Customized fitness programs begin this month

Exercise can be difficult for people who live with chronic health conditions but now Lacombians can access a service

Exercise can be difficult for people who live with chronic health conditions but now Lacombians can access a service made just for these people.

Fit for Health is an eight-week program being directed by Primary Care Network exercise specialist Heather Mielke. The program is designed for people who are managing conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis, back pain and heart disease, among other conditions.

Mielke supervises sessions four times a week that are designed to provide information on how to exercise while managing these conditions. Attendees will learn about cardiovascular exercise, stretches, strength training, balance training and how to properly warm up and cool down, all with the consideration of their condition.

“I think this is an opportunity for people who think they’ll never work out or don’t know how to get started. They aren’t part of the gym crowd or they are worried about managing their chronic condition.

“The difference between this program and just exercising is my training. I am a certified exercise physiologist, which means I am trained to work with people battling medical problems or physical injuries.”

No referral is needed. There is no cost to the program, and attendees have the option of taking classes Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday.

Programs similar to Fit for Health are offered across the province in various formats through Alberta Health Services and Primary Care Networks. Last July, Mielke took on a new position to bring more accessible fitness programs to Lacombe. She so far has implemented a walking group and now manages the Fit for Health program.

“It’s really just general exercise in a sense. It’s a group format, but I can really modify it to each individual. Everyone comes to me with different situations. For example, I had someone with a knee replacement so we found a machine that feels good for them. Everyone gets some cardio, we do some strengthening with the equipment and weights, and individual body weight. “It’s a very well-rounded exercise program. It’s for general health and seeing those health benefits. I monitor blood pressure before and after each class. A lot of people have hypertension and most of those people have seen an improvement in their blood pressure.”

Mielke ran one eight-week session already and said members all showed good attendance and were able to even form friendships with the others they were exercising with.

Linda MacDougall was a participant in the first session. MacDougall suffered from chronic hip and knee problems, causing her to walk with her back bent over for a long time. Roughly four weeks into her sessions, she said she was complimented on her straighter posture and that she had noticed other benefits from the program.

“Heather was a big help because we each have our problems and she was able to show us which machine benefited our need. I really appreciated that – it was like having a personal trainer,” she said.

“The program is personalized in the sense that Heather can show everyone which machines and exercises will work best for their condition.”

To access the program, users must have a doctor in Lacombe who is a part of the Primary Care Network. Those interested can talk to doctors or call her at the Primary Care Network at 403-782-1408.

Typically, the sessions are a one-time experience so the program can be opened to new users after each eight-week stretch.

“I think this will continue as an ongoing program. My hope is that people who participate can get off to a good start getting fitness in their lives. The goal is to teach people the skills that they need and then get them to manage their fitness independently.”

kmendonsa@lacombeexpress.com