Not all that long ago, Carolyn Monroe had to stop every time she got halfway up the stairs at the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness-Pinehurst and catch her breath.
Today, she climbs the very same stairs without a problem.
Monroe’s life has changed dramatically since she discovered Exercise is Medicine. She no longer needs diabetes medication, the pain in her aching right hip is essentially gone, and she has lost nearly 90 pounds. Her accomplishments were more than confirmed at Christmas when her 24-year-old son, home for the holidays, told her she looked “skinny.”
Monroe says she’s hardly that, but she’s working on it. “I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied,” she says.
Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a physician-referral program hosted by the FirstHealth Centers for Health & Fitness. The program allows participants to meet with an exercise specialist to develop goals and prepare an exercise prescription. It includes a complimentary two-week membership in the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness of the participant’s choice.
There is no charge for EIM participation, which can last from 12 weeks to six months. Only participants who choose fee services – such as fitness center membership, personal training or personal nutrition counseling – incur costs.
A certified nursing assistant with FirstHealth Cardiology Services in Raeford, Monroe asked her physician for an EIM referral after hearing about the program from her physical therapist at Moore Rehab and after signing up for FirstHealth’s Employee Health Improvement Program (EHIP). She had had limited success with various treatments for the hip pain that had begun to limit her mobility, and she was even more concerned about a family history of serious illness that claimed her father at 48 and her mother at 49.
“That’s what scared me more than anything else,” the 44-year-old Monroe says.
At Moore Rehab, Monroe worked with physical therapists Kathy Holder and Katie Chapman who recall her strong motivation to feel better and improve her health.
“Once I began working with her, showing her exercises, it was like a whole new world opened up and she saw the endless possibilities of exercises that she could perform at home, at work and in the car,” Chapman says. “Once she began to feel better, she would tell me how she wanted to lose weight and start a new, healthier lifestyle.”
Chapman believed EIM would help Monroe transition from her physical therapy program to regular workouts at the Center for Health & Fitness.
“I knew that if she was able to meet with an exercise specialist who would help her develop goals and create an exercise prescription to fit her needs that she would be on board for the lifestyle change she wanted,” Chapman says.
That’s exactly what EIM helped Monroe to achieve. Exercise physiologist Terri Crider worked with her to establish a personal exercise plan, and Chris Pevia of the FirstHealth Center for Health & Fitness-Raeford helped her put the plan into action.
“With EHIP, FirstHealth offers employees a program that will get them started and EIM offers employees and the community an opportunity to gain knowledge and eventually success,” Crider says. “Carolyn’s weight loss has opened doors for her that she never even saw before. I am so proud of her and cannot wait to see her at the finish line.”
Monroe now works out on various strength and cardio machines (the exercise bike is her favorite) while participating in such H&F-sponsored classes as Zumba, Turbo Kick and water aerobics. She has especially appreciated the “support of having somebody (Crider) sit down and listen to what you’re doing and encourage you along the way.”
“I wouldn’t turn back for anything in the world,” she says.