Local Seniors May Soon Get Fitness Prescriptions

senior exercise photoLocal older adults will be able to participate in a medically-based fitness program as a result of a two-year $115,189 Winter Park Health Foundation grant awarded to the Peggy and Philip B. Crosby YMCA Wellness Center on May 5.

The program, which will be certified by the Medical Fitness Association, would be the first to earn this designation in Florida, and the Crosby YMCA Wellness Center would be the first YMCA in the nation to become certified.

Under the program, health care providers who believe their older adult patients would benefit from an introduction to, or an increase in, physical activity, will be able to make referrals to the Crosby YMCA Wellness Center. The individuals need not be YMCA members to participate, though medical clearance will be required.

To become certified, the program at Crosby must meet strict criteria that include hiring a degreed staff person to lead the effort.  This individual, the Medical Wellness Director (MWD), will also be required to have specific credentials as an exercise specialist, earned through advanced training.  The MWD will be responsible for recruiting a Medical Advisory Committee, comprised of community physicians, to review policies and procedures, monitor participant health outcomes collected as part of the program, and help identify other health care professionals to expand the referral base.  They will also serve as volunteer consultants on an as-needed basis.

The medically-based fitness program will include several options for older adults.

Currently, there are five evidence-based programs meeting two or three times per week at the Crosby YMCA Wellness Center, including the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, LiveStrong at the Y, Pedaling for Parkinson’s, Moving for Better Balance and Enhance Fitness.  The grant will provide funds for two additional evidence-based programs still to be identified and implemented.  Outcome data will be collected to determine health improvements.

In addition to these offerings, both a home-based and Crosby-based option will be available.  Clients participating in both options will be individually assessed by the MWD who will determine a baseline measure, create an individual multi-week exercise regimen, and conduct a post-assessment to evaluate progress.  If the client permits, this information will be shared with the referring health care provider.  The Crosby-based option includes multiple half-hour appointments with the MWD who will supervise progress.

Under the grant, the price to participate in the various options has been kept low to limit barriers for older adults.  Similarly, the home-based option will provide an opportunity for people with mobility challenges to participate.

“We are excited about the opportunity to engage older adults in physical activity by building a referral system for health care providers to use,” said Diana Silvey.  “Often people don’t know where or how to begin an exercise routine, even though their physician has recommended they do so.  This program will provide the health care providers with a credible, certified program they can feel comfortable recommending to their patients.”