Healthy Living at the Y

Programs for Adults, Seniors Focus on Spirit, Mind and Body

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By West Cook YMCA

For generations, the YMCA has been helping members achieve wellness through physical fitness.  As the definition of wellness expanded to encompass spirit, mind and body, the West Cook YMCA's programs grew to a complete, holistic approach to member well-being. Through new programming, the WCY is helping members attain well being and a greater sense of vitality.

This fall, on the heels of the success of the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program, the West Cook YMCA is launching "Take Charge of Your Diabetes," a new program targeted at adults who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Through small group classes, the six-week program will guide diabetes patients to make lifestyle changes to adjust their behavior to improve their health outlook.

Jennifer Allington, West Cook YMCA's Registered Dietician, will be one of the facilitators of the new Take Charge of Your Diabetes program. She says that she has seen a marked interest in an initiative that addresses the needs of those already diagnosed with diabetes. "The new program will focus on a lifestyle approach that addresses the overall face of diabetes, including a nutrition component, managing medications and dealing with stress," Allington said.

This July, the Y also launched a new "EnhanceFitness" program for arthritis prevention and management. With four certified instructors, the classes meet three times a week for sixteen weeks for low intensive cardio and strength training.

West Cook YMCA Healthy Living Director Laura Olszewski explains that the program is not limited to those with arthritis. "The new program is geared toward seniors, but it is good for anyone with any type of mobility issue from arthritis to morbid obesity. You can perform the entire class from a seated position," Olszewski explained.

Olszewski notes that the evidenced-based program provides tangible results.

"Ninety percent of the people who register for EnhanceFitness stay with it as long as they are at the Y, and 9 out of 10 participants say that they would recommend the program to a friend. The benefits are measurable. Participants see increased strength, balance and decreased depression. They not only feel better physically, but it becomes a community within a community for the participants," she said.

It is estimated that EnhanceFitness participants have significantly fewer hospitalizations, lower specialty care costs and lower adjusted healthcare costs compared to non-users over 12 months.

Recognizing that healthy living encompasses the mind as well as the body, this fall the West Cook YMCA is launching SMART, an evidence-based, stress management and resiliency training program, through Massachusetts General Hospital that teaches self-care to help alleviate stress. Olszewski, who will be the first non-clinical lead of the eight- week program, remarks that for the Y's large senior population, anxiety can be a big concern.

"We want to first help people see the connection between stress and health. Then, we'll work on techniques to manage those two conditions."

The West Cook Y will also continue to offer its successful LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program for cancer survivors. Launched in March of this year, Olszewski says that participants have been very enthusiastic about the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program.  The 90-minute twelve-week fitness program is open to adults who have had any type of cancer in their lifetime, from patients still in treatment to those in remission.

"We help people reclaim their health. We have participants who run marathons and others who walk with the assistance of walkers. All are able to be in a group and work at their own pace. We can also offer new experiences, like yoga or a spinning class, in an environment that is safe and comfortable."

"This program helps participants build muscle strength, increase their flexibility and endurance and improve confidence and self-esteem," said Olszewski.

"Every person's experience with cancer is unique. Our approach is to tailor a program for each person's needs and capabilities," she explained.

The LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program is free to survivors, who also receive a one-year membership to the Y.

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