ACTIVE LIFE: Exercise program helps lower cardiac risk

The Take Heart program is allowing people who have or are at risk for cardiac problems to rehabilitate through exercise.

The program, a partnership between Island Health and the City of Nanaimo, accepts a range of participants, from heart attack sufferers to those who have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. With a duration of 12 weeks – two sessions a week – it consists of supervised, individualized programming and emphasizes moderate, safe exercise.

“Cardiovascular exercise is a large part of the program with the treadmill, either the bike – and we’ve also got at the [Nanaimo Aquatic Centre] a piece of equipment called the NuStep – and we have two seated ellipticals as well as standing ellipticals,” said Take Heart program deliverer Bev Mitchell. “We utilize, depending on the client’s requirements and the level that they are at, any of those pieces of equipment.”

The program is designed to get participants on more than one piece of equipment in a session. More time is added as the they progress.

“Someone may start at 10 minutes or eight minutes on a treadmill or five minutes on a bike and then we increase them, so depending on what other conditions they may have – joint problems – one piece of equipment may be better than another piece of equipment for that individual person,” Mitchell said.

Each program will also see individuals doing between six to eight functional resistance exercises, although they will be eased into that, Mitchell said.

“We’d start with one upper body, one lower body, appropriate to them, and then through the first few weeks, add, as they’re able to tolerate it, one or two exercises each week until they’ve got six or eight resistance exercises,” said Mitchell, adding that stretching is utilized as well.

Mitchell said a lot of people starting the Take Heart program are tentative because they aren’t comfortable in a gym setting or they lack confidence in the amount of exercise they are able to do. It is something they are eventually able to overcome, she said.

“Seeing them progress as they go through the program, gain more confidence ... and the program really is geared to having people comfortable about exercising independently on their own or getting back to whatever activities they may want to get back to, even just housework or other activities they may have done in the past, such as kayaking or hiking,” Mitchell said.

One participant, Tonny – surnames are kept confidential in the program – starts her routine on the elliptical, followed by work on the treadmill, bike, then weight training with her upper body and then her legs. Her health has improved greatly.

“It’s lowered my blood pressure tremendously to the point where I’m totally off blood pressure medication,” she said. “I’ve lost weight, it has strengthened all my joints that I’ve had surgery on and it’s just made me feel a lot better, energetic.”

A referral from a doctor is needed and the program costs $379. In Nanaimo, it is run out of the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre and Northridge Health Performance Centre. For more information, please call 250-756-5200 or 250-751-0505.

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