ETMC's Exercise is Medicine program aims to improve health through physical activity

Published on Friday, 2 June 2017 16:51 - Written by BETTY WATERS,

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Laquita Johnson, of Tyler, wanted to improve her overall health, and talked to her primary care physician about how she could lower her cholesterol, increase her strength and get in better physical condition.

That was last November, and Ms. Johnson remembers, “I knew I couldn’t do it alone; I needed help.”

Her doctor recommended the free Exercise is Medicine program at East Texas Medical Center’s Olympic Center second-floor gym and wrote a free exercise prescription for Ms. Johnson to participate.

An Exercise is Medicine credentialed staff member, Hali Kizer, program coordinator, made a free fitness assessment of Ms. Johnson.

The hour-long assessment included a check of her heart rate, blood pressure, height, weight, body fat percentage, strength, flexibility and an aerobic fitness test.

Next Ms. Johnson came in for a 30-minute appointment. By then, Ms. Kizer had developed a free personalized exercise regimen for her and recommended which exercise machines to use, trained her in how to adjust the seat and weights on each machine.

She also recommended how long and how many days per week to exercise. Ms. Johnson then received a free two-week pass to the gym to try out the prescribed exercise regimen.

After that two-week introduction, Ms. Kizer conducted a follow-up meeting with Ms. Johnson to see how things were going.

Ms. Kizer said at that point with all trainees, she asks them if they want to continue exercising in a gym. If they do, they have the options of joining the Olympic Center gym or another gym.

“I’m not going to pressure them to join with us,” Ms. Kizer said.

If they do not want to join a gym, Ms. Kizer sends them off with recommended home exercises.

Ms. Johnson had not been getting any exercise when she entered the Exercise is Medicine program. She began working out two or three times a week and worked up to coming four or five days a week.

She works out on the leg press, leg curl, chest press, elliptical and other machines. Ms. Johnson found that she enjoyed exercise as well as being around other people at the gym.

She liked having an Exercise is Medicine exercise specialist answer her questions, encourage her, make sure that she uses the exercise machines safely and properly and tells her when she needs to increase the weights.

“It (exercise) becomes addictive,” Ms. Johnson said.

Consequently, upon completing the Exercise is Medicine program, she began paying a fee to work with a personal trainer and monthly membership dues to continue exercising by participating in other Olympic Center programs.

Now, Ms. Johnson said, “I’ve lost a few pounds. I’ve gotten much stronger in my legs and my arms. I can tell a huge improvement in my cardio. I just feel great and I’m learning how to take better care of myself. I have resolved to be healthy as long as I can as I grow older.”

Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine and focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients, according to its web site.

“Exercise is Medicine is based on the belief that physical activity is integral in the prevention and treatments of many diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity,” the website reads.

ETMC offers the Exercise is Medicine program at its Tyler facility, along with the satellite facilities at Lake Palestine and Cedar Creek Lake.

“Our main goal for this program is to get people healthier, get them to exercising and get them moving,” Ms. Kizer said.

The program shows them that it is simple to exercise on their own and prepares them to do it without them having to figure it out, she said.

“We want to make sure they understand what they are doing and learn that exercise is an important thing in our life,” Ms Kizer said.

People can get into the Exercise is Medicine program two different ways. Their doctor can refer them, or the person can go online to, fill out a form and get their doctor’s signature.

Most referrals have come from ETMC doctors but a few have come from the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System. During an appointment with a patient, a doctor may give them a referral or fax it to the program.

Staff will schedule the initial appointments upon receiving a doctor’s referral and prescription for someone to participate. The Exercise is Medicine program bridges the gap between what the doctor recommends for patients to exercise and how to put it into real life terms so that they can do it themselves.

“We will help them along the way,” Ms. Kizer said.

Exercise can help people improve their health in many ways including decreasing their resting heart rate and blood pressure, lowering their cholesterol level, preventing cancer and helping people get off medication or lower their doses. It also helps increase a person’s muscle strength and endurance, Ms. Kizer said.

“It will help with many diseases, Ms. Kizer said. “A lot of studies ... show it definitely lowers your risk for cancer. It will help keep down pain levels from arthritis. It also helps with prevention of osteoporosis. It’s good for weight control. It’s great for everything in your body and it helps you live longer.”

As of May, 15 people this year had participated in the ETMC Exercise is Medicine program. Sixty-one participated in 2016 and 63 in 2015. Full-time Olympic Center exercise staff have the Exercise is Medicine credential as well as a bachelor’s degree and national certification from either the American College of Sports Medicine or the American Council on Exercise.


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