The Freedom Aquatic & Fitness Center (FAFC) at George Mason University, an EIM Community Fitness Collaborator, recently received a $20,000 community grant from Sentara Community Health & Wellness Partnership. The shared goal is to improve the health of the Prince William County community by reducing the impact of sedentary lifestyles through their Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) community-based exercise and lifestyle change program. Due to the Sentara grant and other generous community grants and sponsor donations, the FAFC can offer financial assistance to those who would otherwise not be able to afford the EIM program, as insurance does not currently cover these services.
FAFC offers a comprehensive EIM program that provides an accessible, low-cost option to help guide and encourage sustainable lifestyle changes for improved activity levels and overall well-being. This 12-week program provides the participant with an individual exercise assessment and one-on-one personal training sessions that best meet the needs of each individual. The participant also meets one-on-one with a health & wellness coach to work on lifestyle behavior change to meet their personal goals. This program is offered to adults in Prince William County and surrounding areas who have been referred by their health care provider or self-referred to begin/increase physical activity as part of their treatment plan for the prevention, management and rehabilitation of chronic disease, obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Membership to the FAFC is not required to participate in the program.
Through integration with George Mason University, FAFC uses the EIM model to establish a standard of care where local health care providers such as UVA Health Systems, are consistently making referrals. Other partnerships include Mother of Mercy Free Clinic and the County's Community Services Board. A Community Care Coordinator at the Freedom Center conducts outreach to clinics/physician groups and local pharmacies and uses social media, newsletters/email blasts and community presentations to promote the program and facilitate communication.
As a result of a $10,000 research grant award by the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, the FAC EIM team has been able to collect and analyze data on the outcomes of the FAFC-EIM program. In addition to the self-reported amount of weekly activity minutes from participants, data points measured include biomarkers such as weight, BMI / Body Fat% and A1c. Self-efficacy for nutrition and exercise as well as general well-being are also measured pre and post program (utilizing Bandura and WHO Well-being Index, respectively). Preliminary data show improvement in one or more of these health indicators in 100% of the participants who have completed the full 12-week program and were able to show at least 80% compliance with program components. Some of the results for these chronic disease indicators include: weight loss of 9 lbs; decrease in body fat of 1.98%; decrease in BMI of 1.4 kg/m; decrease in HBA1C of .28%; and an increase of 123 minutes of physical activity a week, averaging 213 total minutes a week for participants (each is an average of program completers) . Overall well-being and self-efficacy show an average increase of 13.2% for both. Anecdotally, we receive feedback about increased energy levels, reduced pain (ie. going up the stairs or simply walking better), improved mood and overall well-being, reduced medications, and improved productivity.
In response to the growth of the FAFC EIM program, The Freedom Center’s General Manager, Olga O’Brien, states “Our Exercise is Medicine® collaboration with the American College of Sports Medicine has offered us the opportunity to explore more unique partnerships within the community and serve the needs of our constituents in a new way. The pilot program started right before the pandemic and our team found unique ways to adapt the program to that climate and the needs of each individual. Now that participants can be onsite, we are proud of growth the program and are reaching more participants through the concepts of exercise truly being both prevention and medicine for many mental and physical ailments.”
As exemplified in the following statement from a program participant, the FAFC EIM program aims to enhance individual and wholistic well-being: “The EIM program not only taught me the right ways to work out, but also helped me to see that I am getting results. …It has taught me that I can be in control. Clinically, my blood sugar is within bounds. My blood pressure is lower than it has been in 20 years. And I can be physically active without needing several days to recover.”
Tammy Rowland, MPH, Pn1, NBC-HWC, is the Program Manager and Health & Wellness Coach for the FAFC EIM program. [email protected]