The Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center is not just another gym. Far from it. Instead of focusing solely on how many reps or miles or laps you can do, the goal is to provide a comprehensive approach to health and wellness with consistent guidance to people at all levels of fitness.
The Center for Integrated Wellness
First, some history. Catherine Porter, Executive Director of the Center for Integrated Wellness explains how Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center came to be part of the Center for Integrated Wellness, a collaboration between Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and McLean County Orthopedics.
“Several years ago, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center began looking for ways to expand their services to the community. Changes taking place in healthcare system challenged healthcare providers to not only treat patients when they are sick, but also to help them lead healthier lives in order to decrease the probability and severity of their illness.” The idea is to proactively help people lead healthier lives instead of just treating them when they are sick.
“To have all of these services, a medically based fitness center, an orthopedic practice, and a sports performance facility, all in one location means that there is a place for anyone, at any fitness level, in the building,” says Porter.
Now celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center has successfully helped their members begin and continue achieving better health. One of the most exciting aspects of their program is that they have consistently attracted and retained people who had not been regular exercisers.
According to member surveys, 60 percent acknowledge that they were not exercising prior to joining the Center. “Most are first-time exercisers — those who may have been intimidated to go to a gym for whatever reason,” explains Molly Smeltzer, Fitness and Wellness Manager. “People coming here aren’t just switching gyms — they are new exercisers learning how to incorporate exercise and other wellness strategies into their lives that they hadn’t previously been successful doing.”
One of the most unique aspects of the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center is its medical foundation. With its strong ties to Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and the oversight of a medical director on staff, the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center is able to add a very important layer of health awareness and care to its programs. Medical fitness is the synergy that happens when exercise professionals work with the healthcare community to produce better results for individuals.
The in-depth member health assessment performed prior to beginning any program, the specialized classes for specific patient populations, the high standards of creating individualized exercise programs that are appropriate and safe for the members all speak to the healthcare foundation.
In addition to the physical aspect of health, six other dimensions of wellness have been highlighted in order to provide holistic experiences and opportunities. These include mental, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, and intellectual. Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center works to address needs in each of these facets of wellness.
Members start their journey of membership by going through a comprehensive health risk assessment in order to determine their baseline health and fitness status as well as a goal-setting exercise which is critical in determining what regimen will work best to get them where they want to be. The assessment includes an in-depth health history, anthropometric measurements, cardiorespiratory and strength testing, to ensure that members have the best program designed specifically for them — an “exercise prescription.”
Members have a fitness coach, a degreed and credentialed professional, who will not only do the initial assessment, but will also follow up every 12 weeks for a re-evaluation on the member’s progress. In addition, the fitness coaches can provide encouragement and moral support by checking and communicating electronically with the members.
“At least one of our fitness coaches is on the floor at all times,” says Smeltzer, “so members can get the personal interaction and encouragement as well as immediate feedback regarding their exercise session.”
The latest in fitness technology
Technology, provided by TechnoGym, plays an integral role too. Each member’s exercise prescription is accessible through a wellness key that, when inserted into the equipment, will display that individual’s personal exercise plan and make automatic adjustments on the equipment. The wellness key allows members to access any of the information they need, such as how many reps to do, what weight to use, when and how long to rest, and where to go next, plus it provides “medals” when they hit specific goals.
The information available through the wellness key programs allows members to vary their program to work on specific muscle groups or find different types of exercises or just do something different. It’s like a personal library of exercise information and examples. The exercise prescription and the information available through the wellness key completely takes the issue of “I’m not sure what I should do or want to do or how to do” out of the picture.
“The technology is a tool that enables the members to track, measure, and hold themselves accountable to the program they’ve received from their fitness coach,” explains Smeltzer. Members can also contact their coach through the app, access their fitness prescription when they are off site, and monitor their own progress. When they see the results of following their exercise prescription, they are encouraged to keep working toward their goals or to set new goals once the old ones have been met.
The facility and programs
In addition to the state-of-the-art equipment in the 48,000 square-foot facility, the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center also offers a variety of group fitness classes such as yoga, spinning, Pilates, strength and conditioning classes for adults, and sports performance for youth. A one-twelfth mile indoor track overlooks the sports performance floor and has large windows for outdoor vistas to provide natural light and an open feeling.
The three-lane, 25-yard lap pool, warm water therapy pool, and whirlpool provide water-based exercise and therapy options. A spa-like area includes a massage room, meditation areas, and space for classes such as the Alexander technique for stress reduction. A registered dietitian is available to work with members on choosing the best options for food and nutrition.
Several opportunities are currently available for medically specialized classes: Rock Steady, a non-contact boxing class for members with Parkinson’s disease; pre and post-natal classes; yoga for chronic pain; a pelvic floor and core class to address urinary incontinence issues and other pelvic floor, lower back, and core issues; and a bio-feedback class named “Shift on Stress,” taught by a registered nurse where you learn to recognize and combat stress with the use of a monitor and app on your own phone. More programs are in the development stages.
The Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center also hosts transition programs for those finishing physical therapy or cardiac rehabilitation. These transition programs are aimed at helping to develop healthy lifestyle habits and decrease the chances of repeated injury while also helping to manage chronic conditions which may have contributed to the reason for rehab, all in a supervised and safe setting.
Children even get specialized teaching while their parent is doing their own workout. The ABC (Activity Based Childcare) method means the kids (up to 13 years old) are up and active rather than sitting watching a movie or playing on a computer. This strategy not only incorporates fun and exercise, it also enables kids to learn about healthy lifestyles — and that exercise can (and should be) fun.
“A goal of the Health & Fitness Center is to be a platform to launch the health system’s community health initiatives related to disease prevention, injury rehabilitation, chronic disease treatment, and delivery of medically informed exercise and dietary programming delivered by highly credentialed fitness professionals. This is done in hopes to reduce barriers and stress for the participants as they navigate through their own personal wellness journeys,” says Porter. By providing purposeful and supportive guidance, geared specifically to each individual, the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center is helping people get started, stay motivated, and experience positive results.