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Health & Fitness :: Free Health Care

In a way, that's what the Leisure World Fitness Center is all about. According to the Mayo Clinic Health Manager newsletter, regular exercise helps prevent or manage high blood pressure and boost good (HDL) cholesterol -- two factors that promote heart health. It can also help prevent Type 2 Diabetes and osteoporosis while boosting your energy level. These are just a few of the many benefits of regular exercise.

Leisure World has invested significantly in facilities, equipment, and people to make the experience of getting and staying fit a pleasant one. A daughter of one of our residents visited the center and was quite impressed. "How much does it cost to belong here?"

Her mother replied, "It's free." Her daughter couldn't believe it. "This is so much better than the club we belong to in Houston, and we have to pay $50 a month!"

This world-class fitness center didn't just happen. It was the brain-child of the Capital Improvement Committee which was formed by the Board of Directors in early February of 2001. The cost of the project, approximately 1.2 million dollars, came from the Facilities Modernization Fund. The Board of Directors, the staff, and the Capital Improvement Committee working together opened the Center in September of 2003. It incorporates an equipment workout area, an aquatic center with lap pool and hot tub, plus separate locker facilities for men and women, each with showers, sauna, steam room, and lockable lockers. Those who have visited and evaluated private fitness centers throughout the Southwest believe that there is nothing like our facility-with its certified trainers and equipment - in the entire Southwest!

Everything about the 10,000 sq.ft. Fitness Center is first-class. (By the way, it's built to withstand earthquakes!) Private donors have provided approximately $300,000 of the $400,000 in equipment in the Fitness Center, including the top-of-the-line names such as Precor, Cybex, SciFit, Woodway, and Power Plate. You'll find stair climbers, elliptical trainers, upright and recumbent bicycles, rowing machines, treadmills, including cushioned versions by Woodway that make it easier for people with arthritic feet to exercise, strength training equipment for all parts of the body, free weights, Power Plates and a host of other devices -- in all over 44 different types of exercise equipment. There are equipment clusters or pods devoted to particular parts of the body. So if you want to improve or strengthen your arms, your legs, your back and shoulders, hips, your midsection, there are stations devoted to each of those areas.

One of the frustrations in many fitness centers is waiting to use a particular exerciser. Our Fitness Center has several of the most frequently-used machines to help eliminate the waiting around.

If one of your images of a workout center is a dingy, gym-like place, put that picture out of your mind. This is a bright, spotlessly clean facility. Even before the center opens at

5 a.m., housecleaning is going over the entire area -- equipment, the men's and women's locker rooms, rest rooms, showers, saunas, steam rooms, etc., to make sure everything is ready for the start of day.

Even if you can't see yourself working out on the machines or free weights, there's hope for you. It's a passive exerciser called the Power Plate TM. Some call it a miracle machine. And we have four of them. It is unlikely that any private community fitness center in America has more Power Plates than we have. Developed for the space program to help astronauts stay in shape during long periods of weightlessness, these machines produce three-dimensional wave-form vibrations that transmit waves of energy throughout the body, activating muscle contractions between 25 and 50 times per second This enhances the body's overall performance in sessions as short a 15 minutes a day, three times a week. And all you have to do is stand, sit, or lie on them. The machine does all the work.

In general, the Power Plate benefits include immediate improvement in blood circulation, increased muscle strength, improved range of motion, decreased cellulite, increased bone density, and faster recovery from pain and soreness. That's why you'll find them in use in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, and in every other major sport. We'll be talking about some of the dramatic results in rehabilitation using this technology a little later in the story. But you should know that Leisure World is one of only three Authorized Training Centers in the state!

More than a top notch facility-So far, this story has been about bricks and mortar and machines; but the most important part of the story has to do with people helping people.

For those of you who already know how to use exercise equipment and don't feel the need for special or tailored programs, the facilities are free. Just go to it. But how about those of you who have never worked out and are unsure about how to go about it? That's where the Fitness Center's staff of highly trained specialists comes in. They offer everything from an introductory program tailored to your use of the equipment for a minimal one-time fee, to an on-going fitness program with an individual instructor, to special classes in Pilates, Tai Chi, Yoga, Water Aerobics, Zumba Gold and much more. You are invited to come in and just discuss your situation with a staff member.

We are fortunate to have a staff of enthusiastic, well-trained fitness specialists. The staff is headed by Rhonda Cap, fitness supervisor. Rhonda has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education; and with more than 16 year's experience, she is certified in a wide range of disciplines including Biometrics nutrition and fitness program, strength and conditioning specialist, holistic lifestyle coaching, golf biomechanics specialist, CPR/First Aid/AED instructor and Blood Pressure, Power Plate TM Level 2, Pilates matwork, etc.

Cindy Powner, fitness specialist holds BAE and MAE degrees with over 20 years combined teaching experience. She is a certified Personal Fitness Trainer with expertise in many disciplines including the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Programs, aqua fitness, Bosu integrated balance, Power Plate TM Level 2, Zumba and more.

Cindy finds that many people who are reluctant to engage in physical fitness activities on their own are receptive to enrolling in classes, where they meet people in similar circumstances, make friends, and find the classes rewarding and fun.

For her arthritis class, Cindy offers physical activities that increase range of motion and fluidity in joints, increase strength and endurance, improve circulation and balance. The end result is a client that can walk and perform daily tasks more freely and with a higher level of confidence and independence.

Neil Hall, our newest staff member, holds a BS degree in Kinesiology. Of the many ways Neil helps people, one of his favorites is the Balance and Mobility class he co-instructs.

He takes people who feel unsure and unstable on their feet and helps them progress to being stable and confident. Some come in thinking they can only stand for five or 10 minutes, and by the end of the classes, without even realizing it, they're standing for the entire 45 to 60 minute session. Others have had accidents due to instability while walking. Neil analyzes the walking pattern they've unconsciously developed and teaches them the proper way --- head up, proper foot placement, eliminate the foot crossing when turning, eliminate cutting corners, etc. In short, being more aware of what they are doing. These small things make a big difference and, in the end, his students feel much more confident in what they are doing. They've cut down on the falls and accidents. They walk with more confidence.

Expanding our capabilities even further are independent contractors in personal training, Brenda Estes, CFT; Gus Grissom, MS, CFT; Patrick Reitmeyer, CPT; and massage therapists Bret Stilson, LMT, CPT; and Holly Stuber, LMT.

The fitness staff and their dedicated contractors have helped hundreds of Leisure World residents improve their physical and emotional well being. Obviously, results vary according to an individual's physical situation, but the dramatic results made possible with the help of a trainer and diligence of the individual are worth noting.

Here are just a few examples or areas where this one-on-one training has shown success:

? A client with Parkinson's disease, unable to build muscle using ordinary methods, began personal training on the Power Plate TM and his muscles significantly strengthened regaining his confidence and strength.

? Multiple Sclerosis and Stroke clients unable to use hands independent of the other or at all and or having pain in the extremities finding the use of whole body vibrational therapy to aid in freedom of movement or elimination of pain.

? Pre/Post surgery successes have been seen, too, by clients who have had to get stronger before their surgery and rehabilitate from it, whether it be reconstructive or a joint replacement.

? Clients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's have shown dramatic efficacy with both Power Plate TM and traditional aerobics and weight training with a trainer to improve circulation and help maintain or improve the condition.

? Lifetime athletes experiencing repetitive or recurrent pains and strains (i.e., rotator cuff, sciatica, low back problems, etc.) have benefitted from using a combination of treatments from massage therapy, to traditional strength and flexibility training, to the vibration technology of the Power Plate TM.

A misunderstood therapy-You may have noticed scattered throughout these success stories the words "Massage Therapy." It's clear that massage therapy is under-reported, under-appreciated and misunderstood. To many, massage has a less-than-stellar connotation. It conjures up images of a massage parlor, or of pampered businessmen getting massages to relax. That's what we call, "Fluff and buff treatment." Or you may have been sent to a masseuse by your doctor as part of a rehab program. The treatment helped to eliminate or reduce the pain, but it soon returned. That's because they treated the symptoms, not the cause. It is definitely not what is practiced at the Fitness Center.

Bret Stilson and Holly Stuber are Licensed Massage Therapists. That means they have been schooled and trained to take care of the causes, not just the symptoms, of a physical problem. They treat the problem while they treat the whole body. They specialize in analyzing the muscular system and correcting the dysfunction. Depending on the situation, they develop a stand-alone massage therapy, or therapy as part of an overall regimen developed in conjunction with Leisure World fitness trainers.

Successes through our massage therapy program are plentiful. Here's a quick look:

? Professional hazards of the job--workspace postures--can debilitate one over time; as an example, one of our residents was a watchmaker working bent over for so many years that he could not walk upright. Massage therapy eliminated the adhesions in the front and back and lengthened the restricted muscles in the abdomen and neck so that he could stand erect. Then his exercise program in the Fitness Center was adjusted to focus on strengthening his core muscles (mainly his back) so that he could maintain his erect posture. The client was re-educated on how to move his body, breaking the bad habits he had fallen into during those tough years. Now he can walk upright and is enjoying an improved quality of life.

? Doctors, back surgery, rehab centers, multiple types of treatment sometimes fail to relieve lower back pain. One resident had reached her limits with the pain but decided to give the LW massage therapy program a try. With the combined massage and philosophy of positive reinforcement from the therapist explaining and encouraging the patient that this is what you have to do overcome your problem, over time, her pain subsided almost 80%, giving her a new and positive outlook on life.

What are you waiting for? There are lots of stories like these you have just read about, but they all start with a person willing to come in and ask for help. As the saying goes, "You can't win unless you play." Maybe you're sitting at home today thinking, "Oh, I've got this terrible arthritis (or you name the malady). They won't be able to help me. It's just a gym." You're not only selling the Fitness Center short, you're selling yourself short. Get up. Come on in. Ask for help. Who knows, you just may be taking the first step to improving your quality of life.

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