's corporate medical director.

Participants can also attend more than 50 fitness activities offered each week, or make use of hundreds of wellness and spa services. As a recent guest at the Tucson resort, Noel Gartman, executive vice-president at Emageon, a medical-imaging software company in Birmingham, Ala., says his most memorable experience was a Rejuvenating Waters massage ($250 for 100 minutes), which features a vigorous rubdown with warm-water jets. "I couldn't speak for an hour afterwards," says Gartman, 40.

Outside of your room, the resort's facilities are cell phone-free. Due to the program's compact nature, guests are expected to check out from the office to focus on their health. "Every hour is jammed," says Betty Price, 57, a government consultant in Vienna, Va., who recently stayed at the Lenox location. The no-work rule doesn't apply to groups who visit the resort's well-appointed facilities for corporate retreats. Both the Lenox and Tucson locations are perfect for a staff getaway, with spacious meeting rooms as well as programs on team-building and stress management.

The Executive Health Program isn't cheap: $3,200 for a minimum four-day stay, not including accommodations. Through Sept. 25 in Tucson, four-night/five-day room and board packages begin at $2,030 per person, double occupancy, for standard accommodations. In Lenox, a similar room-and-board package will cost you $3,050 through Oct. 16.

Cooper Wellness Program

Dallas, 800-635-7050,

Founded by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, known as the father of "aerobics" because he introduced the term in 1968, the Cooper Wellness Program is one of eight divisions of the Cooper Aerobics Center. Anchored by the center's extensive research on exercise and diets, the Wellness Program is designed to give guests exhaustive knowledge and skills in nutrition, fitness, and health.

The program is offered in four-day, six-day, and 13-day behavior-modification packages for $2,295 and up (price includes classes and meals, but not accommodations, spa services, or medical exam). Participants, who are placed into groups of 12 to 18, begin their visit on a Sunday and are strongly encouraged to get a comprehensive physical examination ($2,400) at the adjacent Cooper Clinic.

As a guest, you'll also have access to the Cooper Fitness Center, and its group exercise classes, such as kickboxing and Pilates. The 3,200-square foot spa provides all the essential spa services, including massages and body treatments. But the heart of the program is the daily workshops on fitness, nutrition, stress management, and medical topics. "You gain an incredible knowledge of what changes you need to make to make your life better," says Larry Malcolmson, president of MD Buyline, a medical information company in Dallas. "And they make education fun." Thanks to the modifications Malcolmson has made to his diet, including substituting high-calorie sugared yogurt with a low-fat, low-calorie variety, he has lost 12 pounds in the past year.

Ben Puckett, 75, chairman of Puckett Machinery, a Caterpillar equipment distributor in Jackson, Miss., has had a physical exam at Cooper every year for the past 20 years. He credits the Wellness Program for creating an exercise and nutrition program to avoid the heart disease that's rampant in his family. "I probably wouldn't be alive if I hadn't found Cooper," says Puckett.

Unlike other executive programs, there's plenty of time to do work. You aren't even required to stay at the Cooper Guest Lodge, but many do. Standard rooms start at $135 per night for single accommodations, while two-bedroom suites begin at $335.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa

Farmington, Pa., 877-899-5125,

A former hunting lodge, this 2,500-acre resort in the Laurel Mountains -- about a 90-minute drive from the Pittsburgh International Airport -- features activities perfectly geared to team building, which is why Nemacolin is a favorite location for executive retreats.

It boasts a shooting academy with an enormous course featuring more than 30 clay shooting stations that are spread out among woodlands, valleys, and pastures. Customized-instruction packages ($92 per person per hour) include target fees, shotgun rental, and ammunition, as well as eye and ear protection.

If that's not enough, the resort's extensive horseback riding program gives you an opportunity to ride on a variety of trails. You can also play 36 holes of championship golf, scale a three-sided climbing wall, fly-fish in a private stream stocked with rainbow and tiger trout, or go skiing and snowboarding in the winter months. The resort's unique Off-Road Driving Academy ($275 for two hours of drive time) lets participants steer one of the six Hummer H1 and H2 vehicles through 20 miles of rugged terrain. An instructor accompanies all drivers on the course.

This month, Nemacolin will open the exclusive 42-room Falling Rock Lodge (starting at $350 per night) with board rooms, butler service, and high-speed Internet access, designed for groups.

After a day of physical activity, take a much-deserved break at the Woodlands spa, named one of the "Top 10 Spas in the U.S." by Travel & Leisure magazine. More than 60 treatments -- ranging from Aromatherapy Mineral bath ($65 for 25 minutes) to a Detoxifying Seaweed Body Treatment ($145 for 80 minutes) -- will give you a deep sense of calm and inner tranquility. Guests can also get personalized fitness and nutrition assessments.

Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa

Aventura, Fla., 800-327-4914

What makes Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa so extraordinary is the number of guests who religiously return to the program year after year, seeking to prevent and reverse problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Don't let A-list guests, such as film critic Roger Ebert, scare you away. As long as you are willing to work hard, you'll gain the respect of the down-to-earth staff. "We are the spa from within," says Paul Lehr, Pritikin's president. "You get results by making lasting lifestyle changes."

Pritikin's medical team is led by Dr. Robert Bauer and five physicians with specialties in internal medicine, family medicine, cardiology, endocrinology, and geriatrics. The staff includes registered dietitians, cooking instructors, personal trainers, exercise physiologists, and cosmetic surgeons, many of whom have more than 20 years of experience with Pritikin. Such expertise comes at a price: A week at Pritikin starts at $3,000 (single occupancy), although the average stay is two weeks.

If you are looking for extra pampering, Pritikin's spa, which was co-designed by a former Canyon Ranch executive, offers massages, body wraps, and other indulgences. While Pritikin checks up on clients by phone after they leave to make sure their health-and-wellness plan stays on track, you can also go to Pritikin alumni events in many major cities, including San Francisco, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Red Mountain Spa Retreat Resort

St. George, Utah, 800-407-3002,

Located about 90 minutes by car from Las Vegas, the spa's landscape is framed by red sandstone cliffs as well as thousands of acres of neighboring state and national parks. More than 40 professional guides lead multilevel hikes and mountain-bicycle trips on at least 60 different trails. Other outdoor offerings include: rock climbing, horseback riding, kayaking, and back-country wilderness trips. The resort also features yoga, Pilates, and aerobics, at more than 50 fitness classes each week.

For other ways to relax, check out Red Mountain's spa. If you've never paid much attention to your feet, try the Extreme Sports Pedicure ($85 for 80 minutes), designed for athletes to remove calluses and stimulate tired legs. Other unique services, starting at $50, include day trips to Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon national parks, as well as moon hikes and Native American drumming.

Prices for a basic room, including meals and activities, start at $295 per night per person, but you should consider the new luxury two-bedroom villas with fireplaces, whirlpools, and kitchens, which cost $405 per person and up.

Red Mountain gets rave reviews from guests as a destination for meetings and retreats. It's the extra touches and services that resonate with former visitors. When a group of women with hearing impairments visited for a conference in late April, Red Mountain's staff put alarm clocks that flash and teletext phones in guest rooms, plus listening devices in the meeting center. In addition, air diffusers loaded with aromatherapy oils, such as peppermint and black pepper, are piped into meeting rooms to keep participants alert. In addition to looking beautiful, Red Mountain smells like a good place to visit.

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