February is Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month

It’s Heart Health Month at ExercisAbilities and all across the United States.  The first American Heart Month was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in February 1964. At that time more than half of the deaths in the US were caused by cardiovascular disease. From then on, February has been annually designated as American Heart Month.

This month we will focus on all things heart healthy and that is an amazingly complex topic. Heart health can be as simple as exercise for some and as complex as heart surgery for others. At ExercisAbilities we will work with you as you strive to make healthy choices for your heart health.

Heart Healthy Eating

Eating right is the foundation to a lot of your health including your heart health. Heart-healthy eating includes eating vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, lean meats, fish, nuts and more. But it’s not really that simple because even the smartest of us can take a healthy apple and turn it in to a sugar-loaded piece of apple-pie with whipped cream AND ice cream on top.

Heart healthy eating includes eating the right things, prepared the right way. Try to avoid packaged foods (high in sodium) and eat fresh! There are all kinds of heart-healthy diet and recipe websites out there for you, just google “Heart Healthy Recipes” or “Heart Healthy Diet” to find one.

Perhaps the best thing to get you started on your heart-healthy eating habits is a visit with our dietician, Laurie Brengman. Laurie is a licensed dietician and can provide a one-on-one consultation. We also have a great group class, Learn To Be Fit, which teaches you both how to eat right and get started on an exercise program.

Heart Healthy Weight Management

The more body fat you have the more likely you are to develop coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers.  A healthy weight for adults is usually when your body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 24.9. But how the heck do you compute your BMI? Here is a  BMI calculator to help you get an estimate.  If you are overweight or obese, try to lose weight. Losing just 5% of your current weight can improve your blood pressure and losing a bit more can help you prevent pre-diabetes from becoming Type 2 Diabetes. Losing 5-10% of your current weight also helps lower triglycerides and glucose levels, lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol! Health professionals recommend losing 5 to 10 percent of your initial weight over the course of about 6 months.

Join our Learn to Be Fit class in April to get started with both a diet and exercise program or use our open gym hours to exercise on your own.

Heart Healthy Exercise

Eating right and losing weight are important factors to heart health. But what if you already eat right and are at a healthy weight? Are you set for life? Well, you’re doing great, but health professionals agree that routine exercise is key to your continued heart health.

ExercisAbilities Parkinson Wellness Recovery Moves 2 class
ExercisAbilities Parkinson Wellness Recovery Moves 2 class

Everyone should try to participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day for most days.  If you can’t do 30 minutes of exercise at once, try at least 10 minutes at time, several times in the day. Any exercise in which your heart beats fasters and you use more oxygen than usual is good aerobic exercise.  The more active you are, the more you will benefit.

Talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. Ask your doctor how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.

Managing Stress

It stresses me out thinking about how many things can stress us out. With a little training we can learn how to recognize our stressors and how to cope with them in a healthy way.  Otherwise, we may cope with our stress in a way that causes more stress: drinking alcohol, drug abuse, smoking, overeating, avoidance.

Stress isn’t healthy for our hearts! Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks which may later lead to cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, there are many healthy ways to manage stress:

At ExercisAbilities, the Learn To Be Fit Program teaches us how to recognize the stress factors in our lives that may cause some of us to over-eat.  Our program also helps get you started on an exercise plan and gives you access to our open gym hours to exercise on your own.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, quit.  Smoking can raise your risk for coronary heart disease and heart attack and worsen other coronary heart disease risk factors.

A normal habit is hard to break. Breaking an addictive habit is tough, tough, tough. For those of you that have done it, “Well done! Good Job! You’re amazing!”. For those of you in the midst of your efforts, “You can do it! Keep going! Don’t give up!”.

For anyone trying to break a bad habit, you’re not alone. There are many people on the same road and many programs to help you with your goals.

Learn more about quitting smoking at Smoking and Your Heart Health Topic.

A Heart Healthy You

ExercisAbilities is committed to working with all our clients on goals to a healthy heart. We have a Stroke Recovery Program for those who have suffered a stroke. We have a dietician, physical therapists and exercise specialists available to partner with you as you work on your healthy heart. Our Learn To Be Fit program is a great way to get started on a healthy diet and exercise routine. Don’t delay you heart health any longer. Call us for a free Fitness Assessment and get started on your heart health today.


Reference: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

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Signs of a Heart Attack

Mackenzie Distad, EP-C, BS 

ACSM  Certified Exercise Physiologist/Exercise Specialist

It’s Heart Month at ExercisAbilities and across the USA, a month dedicated to raising awareness about heart health. There are all kinds of heart related health topics we’ll be discussing but one of the most urgent is how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.

The symptoms of a heart attack are different for each person, so they can be difficult to distinguish. Someone having a heart attack may experience one, none, or all of these symptoms. The signs and symptoms also differ between men and women.  While heart attacks occur most frequently in our older population, they can happen to anyone, at any age so don’t ignore these signs just because you are “too young”. It is important to pay attention to your body and act fast.

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain, pressure or tightness in the chest

  • Numbness or tingling in the back, arm, neck or jaw

  • Shortness of breath at rest

  • Lightheadedness, nausea/vomiting

  • Cold sweat

If you or anyone you see/know is experiencing symptoms, call 911 immediately. Every minute matters with a heart attack so do not delay, even if you are doubtful you are having a heart attack.

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S.A.F.E Assessment at ExercisAbilities

ExercisAbilities is all about helping you stay healthy and fit in a safe manner adjusted to your level of ability. Afterall, what’s safe for someone recovering from a stroke is quite different from what’s safe for someone recovery from a traumatic brain injury! That’s why we’ve developed an assessment tool to match you to the fitness programs that are best suited for your level of physical and cognitive ability.

Physical Therapy at ExercisAbilities

First Things First — Physical and Cognitive Ability Assessment

One of the first things we do with each client is called the S.A.F.E Assessment. Our trained staff will meet with each new client and utilize our S.A.F.E. Assessment tool to determine your physical and cognitive abilities.  This information is used to determine which level of classes and care are best suited to your specific needs. Staff will then direct you to the correct programs for your ability level. The program will be:

S = Safe

A = Active

F = Fun

E = Effective

Or as we say, S.A.F.E!

Staff will determine what activities and care are best suited to be effective for your long-term care.  Some of the stuff you need to do to stay fit and healthy isn’t really fun. It’s sometimes rather painful, isn’t it? We know this is true and so our staff tries to make things as fun as we can for you so you’ll enjoy your program.

S.A.F.E Assessment Levels

After your one-on-one S.A.F.E Assessment, staff will assign you to one of four different ability levels. You may start in one level but progress to a different level over time.

LEVEL 1 – Needs assistance of up to 2 people to get on and off equipment safely. Needs assistance for the entire session for safety with balance, strength or cognition. Cannot participate safely in open gym or any group sessions. Requires one-on-one assistance at all times for safety and effectiveness of session.

LEVEL 2 – Needs assistance of one person to get on and off equipment. Cannot follow instructions or speed of large group class, needs modifications. Can participate safely in a 1 Staff/4 client ratio or 1 staff/2 client class ratio. Is okay on equipment if there is a staff or supervisor in the immediate area.

LEVEL 3 – May use a walker or need supervision with transferring on and off equipment. Okay to be alone on equipment. May need modification in large group class such as a chair. Can follow instructions in large group.

OPEN Level – No assistance required. Safe to exercise alone with normal large group exercise program participation.

Medical Fitness for Everyone!

 Our SAFE Assessment Tool allows us to have safe fitness programs for everyone, at every ability level. A client who is mobile and wanting help managing their pre-diabetes is likely going to be assessed the OPEN Level and enrolled in our LEARN TO BE FIT Exercise and Diet Program. However, we can also serve a client who has almost no mobility, LEVEL 1, with our adaptive equipment and customized fitness sessions.

Whatever your needs, whatever your ability, ExercisAbilities will help you prepare to improve your health and fitness.

Call us at 507-259-7570 or stop by our offices at 2530 N. Broadway in Rochester MN to schedule your own SAFE Assessment.


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A Letter from Our Founder – Dr. Melanie Brennan

A letter from Melanie – I am filled with hope!

Happy New Year 2018!

2017 was a great year!  We had so many wonderful achievements: A move into our beautiful and spacious new building, growing programs such as our Diabetes Prevention Nutrition and Exercise Program, Healthy Lifestyles Corporate Group Wellness Education Program, the addition of a full occupational therapy and hand therapy practice, Our first Run, Walk, Roll at Ironwood Springs, new office, exercise, and physical therapy staff, initiation of our Forever Strong lifelong exercise therapy and independent living skills program, and so much more.   Throughout the year, physical therapy, Parkinson Wellness and Recovery (PWR!), and our ABILITY neurologic recovery programs, and Rock for Recovery Fundraising GALA also continue to thrive and grow.  We added 7 new staff just in 2017.

ExercisAbilities Staff
ExercisAbilities Staff

Your Donations

Your outpouring of generosity has made this growth possible in 2017, making it our most impactful year in our history!  Together, we met the recovery and rehabilitation needs of 58 more individuals with disabilities in our Forever Strong Program.  These individuals no longer receive much needed assistance with exercise and rehabilitation, which is vital to maintaining and improving their quality of life.  They move better, have less pain, have less risk of complications from sitting too long such as sores on their skin, contracted joints, and secondary cardiovascular conditions. Because of you, they are happier and better able to interact with their community, work, and life.

More than 14,000 individual visits came through our door in 2017!  Exercisabilities has also begun the planning for a new pediatric rehabilitation unit thanks to your kindness and contributions.  This program will fill a gap in services currently in southeast MN for children with developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders.  We are thankful for your contributions and grants to allow us to grow to serve the many who are unable to afford this care and would otherwise go without.

Clients at ExercisAbilities Pediatric Practice starting at ExercisAbilities Medical Fitness at ExercisAbilities Rehabilitation Services At ExercisAbilities Power Boxing at ExercisAbilities

2018 Goals

There is even more to come.  In 2018, our goal is to continue to accelerate our work.  Our goals will begin with the start of our pediatric visits on January 16th.  We hope to grow our Forever Strong program to 90 individuals and hope to achieve more than 850 visits a month in our physical therapy and occupational therapy programs.  We are working to add speech therapy services as well.

This work will not be easy considering the changing healthcare insurance changes and decreasing reimbursement and coverage rules.  In 2018 and beyond, more individuals will not be covered for basic, human needs in their recovery process after devastating injuries, illnesses, or birth disabilities.  In fact, our congress has reenacted a damaging and unethical rule that was first made in the 1980’s because they did not act to repeal the therapy cap prior to December 31, 2017.  All Medicare beneficiaries will only receive $2010 of PT or Speech Therapy and $2101 of Occupational Therapy for the entire year with no exceptions, no money allowed over this limit.  This is unethical, unlawful, and requires a loud community to make them change this decision.

What might the therapy cap mean to you?  If your mom, dad, grandma or great uncle has a stroke, is diagnosed with MS, Parkinson’s, or has a spinal cord injury in January 2018, they will only likely be in the hospital for 2-3 weeks and then will only qualify for about 18-20 visits of PT.  Let me tell you that we are good, but not miracle workers.  Evidence and research shows that functional improvements can occur over many years after a stroke, but only with intensive therapy.  Therapy along with skilled exercise and recreation continues to be the most effective treatment for recovery. However, our insurance companies and government are ignoring the evidence to save money.  This is a horrible reality of our current reimbursement world and it is keeping many individuals of all ages from reaching their full potential.

Exercisabilities is here to help!  And together, with your financial and volunteer help, we can provide affordable, reduced fee skilled rehabilitation, exercise, and many other services so that your loved one can continue to achieve their highest potential.  They deserve the best.  Together, we can turn the tide.  Consider a donation today!  We are looking for many volunteers as well to assist with our efforts.  Contact us today!

For more information on the therapy cap, our success this year, our goals for 2018, or how to access our services, call Melanie at 507-259-7570 or visit www.exercisabilities.org.


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New Pediatric Practice at ExercisAbilities

New Pediatric Practice at ExercisAbilities

Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapy now available at Exercisabilities!

We are excited to announce that Exercisabilities will open our new pediatric practice on January 16, 2018.  Christine Hollman, OTR/L and Tessah Skoog, PT, DPT are ready to begin seeing pediatric patients in our developing new Pediatric Clinic Rooms.

Christine has 27 years experience in the pediatric field.  She has an interest in treating children with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, history of trauma and neglect, mental disorders and challenging behaviors as well as developing disabilities.  Christine has worked in many settings including outpatient, hospital, schools, mental health, and a developmental center.

Tessah Skoog, PT, DPT has been working with Exercisabilities in many areas of expertise since April of 2017.  She has a love for children and working with the pediatric population.  She is interested in all areas of pediatrics and looks forward to growing the program at EA!

To inquire more about our program or to make an initial evaluation appointment, call 507-259-7570.

You can help with our 2018 Goals: 200 Twitter followers and 800 Facebook followers!

Follow us on  Twitter @Exercisabilitie and  Facebook @Exercisabilities