No matter what your age or condition, exercise can improve your whole health. That’s the message Amanda Nunamaker gives her fitness members every day. As fitness program supervisor at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, she and her team members design workout programs for patients and community members and work with them to achieve their health goals.
“Exercise can absolutely help you heal faster and treat symptoms,” says Nunamaker. “The more you move, the better you feel.”
Through AdventHealth’s Move 4 Life program, senior adults learn fun, easy ways to improve their health, whether they’re managing a health condition or recovering from an injury. They often come to the Fitness Center after graduating from outpatient rehabilitation at AdventHealth, including cardiac rehab, physical therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation.
After getting a doctor’s clearance, Fitness Center team members work with the patient to develop an exercise program that’s tailored to their individual needs. They monitor each person’s vitals before and after each workout, including heart rate and blood pressure, and make sure they’re not at risk for falls.
The program has consistently had about 100 members over the past 10 years. Many members think of exercise sessions as a prescription, so they aren’t tempted to skip, explains Nunamaker.
“I’m so proud of this group. They always have great attendance,” she says. “They take that success from outpatient therapy and use it here to make lifestyle changes.”
The Move 4 Life program is designed for people of all fitness and ability levels. Fitness Center team members develop exercises based on the needs of each person, including those dealing with pain or those in wheelchairs.
“It doesn’t have to be strenuous or difficult to improve your health,” she says. “If you have the will, we will get you moving.”
When fitness becomes part of patients’ routines, their health improves. Nunamaker, a respiratory therapist, conducted a study to follow her members’ progress. She found that the fitness members who attended regularly were less likely to go to the hospital. When they did go to the hospital, they were discharged sooner and had lower hospital bills than other patients with similar health issues.
“It’s amazing because this is a group that’s at risk for hospital visits due to their chronic conditions,” she says. “We found that if we see them regularly at the Fitness Center, we’re not seeing them as much in the hospital.”
In addition to individual fitness programs, the Fitness Center also offers classes geared toward senior citizens and people with different health conditions. Popular classes include tai chi and yoga, which provide health benefits for both the mind and body.
“Mind-body classes that include meditation, like yoga and tai chi, are very brain-protective,” says Nunamaker. “It’s not only good for your emotional health but also good for your brain because it can actually change the structure in ways that improve memory and executive functioning.”
Specific yoga classes for health conditions are offered throughout the year, including ones for digestion, heart health, arthritis and menopause. Chair yoga is offered for those who may have challenges with standing yoga poses.
Nunamaker says they try to offer classes to meet lots of different needs, whether patients are looking to improve balance or gain more energy. Classes are designed to allow senior members to take exercise at their own pace with a group of their peers.
“We’re providing a space where patients know they’re safe, they can see improvement and they can be around other people with similar health goals,” says Nunamaker. “Our fitness members consistently come back from doctor’s appointments saying how happy their physicians are that they’re exercising.”
For more information about AdventHealth’s Fitness Center and our goals for whole-body health, visit AdventHealthKC.com/Wellness.
Ann Muder is a freelance writer and editor for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.