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Smiles, exercise come together

Linda Bair appreciates the "structure" the MOVE! program provides. "It's a great benefit to health," she said of losing weight while gaining muscle mass. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 3
Missy Lindow, who developed the MOVE! program at St. Joseph's Area Health Services, begins the routine with stretches. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 3
Raelyne Fieldsend, foreground, underwent gastric bypass surgery 14 months ago, losing over 100 pounds. "I want to maintain my weight," she said of the exercise program. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)3 / 3

Move it; lose it.

That's the credo being conveyed at St. Joseph's Area Health Services, clients from 22 to 82 engaged in individually tailored exercise programs introduced in November.

"I'm not just a nitwit," are the lyrics to the song inspiring the "Movers" to increase their cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, strength, balance and core stability in the hospital's lower level gym.

Conversation and laughter are key components to the non-surgical weight management and healthy lifestyle achievement program.

"It's the best thing that's happened to me this winter," said Linda Bair as she pedaled on one of the stationary bikes. "I need structure."

The hour-long sessions begin with a warm up of low intensity cardio exercise and stretches. Then it's off to the "circuits" - machines and aerobics stations for two-minute workouts.

MOVE!, two years in the developmental stage, was created for people who are intimidated by exercise, explained Missy Lindow, the mastermind behind the St. Joseph's Center for Weight Management program.

"They may be struggling with accountability," the weight management lifestyle counselor said of developing an exercise regimen.

Lindow, as a physical therapist assistant, saw the impact of obesity. "Physical therapy is a means to control pain - in the short term. The main issue is being overweight."

For every pound of excess weight, joint surfaces feel an additional four pounds of stress, she said. Ten pounds adds 40 pounds to the knees, ankles and back.

But people who are overweight find exercise to be frustrating, Lindow said.

"The program was developed with that population in mind," she said, crediting Leah Walters, St. Joseph's bariatric program coordinator, for allowing her to "follow my dream."

"No two people are doing the same thing at the same time," said Lindow who works with exercise physiologist Amy Erickson.

"We have totally different personalities; we complement each other," Lindow said of the fitness gurus' partnership.

Erickson holds the timer, and moves through the gym to answer questions. Lindow travels from client to client, guiding and cheering them on.

"People who didn't think they could do this experience a sense of accomplishment," Erickson said. "We're seeing multiple measures of success."

The exercises - geared to increase muscle mass while decreasing body fat - improve sleep quality, aid stress management, give participants a better body image and release endorphins.

"It's a great benefit to health," Bair agrees. "I've lost weight and gained muscle mass," both monitored in the class. "And I leave with more stamina."

"No two classes are exactly the same," Lindow said of the music and the muscle work. "That would be boring."

At the same time, there's a comfort level, Lindow said, people knowing what to expect.

"It's completely tailored to individual needs," Lindow said. Move! is geared to surgical and non-surgical weight loss clients.

"The goal varies by person," she said of the measurable objectives. "We encourage them to say if something is uncomfortable and we will adjust."

Participants range from ideal body weight to the obese.

Ron Carnell, 65, who underwent gastric bypass surgery, is a proponent of St. Joseph's Center for Weight Management.

A sedentary life behind a desk added more than 100 pounds to his frame.

"I feel better than I've felt in years," he said of the surgery and exercise combination. His sleep apnea disappeared and his blood pressure has returned to normal territory.

And he'll be boarding his bike for next summer's triathlon and the Headwaters 100.

"If I hadn't had the surgery, I might not be here," he said. "Exercise - and support from Leah, Amy and Missy - keeps me going."

The first question Lindow poses during intake interviews is, "Do you like exercise?" A meager six or seven percent answer yes.

"Now they are laughing and cheering each other on," she said.

"If they're not having fun, something's wrong," she said, although a few four-letter expletives other than Move! have been heard.

The bariatric exercise program received a $4,000 grant through the University of Minnesota Academic Health and Education Center.

"Research on exercise and strength training published recently across the country has continued to support the role of physical activity in disease prevention and treatment, improved brain and cognitive function as well as healthy weight management," Walters wrote in the request for funding.

"We want them vested, to take ownership," Lindow said of the clients, currently numbering 31. "They don't go home with a to do list from us," she said of self-motivation. "It doesn't work with husbands... won't work with this."

She admits some trepidation before the program was launched.

"I didn't know what would happen," Lindow said. "But I was right. People do like exercise."

The classes meet at 4 and 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The lower body gets a workout Tuesday, upper body Thursday. A noon hour class is a possibility, based on interest.

The initial intake interview to review medical history and body composition is $25 with a 12-session punch card for $36.

The locker room with walk-in showers is available. Towels, water and blood pressure assessments are included in every Move! session.

For more information, contact Lindow at 237-5757 or e-mail missylindow@ .