For the Health of It

Yes, Exercise is Beneficial, But It Can Also Be Medicinal

By Guy Fletcher | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 03.16.14 – Diversions, Lifestyles

Thirteen years ago, at the age of 52, Janie Harris-Crone had what could conservatively be called a life-changing event. Suffering with what she thought was a case of indigestion, she endured discomfort for a few days before finally seeing a doctor who had a very different diagnosis.

She had a heart attack.

Harris-Crone was immediately taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she had surgery to insert a stent in her clogged artery. Today, at age 65, she watches what she eats—tries her best to cut out “the junk”—and takes her cardiac meds. But she knows that isn’t enough. So, several times a week the Frederick resident joins her husband, Mark Crone, at Frederick Memorial Hospital’s Crestwood Boulevard center, where they take to the treadmill, stationary bike and other modern exercise equipment that fills the gleaming ProMotion Fitness+ center.

ProMotion is more than a typical fitness center, staffed by clinical exercise physiologists and registered nurses who work closely with members to map out a fitness plan that leads to lifestyle changes. The program was born more than a decade ago out of the need for an additional fitness program to follow the traditional cardiac rehab program patients go through following surgery. The rehab programs, typically covered by insurance, only last a few months. The FMH program was initially designed to pick up where cardiac rehab left off, but its scope has broadened into all kinds of illnesses and even prevention.

At the center is the idea that exercise has a far greater role in recovery, prevention and overall well-being than most people understand.

“The big thing we have been pushing is for a while … is the concept of exercise as medicine,” says Dr. Ali J. Afrookteh, an internist who serves as medical director of ProMotion Fitness+.

While many of the health benefits of regular exercise are well known, they go far beyond lowering weight and combating obesity. According to the National Institutes of Health, regular physical exercise can play a huge role in combating coronary heart disease by:

  • Lowering blood pressure and reducing triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood;
  • Raising HDL cholesterol, often called the “good” cholesterol; and
  • Helping manage blood sugar and insulin levels, lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Health officials point to many areas where the gym has proved as potent as the pharmacy, such as in combating stress and depression and recovering from injury. “We are convinced, and the data supports this, that we can change lives,” Afrookteh says.

And if the data doesn’t convince those entering the program, the results do, says Kristen Fletcher, manager of vascular, non-invasive and preventative cardiology for FMH. She smiles recalling the people who told her how the program improved their blood pressure or blood sugar levels. “They are seeing tangible evidence that it is benefitting them,” Fletcher says. “We have success stories every day.”

A year ago, ProMotion moved into is new 7,500-square-foot FMH-Crestwood home, packed with more than 60 machines, as well as free weights and other equipment. It’s open six days a week, although there are busier days and time of day. The center has a real social feel with members (who pay $54 a month to join) meeting at the same time and encouraging each other’s success. Staff joke that sometimes it feels like a party is going on.

But at the same time, there’s a real sense of individual attention. Each member has a key card to operate the machine. The card tracks their success, gives them feedback and, more importantly, lets the staff know how each person is progressing. Armed with that information, the staff can design a program based on very specific needs, while trying to get a variety of muscles engaged.

“It’s not a cookie cutter,” Fletcher says. “It’s very designed to what their individual needs are.”

While many people come to ProMotion because they’ve suffered a heart attack or some other health condition, many are also in good health and looking for a program of prevention. Others are simply intimidated by the idea of exercise. “Maybe they have never exercised before and they don’t know where to start,” says Tina Miller, supervisor of preventive cardiology and rehab for FMH.

The Crones are believers. Both have seen the benefits of the program in improved cholesterol and triglycerides. But they just feel better when they are coming to the program regularly. “It gives me energy,” Mark Crone, 58, says following a recent workout. “If I don’t come in here, I feel lazy.”

The couple is anything but lazy. They travel, volunteer in the community and even help their elderly neighbors in Crestwood Village with yard work, errands and odd jobs. But they also make sure to schedule time on their calendar each week to come in for at least three workouts.

“They run a good program,” Janie Harris-Crone says. “We recommend it to everyone.”