Fit For Life Program Continues Success

For patients that may be feeling uneasy about the Phase III cardiac rehab program ending at WCA Hospital, there may be an alternative located close to home.

Fit For Life, a community-oriented, medically supervised wellness program, is still going strong at the Lakewood YMCA after more than a decade. The program, which is run by Linda West and Connie Fahey, meets several times each week and includes blood pressure and heart rate checks, as well as warm-ups, stretching, cardiovascular workouts and cool-down period. West and Fahey are both registered nurses as well, and provide medical supervision for all of the participants.

“I worked in cardiac rehab at WCA, and I started my career in coronary care at Jamestown General Hospital,” West said. “I’ve been here for eight or nine years now, and I worked for this program once before, too. Tom (Anderson) graciously brought me back so we could continue having a medically supervised wellness program.”

According to West, while they can’t take care of people that need constant supervision, and can’t take on patients with high-risk health issues, the program is open to everyone, including first-time exercisers, arthritis sufferers, and those seeking cardiac or surgery rehab, or relief from diabetes and other ailments.

Tom Anderson, Lakewood YMCA branch manager, looked at the program as a necessity for a community.

“We’ve just reacted to what WCA has done in the past,” Anderson said. “We’re a service organization here at the YMCA, so we wanted to keep this going. Before the YMCA officially took this program over, it was pretty exclusively a cardiac maintenance program like the Phase III program at WCA. It’s changed now to be more of a community wellness program. It’s not just for heart patients.”

Fahey echoed Anderson’s statement, saying the YMCA is an organization that is rooted in community development and community participation.

“We want to be known as a wellness class,” Fahey said. “Because Linda and I are both RNs, though, we can give medical supervision. We check blood pressures, we check heart rates, we make sure that people are capable of participating in this class. If they have problems, we follow up with them on everything. The Lakewood YMCA is the only gym that I’m aware of in Western New York that has a medically supervised program like this. People in the community might not be aware of it, but this is huge.”

In addition to offering a medically supervised environment, the YMCA also offers a variety of classes available to the participants once they are comfortable with working out on their own. Classes include yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, aerobics, swimming and more. In addition, the YMCA accepts many major insurances, which will in many cases either cover the full cost of a membership or subsidize a portion of a membership. Anderson suggests that any potential members contact their insurance providers to find out if they qualify.

“We want people to know that we have nurses on staff, we stay in constant contact with doctors, and nobody starts here before we have a medical history,” Fahey said. “We write progress reports for everybody to take to their doctors, too.”

Bill Sperry, a patient who began exercising in the Fit For Life program five years ago, said that he started attending the class because he thought it would be good for him to be more active.

“It’s a good thing I started coming,” Sperry said. “Linda actually helped to diagnose a heart problem and I have a pacemaker now. If it hadn’t been for that, I might not be here right now.”

When either Fahey or West find something that causes concern, they get in touch with the patient’s physician. In Sperry’s case, he was showing many symptoms, but he didn’t recognize there was a problem.

“Because of our knowledge and our background, we’re trained to recognize these problems,” Fahey said. “That’s what makes this program so great, we get to work with each of the participants as individuals.”

Betty Sager, who has been part of the Fit For Life class for more than a decade, said that the motivation she gets from the group is one of her favorite parts.

“It gives you a purpose,” Sager said. “When you know someone is counting on you, it gives you a reason to be here.”

Judy Young, who moved to Jamestown after retiring, boasted about the close-knit ties that are built in the group.

“There’s a lot to say about the camaraderie of this program,” Young said. “I retired to this area and had no connection with people around here, so when I came here, I met everybody. It’s given me friends and it helps to keep me coming back.”

“It’s like a family here, and Linda and Connie are the moms,” Anderson said.

For more information about the Fit For Life program, call the Lakewood YMCA at 763-0303 to schedule a consultation with Linda West and Connie Fahey.