After Jackie McCarthy had open-heart surgery, she needed a way to return to her regular activity level. She found the support and knowledge she needed at the Owensboro Health Garden with her exercise is medicine program.
She underwent surgery to repair a hole in her heart and repair the valve. As part of her recovery, she participated in five weeks of cardiac rehabilitation at Owensboro Regional Health Hospital. Once she returned to work, her schedule prevented her from attending the program, so her care team referred her to Exercise Is Medicine at Health Park—an eight-week supervised exercise program at the only accredited medical fitness facility in the state.
Exercise Is Medicine is a concept developed by the American College of Sports Medicine as a strategy for individuals with specific health risks to work with exercise professionals to improve their health, manage a condition, or avoid illness by increasing their activity.
Once patients are referred, they meet with a certified fitness trainer for a fitness assessment that determines their fitness level, and they will discuss strategies for exercising safely and achieving personal goals effectively. The fitness instructor will create and explain an exercise prescription to the patient, and will stay in touch for the next eight weeks to provide coaching, encouragement, and support.
McCarthy’s fitness trainer made a great first impression on her.
“He did the assessments and put together a program for me,” she said. He asked me about other injuries I had in the past and the condition of my body. This is really where I learned what a personal trainer should be.”
She was particularly concerned about her heart rate during exercise and wanted to make sure she didn’t push herself too hard after surgery. Her fitness trainer provided expert help.
“He gave me a target heart rate zone and explained that if I hit a certain zone, I should step back a bit and stay within the zone,” she said. “It made me feel very safe, rather than not knowing how hard it was to go.”
The variety of programming at Healthpark was also important to her—especially after she was injured in a car accident over the holidays. She tried to do her usual exercises but it was too painful to finish.
“At that point, I brought my swimsuit,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never tried the pool, but I got into the therapy pool and just moving around in the water was such a different experience. I was almost painless, and I think it helped everything. I can still get physically active and get my heart rate up, so I’m glad this was an option.” .
Her hard work has paid off. Within the first eight weeks of the program, she had a decrease in her BMI and began to regain her energy. McCarthy continued her athletic program at Healthpark and signed up for membership.
“After recovering for 12 weeks and undergoing four-and-a-half hours of surgery under anesthesia, it’s hard to build stamina after that,” she said.
McCarthy has gone from “wiping out” after 1 minute on the elliptical to being able to complete 10 minutes. And she doesn’t plan to stop.
“I’ve been working out three times a week for several months,” she said.
McCarthy encourages everyone to be more active, calling it “an investment in yourself.”
“It’s really medicine,” she said. “My efforts to take care of my heart and take care of myself have saved me money because I don’t take a bunch of medications.”
With a family history of type 2 diabetes, McCarthy said the key to not getting there was to reframe her mindset and view exercise as medicine rather than work.
“Exercise is not just for privileged people,” she added.
Anyone who thinks they would benefit from exercise is on medication and is ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle should talk to their doctor and find out if a program is right for them. The cost is $50 for the eight-week program and is reimbursed upon successful completion.
Program benefits include:
- Improving mental and physical health
- Exercise strengthens the immune system and reduces the risk of disease
- It reduces stress levels and helps manage stress
- Weight loss
- Helps relieve anxiety, stress and depression
- Reduction of Blood pressure
- Stabilizing blood sugar for diabetics