by Nancy Slepicka
An exercise and weight management curriculum designed for military veterans earned an enthusiastic response from the 18 local vets who completed the first MOVE program sponsored by Hillsboro Area Hospital (HAH).
MOVE –– free to any military veteran –– met on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for eight weeks at Fusion Fitness and Aquatics. Participants learned the importance of regular exercise, good nutrition and eating with moderation. The vets were given homework assignments and were urged to keep personal journals of their food consumption and exercise routines.
Each meeting included physical workouts at Fusion, using the gym, track, pool and cardio equipment.
The program was directed by Fusion Aquatics Coordinator Amanda Rakers, a recreation administration graduate of Eastern Illinois University who worked with veterans while completing her internship at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.
Guest speakers were Andy Kamp, physical therapist for TeamWork Rehab; Megan Hagerty, workplace wellness coordinator for the hospital; Amanda Payne, HAH respiratory therapist; and John Gusick, a veteran and Fusion regular who described how he motivates himself to exercise and eat properly.
After registering for MOVE in early January, each veteran completed a physical fitness assessment and was given a pedometer and a punch card for 25 free visits to Fusion. The fitness assessment was repeated at the program's conclusion to record weight loss and any improvements in blood pressure, flexibility and endurance.
During the eight-week program, the 18 veterans lost a total of 188 pounds, an average of 11 pounds per veteran.
Linda Zaleski of Litchfield, who served for 21 years in the U.S. Army plus eight more in the Reserves, enjoyed the group's camaraderie during classroom discussions and exercise.
Zaleski said she's previously tried weight loss plans –– "My middle name is Diet," she joked –– and described the interaction with experts like Rakers, Kamp and Hagerty as "more motivating."
Larry Brinkman, Nokomis, said that he'd never walked regularly. Now he puts in two miles and has more energy.
"Proportional eating and exercise work," said Mike Wood of Litchfield. "I've lost 21 pounds."
Dean Parks, Hillsboro, who now walks two to three miles two or three times a week, dropped 16.5 pounds, and Stanley Hughes, Hillsboro, who's been a regular Fusion walker for years, increased his distance to four miles a day.
Bill Cope, Litchfield, who said his blood pressure has decreased, appreciates having MOVE nearby. "The best thing is the accessibility for local veterans. I'm legally blind, and if the hospital and Fusion hadn't started MOVE here, I wouldn't be going, because I can't drive to Jefferson Barracks."
"This is a fantastic program," said Joe Page, Hillsboro. "I've lost 7.5 pounds and my legs are feeling better. I have neuropathy from diabetes and walking is helping. Water aerobics in the pool helps, too. I'd never been to Fusion before and am very impressed. My wife and I plan to continue coming here."
Jerry Swick of Hillsboro, lost the most weight of the entire group at 27.5 pounds. The weight loss led to a more impressive accomplishment, as Jerry lowered his blood pressure enough that he was instructed by his doctor to stop taking some of his blood pressure medication.
MOVE is a national weight management program designed by the VHA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP), a part of the Office of Patient Care Services, to help veterans lose weight, keep it off and improve their health.
Fusion Fitness and Aquatics extends a special thank you to Hillsboro Area Hospital for providing the funding to make this program possible for area veterans.
The next eight-week session will begin April 1. For more information or to register, veterans can call Fusion at (217) 532-3896.