By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Wellness programs are booming for employees and volunteers at the Diocese of Davenport. Eight of them have enrolled in a program offered by St. Ambrose University’s physical therapy department. Inspired by that commitment, the diocese has introduced a “very simple wellness program,” said Char Maaske, the diocese’s chief financial officer.
“We have so much interest in people exercising and eating healthy that I think we should encourage the effort and keep it going.”
Mike Puthoff, associate professor and director of St. Ambrose’s Physical Therapy Department, said the university’s project gives students “great experience to improve health and fitness for others outside the classroom.”
He spoke with each diocesan participant to determine expectations and then matched that individual with physical therapy students for a six-week program. The students developed plans to address employees’ goals and capabilities and then met with them weekly to see how they are doing.
Jered Hartman, a first-year student in the doctoral of physical therapy program, worked with Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.
Hartman said developing a workout program with a client designed to his or her needs was appealing. At their first session, Hartman tested Morrison’s upper- and lower-body strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular endurance. “I used his scores with his current activity level to design a program appropriate for him.”
Morrison, who had already started walking and eating healthier prior to the program, thought it was a good idea to have some guidance and motivation “to keep me going.”
During their weekly sessions, Hartman worked with Morrison on various exercises and they went over nutrition. “Lee said he has been focusing on counting his calories each day since last July and wanted to focus more on increasing his exercise level. Lee’s main goal for himself was to lose weight. Our goal is to have Lee lose approximately two pounds per week for a total of 12 pounds by the end of the program. He is currently on pace to lose more than the 12 pounds, which is great.”
Morrison’s exercise regimen includes elliptical machines, walking and leg presses. “Half my routine can be done at home,” he said. “I hope this becomes a lifestyle change. I found one has to make time (for exercise). I’m grateful St. Ambrose offered this excellent teaching opportunity for their young students.
“I don’t completely expect to be in shape in six weeks, but the end result I hope will be a change in habits for me.”
Terri Doran, diocesan tribunal auditor, took up St. Ambrose’s offer because she recognized “that I would benefit by a regular exercise program. I used to do aerobic classes and did a lot of walking with my husband, but have completely gotten away from those things.
“I was diagnosed with osteoporosis 10 years ago and have a fear of falling and breaking a bone so I am motivated to improve balance and posture. I would like to do some core strengthening to hopefully prevent injuries down the road.”
Justine Uhl, doctoral of physical therapy student, set Doran up on a three-day-a-week schedule of exercises. Each day involved walking for 25 minutes, doing basic stretches and upper-body strengthening. In the area of nutrition, Doran realized she was falling short on dairy products, grains and protein, but exceeded her daily allowance of sodium. “I rarely salt my food or use much, if any salt, in cooking.” So she is learning how to be more conscious about what she eats and drinks.
Nancy Karn, diocesan accounting coordinator, wanted to have accountability in a fitness program. Her goals were to increase the amount of vegetables and fruits she consumes daily and to continue to exercising several days a week.
Physical therapy doctoral student Molly Elgin worked with Karn, who also hoped to reduce her waist by 1.5 inches and strengthen her hands and stretching distance. Her exercises included walking, lunges, squats and stretches, working with weights, and pushups. “I do not like to exercise, but it is something I needed to do,” Karn said.
Glenn Leach, diocesan volunteer in the social action department, had been looking for help to put together a fitness program. Physical therapy doctoral student Jessica Mandac recommended warm-up stretches and exercises to help Leach improve balance. “As she so delicately put it, falls are high on the list of ills that beset mature individuals and better balance would help protect me. I’m about to turn 70,” he noted. On alternate days he ran, rode a bike and worked with weights. Mandac also recommended several dual-purpose exercises for cooling down and restoring some flexibility. “Running is the toughest, but I am improving both my speed and distance,” Leach said.
Regarding nutrition, Mandac pointed Leach to Myplate.gov to set goals for weight gain/loss that fits within good nutritional guidelines. The site also allows him to track exercise. “I find it much easier some five weeks into the program to pick good foods in reasonable proportions. I find that now on the limited occasions when I do go out and splurge on a favorite barbecue-bacon-cheeseburger it tastes better because I have not been routinely stuffing myself. Unfortunately, I also know how far I have to run to offset it.”
Aside from the St. Ambrose program participants, a number of diocesan employees and volunteers exercise in groups or alone over the lunch hour. In March, the diocese introduced three incentive plans involving exercise and weight. One tracks the number of minutes exercised each month. The person who exercises the most over 12 months will receive a prize. The second incentive involves weight loss, with the individual losing the most weight over the next 12 months — based on body size — receiving a reward. The third incentive is for the person who loses the highest percentage of weight over the next year. Employees and volunteers signed up anonymously for the incentive plans to encourage broader participation.
Other health benefits offered include free blood pressure checks provided by the diocese and the Employee Assistance Program, and a weight room at diocesan headquarters with exercise equipment donated by Bishop Robert Gruss, who formerly served as a priest in the diocese. Employees also may sign up for access to the St. Ambrose gym. And, the kitchen staff is preparing healthy foods.