‘Exercise is Medicine’ helps lose pounds, gain confidence

12-week program aims to improve overall health – and you can join virtually

A Sanford Health trainer uses resistance bands in a virtual workout she's leading on a laptop in an empty conference room.

John Lown knew he needed to hit the gym.

At a routine physical, his doctor noticed a few things. The first: Lown’s A1C could stand to be lowered. This blood test checks for prediabetes or diabetes, and the normal level is below 5.7%.

“My A1C was probably around seven, maybe pushing eight,” Lown said.

The second was that Lown was a member of the Sanford Health Plan.

Exercise is medicine

Sanford Health Plan has a program called Exercise is Medicine. It’s been around for a few years, according to Maggie Rechtenbaugh, a wellness educator with Sanford Health Plan.

Rechtenbaugh said the program was designed for specific patients, with the goal of “helping people increase their confidence as it relates to physical activity.”

“In order to qualify you need to have a diagnosis of high blood pressure, diabetes, prediabetes, high cholesterol, depression, or anxiety,” she said.

Since Lown is a member of Sanford Health Plan and has diabetes, he decided to give the program a go.

Live from the living room

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 12-week exercise program which typically meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays was moved to a virtual setting. Enrollees are mailed a box of equipment, like resistance bands, a workbook, a cookbook, a yoga mat, and a lacrosse ball that they’ll use throughout the course.

The at-home setting is what Lown and others in the program actually prefer.

Strength training at home: More than weightlifting

“The thing I like about it is that (you) can do it from the privacy of your own home,” said Lown.

“The gym is a really intimidating place, especially for an old fat guy like me, you know?” he added with a chuckle.

“Anyone who’s enrolled in the program (has) the opportunity to leave their camera on if they would like help with form, technique, or anything like that. But, we also give them the option to have their camera completely off.

“That way they can do the exercises and not have to worry about the feeling of someone watching them. Just to take away that barrier is a factor for a lot of people,” explained Rechtenbaugh.

Long-term goals

Rechtenbaugh is an instructor and has been teaching workout classes for years. She said the purpose is to create a long-term goal of lifestyle change.

Part of that goal is teaching attendees to be kind to themselves and their bodies, even if they aren’t hitting their initial fitness goals.

“It’s okay to not be 100% at your goal. But, maybe you have that confidence to continue towards that goal, and maybe work to hit that in a year or two years.”

She says the program combines full-body strength and resistance training with endurance training.

Benefits of exercise

Lown has said he’s a testament to the program; it’s helped him lead a healthier lifestyle.

“The last time I checked it (A1C), it was under seven. So, things are moving in the right direction. And, I was on two blood pressure medications as well, but I’ve been able to get down to just one blood pressure maintenance medication.

“A year ago, I couldn’t even do a push up without being on my knees. Now, I can do a regular push up. I can do a plank for a minute. I couldn’t do those things a year ago. The benefits have been being able to have a little bit better numbers, get off some medications, and improve my strength and flexibility,” he said.

Not to mention, he’s also lost about 30 pounds.

He said he’s motivated to keep with the program, and he recommends it to anyone.

“Do I recommend it? Heck yeah. I mean, it’s a great program. You can do it from the privacy of your own home. The instructors are great. It’s a great program.”

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Posted In Behavioral Health, Digestive Health, Health Plan, Heart

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