Taking it one step at a time

MARQUETTE – The kind of structured, individualized program offered by the Healthy Weight Journal experience can, by itself, provide enormous benefits.

Just ask Adam Schultz, an exercise specialist and registered clinical exercise physiologist at Marquette General Hospital, who works not only with HWJ participants but also with a variety of patients and clients in the hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation gymnasium.

“Having any knowledgable fitness professional will certainly increase the effectiveness of a program, but also the (patients’) safety,” Schultz said. “And so one of the things we hear a lot at our program specifically is they really like the atmosphere of being monitored. It’s a safe environment and it’s a friendly environment.”

Schultz said there are four main factors to consider when creating an exercise regimen: the frequency of the workout, its intensity, its duration and the type of exercises being done. Tweaking these variables, he said, allows participants who may look as though they’re doing the same exercises to be following a highly specific program made for them.

“A lot of the activities, what you’ll notice may be the same,” he said. “For example, you could have someone on a bicycle who’s very deconditioned, (but) you could also have someone who’s highly conditioned on it.” He said that basing a person’s exercise plan on their beginning level of fitness as well as their goals allows him to find a baseline from which he can gradually progress the workout’s intensity.

“Essentially when anyone comes into our program, what we want to do is get a good look at their health history – any limitations that they have, their goals, things that they’re particularly strong with – and then we design a program based off of that,” he said. “And we have a wide array of equipment that will suit anyone’s needs based off of where they’re at with their fitness levels.”

Schultz said that a really important part of the program, and one that helps to make participants feel at ease, is that if any health problems were to arise during an exercise session, they have the equipment and expertise on hand to address it.

“We do follow (participants) very closely, and what we do is we calculate out a target heart rate zone, so that we’re closely monitoring where they’re at in terms of their predicted maximum … and then we also closely monitor blood pressure,” he said. “We’re making sure we’re seeing a proper increase in heart rate with exercise and a proper decrease with rest and also similar things with blood pressure.

He said that in extreme cases, the gym has an electrocardiogram (EKG) telemmetry machine that allows him to “take a close look at heart rhythm and so forth in case someone becomes asymptomatic or is not feeling well.”

“We do have a pretty strict means of assessing their responses to the activity,” he said.

For those people looking to get more exercise or to start a fitness regimen but don’t have the money or the time to enroll in a tailored program, Schultz still recommends people touching base with their primary care provider to be sure “whether or not it’s safe to take on a program of activity.”

Usually it is, Schultz said, but speaking to a health care professional enables people to determine whether they have high blood pressure or orthopedic limitations, which may limit or change one of those four workout variables.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.