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Building muscle, bouncing back: Hospitals build workout and rehabilitation facilities under one roof

Sunday, February 19, 2006

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Connected to Saint Francis Medical Center is Fitness Plus, 150 S. Mount Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau, where people going through physical therapy work right alongside those working out for fitness.
(Submitted photo)
Cape Girardeau's hospitals have taken the initiative recently to offer more than medical advice and treatment. They are actively helping patients improve their health.

Since September 2004, Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center have offered the region an unusual blend of rehabilitation and fitness by opening facilities that include both within the same building.

HealthPoint Plaza, operated by Southeast Missouri Hospital and located in a former grocery store at 2126 Independence St., provides rehabilitation and fitness in a single building while maintaining the individuality of both.

(Photo)
HealthPoint Plaza, operated by Southeast Missouri Hospital and located at 2126 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, provides rehabilitation and fitness in a single building while maintaining the individuality of both.
Connected to Saint Francis Medical Center is Fitness Plus, 150 S. Mount Auburn Road, where people going through physical therapy work right alongside those working out for fitness.

In addition to promoting fitness, the goal of both hospitals' facilities is to allow rehabilitation patients to continue their therapy in an environment overseen by the same or similar staff as their therapy was.

"Now they have the equipment. Now they can carry on," said Frankie Erlacker, executive director of rehabilitation and wellness for HealthPoint.

At HealthPoint, the fitness area is located on one side of the building in a large open area with a basketball court, dozens of cardio machines and, on the other side of a divider wall, a free weights area.

On the other side is the physical therapy portion of the building, with an almost hospital-like environment of several private rooms.

Joining the two sides together is a separate workout area with weight equipment more accommodating for people with back problems, Erlacker said.

Southeast Hospital's outpatient therapy center was originally at another location and was later moved next to the hospital's Main Street Fitness Center in Jackson for about two years, Erlacker said.

"We kind of saw this coming and how it could evolve," she said of the fitness and therapy under one roof in Cape Girardeau.

Private, comfortable

Fitness Plus touts itself as different from standard hospital and fitness clubs, offering a more private and comfortable environment, according to facility director Doug Friese.

Saint Francis originally bought out a fitness center called Universal Plus. After leasing a location for two years, the hospital decided to move the fitness center into its own space and include the rehabilitation portion, which had been located in separate building.

Instead of separating different types of training from one another, such as cardio equipment and free weights, at Fitness Plus all the exercise equipment is located in one strip inside an oval running track.

Before choosing the design, Friese said, several different options of how to integrate both fitness and rehabilitation were looked at.

"They were integrated under one roof, but they were not bringing everyone together, and that's not what we wanted," Friese said of other centers' designs.

Only two sections of the facility are closed off from regular fitness use: one for cardiac patients, which is only occasionally cordoned off, and the second a medical rehabilitation area.

In May, Fitness Management magazine through the 2005 Nova7Awards Winning Innovations program chose Fitness Plus as international runner-up for outstanding innovation in the area of facility design, construction and decoration. According to Ronale Rhodes, editorial director of Fitness Management magazine in Los Angeles, Nova7Award is so named because Nova is part of the word innovation and the awards are given in seven categories.

For this award, Fitness Plus was judged against health and fitness facilities ranging from community centers and health clubs to corporate fitness centers and medically based programs throughout the world.

In September, the Medical Fitness Association recognized Fitness Plus as being among its 2005 Distinguished Achievement winners as the best fitness center in the country open less than three years.

Both facilities encourage children to become more active.

Fitness Plus has a separate area for children 12 years old and younger. Children 6 weeks to 6 years old are in one area with toys and a television to watch movies, while the 7- to 12-year-olds are in another area where they can play video games or exercise.

"It's more getting kids used to working out," Friese said, adding that the equipment employs light weights, and the children are supervised when using it.

HealthPoint also provides an area for children ages 12 and younger, along with several classes and programs such as swimming lessons and martial arts.

Children cannot become members at the club until they are 14 years old, but a new activity center for them is part of a planned expansion featuring air hockey and foosball.

"We want to get everybody more active," Erlacker said.

The expansion of HealthPoint could begin In April and would include a 25-yard, four-lane swimming pool, another aerobics room, and expand both the cardio and free weight room, according to Erlacker.

To be completed possibly by February 2007, the expansion project was in part brought on by HealthPoint reaching its five-year membership goal in about a year, she said.

The expansion would increase the size of the facility from about 64,000 to about 78,000 square feet, she said.

Both facilities feature a basketball court, exercise classes, a therapy pool, free weights and cardio machines, and an indoor running track.

In addition to the therapy pool, Fitness Plus offers a 25-yard, four-lane pool and a recreational pool.

Also available at both centers is a computer program where members can enter how many repetitions they have lifted or miles they have run in order to keep track of their progress.

At HealthPoint, the computer even suggests how much weight to lift or in how many reps.

Friese said no significant changes are planned for Fitness Plus, which encompasses 76,000 square feet. An extensive three-year planning period prior to the opening of the facility anticipated most members' needs, he said. However, a member advisory group gives input on what they would like to see changed, Friese said.

Some of their suggestions that have been taken up included more family changing rooms and expanded fitness programs. Locker rentals were expected to begin in March, he said.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127


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