Sports / Orthopedic

Dana’s Exercise Journey to a Healthier Life

Feb 21 2020

It’s February, and nearly half of all Americans have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions – which studies show are mostly fitness related. Many people lack a game plan going in or don’t know where to turn for help when things get tough. Those problems can keep you from reaching your exercise goals any time of the year if you let them.

Take Dana Cleary for example. The 68-year-old has had two knee replacements, suffers from arthritis, and has dealt with other health ailments including spinal stenosis.

“I couldn’t walk very far without starting to be in tears, and I couldn’t be active so I gained weight. I was very heavy,” she recalls.

Her physician referred her to the Bon Secours – St. Francis Therapy Center at Five Forks, where she met physical therapist Nirali Amin.

“She was not a simple patient,” Nirali recalls about Dana. “On top of having the health issues to address, she did not want to join a gym… She told me she wasn’t a group activity person and that I wouldn’t get her into a gym.”

However, all that changed when the therapy center relocated to a space inside a SportsClub facility. Nirali began taking Dana into the gym setting and adding workout equipment to her therapy sessions.

“She had never even been on a treadmill before. She had never been on an elliptical before. So, we started with 2 minutes and 3 minutes. You could tell she was starting to get more familiar with it,” says Nirali.

Finally, Dana agreed to join SportsClub P.R.E.P. – which stands for physician referred exercise program. The 60-day program is similar to a gym membership but includes two structured workouts in a small group setting each week. Participants are paired with a trainer but also have access to a Bon Secours physical therapist. The trainer teaches specific exercises based on each person’s limitations.

“Nirali would tell me what I shouldn’t do but it’s kind of like Greek to me. So, she would tell my trainer and he’d make sure I stuck to what was safe for me,” Dana shares.

Dana also says having people she could count on helped her step outside her comfort zone and make moves towards a healthier lifestyle.

“I’m a private person, an introvert. I was scared to use some machines because I didn’t know what was safe for me. Nirali would show them to me and help answer my questions so I was no longer afraid,” she says.

After P.R.E.P., Dana ended up signing up for a gym membership. Since focusing on her physical activity, she has lost 40 pounds in the past year. She still has appointments with Nirali, though less frequently. In fact, the therapist remembers seeing Dana for the first time after she started losing weight.

“We have big windows here, and I saw her get out of her car,” Nirali recalls. “I hadn’t seen her in months and I couldn’t believe it! Her clothes were so big on her – she looked fantastic!”

Nirali believes this is an achievable outcome for anyone – no matter their limitations. She recommends seeing a doctor or a therapist first to figure out how to address any personal physical barriers.

“As therapists, we can help you find some way to move. You’re not limited,” Nirali says. “There’s always a way to move – you don’t have to follow a recipe book in order to be healthy or active. We start somewhere, and then we revise that plan until we get you where you want to be.”

The partnership between Bon Secours and SportsClub gives patients access to extra space and exercise equipment they wouldn’t have otherwise. Dana admits it also helped take away the intimidation factor of going to a gym.

“I was already used to coming here. It wasn’t a big deal anymore – I was just going through a different door, and I already knew a lot of the people that I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” she shares.

Even SportsClub members who aren’t therapy patients are able to use the therapy center as a resource. Bon Secours offers all SportsClub members a free 15-minute assessment. During that time, therapists can offer advice on altering exercises, give suggestions on what might help ease an ache or pain, and let members know when it’s time to seek a doctor’s advice.

Learn more about the physical therapy services offered at Bon Secours.

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