Gerber Memorial medical fitness program helps patients build momentum for maximum health
FREMONT– For years, Cathy Stout, PA-C, has lived with back and knee pain.
Then in January, the physician assistant at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Family Medicine – Main Street, signed up for a medical fitness program that’s conducted at Tamarac, a mile west of her clinic in downtown Fremont.
Her husband, Mark Terryn, a retiree who’d long suffered chronic back pain, signed up too.
“I feel a lot better, a lot stronger, and I can do a lot more now,” Terryn says. “I’ll always have back pain and there’s nothing I can do about that, but I can tolerate it a lot more now with exercise. I want to feel more fit, I want to tie my shoes without being out of breath, and now I can.”
The eight-week, medically supervised program, called Momentum, has produced such positive results for the couple that Stout now recommends it to many of her own patients.
Momentum is held at Tamarac, which is a part of Spectrum Health. Anyone can sign up for the program, which costs $125 for eight weeks, or a primary care provider can recommend the program for their patients. Financial assistance is available for patients who qualify.
“Our medical fitness program is one way to help patients get their strength back, get more flexibility and reduce pain with the help of trained health and fitness professionals, and also reduce pain medications,” Stout says.
Most of the patients she’s referred, with the testimony of her own firsthand experience, have signed up for Momentum. And as of December, Tamarac’s Momentum program is in special company statewide when it received the national Medical Fitness Association certification recognizing Tamarac’s program for its quality and safety. Tamarac is the first facility in West Michigan with the national certification, and only one of three in Michigan. The other two are in southeast Michigan.
When Tamarac received the certification, Gerber Memorial’s director of community health and wellness Josh Gustafson said: “This recognition is a tribute to the outstanding health professionals we have at Tamarac and Gerber Memorial who are committed to connecting people with the care and services they need, from beginning to end, that can result in better outcomes.
The Medical Fitness Association certification means that we look at the whole person with the goal of addressing all related health and wellness challenges, then recommending the best clinical pathways for that individual and working with medical and health professionals every step of the way.”
For Stout and Terryn, the first step after signing up for Momentum was getting an initial assessment, usually lasting about 90 minutes.
Matt Purtee, a certified fitness specialist at Tamarac, says that during the initial assessment, he reviews a client’s medical and exercise history. Hee H records their height, weight, blood pressure and other resting measurements. Then he leads them through a few standard exercise tests.
Terryn and Stout say they also tested their flexibility, along with some basic exercises like pushups.
Together, the certified fitness specialist and the client create a personalized exercise routine that includes scheduling twice-a-week supervised workouts for the next eight weeks.
“If the patient is referred to us by their provider, we would make sure they are cleared to exercise and then relay any necessary information,” Purtee says. “The most common health professionals we communicate with are primary care physicians and physical therapists. We then provide the physician with the patient’s results.”
For Terryn and Stout, the program included building stamina and endurance on the exercise bike and laps around Tamarac’s walking track. They did wall pushups and squats. They worked on flexibility with their certified fitness specialist, J.J. Schafer.
Schafer says that most of the clients in Momentum have goals that include losing weight and body fat percentage; reducing their blood pressure; increasing strength and balance; and reducing blood sugar levels to eliminate, reduce or avoid diabetes.
Toward the end of the eight-week program, Terryn says he saw clear improvements.
“My plank time went from 30 seconds to 60 seconds,” he says. “Before, all I could do was move from the bed to the recliner because of the pain. Now, I’m stronger, I’ve lost fat on my belly and around targeted areas. I can do more, and that’s improved my quality of life.”
Stout has significantly improved her flexibility. Over the course of the program, she did more weights, with Schafer’s supervision.
“J.J. shows you the proper way to do the exercises, to do the weights,” Stout says. “She focuses on proper posture, what to do and what not to do. If you do them wrong, you’re not getting the full benefit of the exercises.”
Schafer says: “We help them not only establish personal goals throughout the eight weeks, but we also hold them accountable and encourage them along the way to keep them motivated. We do our best to remind them why they are here and how much of a positive difference this can make in their lives.”
Before an initial assessment, Schafer and Purtee recommend that people gather their health information and information on medications. They should dress for exercise at the initial assessment.
Purtee said all certified fitness specialists at Tamarac are experienced in working with patients in a clinical setting which maximizes the benefits of exercise, regardless of the client’s health and condition.
“The name of our program, Momentum, speaks for itself: The strength or force that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster as time passes,” Purtee says. “Our Momentum medical fitness program will help individuals improve their health and incorporate exercise into a more functional lifestyle.”
For Stout, Momentum’s effect is clear: “I feel more energized than before.”
Momentum medical fitness program: $125, for eight weeks. Financial assistance is available. Call 231.924.2193 for more information.