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Ex-smokers work toward recovery through exercise at YMHA

February 2012

A small group of women is deftly moving through their paces on the exercise and muscle building machines at the YM-YWHA on Westbury in N.D.G.

Most are ex-smokers recovering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and are enrolled in one of a dozen therapeutic exercise programs at the bustling complex.

The concept was dreamed up and developed seven years ago by Joseé Baillargeon and Louise Malone, based on research showing the benefits for those living with or recovering from chronic illnesses.

“But it’s very difficult for them to actually step into a gym,” said Baillargeon, the Y’s co-ordinator of therapeutic fitness. She’s a registered nurse as well.

“We get people to come in and meet a trainer, one on one or in a small group, and slowly integrate them into a program.”

The people in the COPD group, come to the complex twice a week for 10 weeks. Baillargeon or another trainer shows them how the cardiovascular and weight-training machines work, map out an individualized program and get them started in classes.

“This is a great transition for people,” she said. The goal with this group is 30 minutes of continuous cardiovascular training and then strength-training exercises.

“We monitor their oxygen.”

The program caters to people with cardiac issues who are heavily overweight or have diabetes, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, stress or are in cancer rehab.

Some work in conjunction with the McGill Cardiovascular Health Improvement Program.

The process starts with an evaluation, including a full medical questionnaire, an examination of posture, including previous injuries, and the establishment of goals.

“Even if it’s a group exercise, everyone will do what’s best for them.”

According to Baillargeon, the best indication of success is the number of participants who renew, and at least 90 per cent do so. Another indication is that the person becomes an independent exerciser.

“Most will become full members of the Y and often continue with their original trainer, seeing them maybe every two months to update their program and evaluate progress.”

You don’t have to be a Y member to join a therapeutic exercise program, though after two sessions you are expected to join.

A 12-week program, including the trainer’s fee, costs $600, which also gives access to the Y’s swimming pool and other facilities. You work with the trainer an hour a week, or during two half hours, for a total of 12 hours. The cost for Y members is $540.

To Montrealers who have not made exercise a part of their lives, Baillargeon’s message is: “It’s never too late. You’ll feel better, have more energy, feel stronger and have a better appetite. There is no negative. There are so many options, you can exercise by yourself, in a group, in smaller groups, take a yoga class or aqua fitness.

“We all have the time to exercise, we just have to make the time.”

The YM-YWHA is at 5400 Westbury. 514-737-6551, ext. 292. Yearly membership for those 65 and up is $522, plus tax. For those 30-64, it’s $648 plus tax.

For the McGill Cardiovascular Health Improvement Program, call 514-489-6630.



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