Fitness key to fighting obesityPublished 7:44pm Friday, August 22, 2014
By Savannah Harrison
Dr. Robert Edwards, a family practice physician at Alexander City’s PriCare, believes that awareness is vital to understanding health risks and making lifestyle changes. He also believes that exercise is key.
“I’ve personally started screening every obese patient here for diabetes,” Edwards said. “(Diabetes) leads to a shorter life span and less health.”
While the screenings are a sound measure, considering the prevalence of obesity in the area — with Russell Medical Center finding that 37 percent of adults over 20 suffered from obesity in their 2013 Health Needs Assessment report — Edwards says that regular workouts are a more proactive measure. In fact, he said that exercise could help not only with obesity and weight management but also with chronic pain and a number of other health issues.
“It’s been shown that exercise helps even more than pain killers,” the physician said.
With three local gyms in Alexander City, there are plenty of options for getting in that workout and starting a routine. And the various health club staffs are prepared to help in any way they can.
Shawna Woodruff, the manager of Anytime Fitness, was surprised to hear Alabama’s national ranking in terms of health, as she said that her gym is full of healthy people of all ages.
“We have over 900 members here,” Woodruff said. “And 200 of those are our Silver Sneakers, which are our senior citizens. We have a huge senior citizen program here.”
Woodruff reported that a large number of members participate in the activities offered at Anytime Fitness, which range from boot camp classes to running groups. They also have a personal trainer on staff, who works with individuals to create workout and dietary plans that reflect their goals.
“Just this year has been the biggest year that we’ve had since the gym’s been open, and people have continued to stay in a routine,” Woodruff said. “Typically, it drops off a little after the first of the year.”
As for the gym’s Silver Sneakers program, Woodruff reported that the members of the group have found a higher degree of physical and mental health.
Total Fitness at Russell Medical Center also sees a variety of people, as they serve members who have recently completed various physical or occupational therapies as well as those who are just generally interested in health, according to Director of Rehab Services Jak Korte.
“The scope of our fitness services and programs are designed for all ages, predominantly young to older adults,” Korte said. “We use a lot of modalities — land-aerobics-type classes, water-aerobics-type classes, personal training, special event-type wellness activities. With the hospital, we have access to medical professionals like doctors, nurses and other health staff that are involved with the program.”
Medical professionals like Edwards and Dr. Michele Goldhagen of Russell Medical Center agree that getting children active and involved with exercise at a young age can greatly improve their lives as adults.
Total Fitness has this covered, offering membership to anyone over the age of 15 and spearheading a program for kids named Total Lifestyle Change (TLC), which is open to children ages 8 to 14.
“We use a variety of different environments and exercises, but the exercises are always based around developing cardiovascular and muscular endurance,” said Amy Jones, a fitness specialist with the gym. “With that, they also receive a dietary consultation with the dietician on staff at the hospital. It’s not just the child, it’s the parent, because it has to be a cooperative lifestyle change between the child and the parent.”
All incoming members of Total Fitness are invited to complete a health assessment, according to Jones and Korte, which takes into account health history and goals.
“If (the individual) wants us to develop a program for them, we do so at no cost,” Jones added.
Total Fitness sees approximately 900 members and offers indoor and outdoor boot camps, Zumba, Pilates, step classes and many other activities. Personal training is offered on an individual, pair and group basis.
Elite Fitness of Alex City, located on the Central Alabama Community College campus, also offers a variety of courses and gym equipment, as seen on their Facebook page. At the time this article was being written, they were unavailable to comment.
Regular physical activity is a great way to start improving health, but it does require time and motivation.
“Exercise is a thing of privilege,” Edwards said, explaining that it’s something for which you have to find time.
In an early August interview, Anytime Fitness’s Woodruff admitted to doing just that, having completed a muggy run.
“I didn’t want to run today in 98 degree weather, but I did it anyway,” Woodruff said. “It’s just about commitment and wanting a better quality of life.”