Accessible Fitness Center Helps Member Lose More Than 100 Pounds

Highmark Walk proceeds to benefit and impact more lives

“I feel great, I have more energy and I do more now,” says Howard DeHart.  “I can even speak much better,” he explained.  “The Living Well With A Disability (LWWD) Fitness Center changed my life.”

When Howard was handed his fitness membership card nearly five years ago, he was a very different person both physically and mentally.  Weighing more than 350 pounds, he felt overweight, depressed and terrible about himself and his future.  The road that brought him to this point was not an easy one.

Many years prior, Howard had acquired CIDP or Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, a neurological disorder characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory function in the legs and arms.  In 2008, Howard suffered a left-sided stroke or cerebrovascular accident which

Howard Dehart

A healthier Howard working out at the fitness center.

affected his ability to communicate as well as his mobility.  The stroke also caused weight gain.

Feeling battered and bruised with little self-esteem, Howard entered the doors of the Camp Hill LWWD Fitness Center in 2009.  For two-and-a-half years he utilized the unique fitness equipment designed specifically for people with disabilities to exercise and strengthen his body.  It was then that he made the decision to commit the next two-and-a-half years to a workout regimen and nutrition plan that would help him reach a goal of losing 130 pounds.

“In the beginning, Howard was overweight, unhealthy and had an inability to communicate,” Jesse Swoyer, LWWD Fitness Center Director and Howard’s personal trainer, said.  “I knew I just had to get him moving.  He had function and ability to do certain things, so I worked with his abilities.  I would pull him out of his wheelchair down onto the floor mats and wrestled with him.  I forced him to get his body moving.  We have the luxury of doing more activities that push a person physically than a typical licensed rehabilitation or medical facility that has to follow strict guidelines,” he explained.

Jesse said not all days were easy for Howard.

“I remember kicking him out of the fitness center because he didn’t want to do his exercises and program.  I knew what he was capable of doing and believed in him.  I knew he needed pushed to accomplish his goals.”

Howard credits Jesse with providing the motivation and encouragement he needed to stay with it.

“Jesse would tell me, ‘Howie, you’ve got to do it.  You can do this.’  Jessie is a great trainer and the fitness center is a great place,” Howard said.

After several years of hard work, Howard is now 103 pounds lighter than when he first entered the fitness center.

“I watch what I eat, eat a lot less and workout at the fitness center at least four days a week.  I have 20 pounds yet to lose.  My goal is to weigh 220 pounds,” Howard announced.

Jesse is amazed by the weight that Howard has lost, but says that’s not what’s most important.

“Howard has improved his quality of life, regained his self-esteem and now believes in himself,” Jesse said.  “Instead of viewing himself as a burden to society, he is getting involved in the community and working to gain employment.  This shows how much our fitness center can change lives, and this is more important to me than any dumbbell or cardiovascular machine.”

Jesse says that the mission of the fitness center is to encourage healthier lifestyles by providing an enthusiast environment that promotes independence, integration and inclusion through socialization and physical activity.  Anyone with a disability who is a user of CILCP services and can direct their own fitness routines has access to the fitness center at no cost; however, one-on-one sessions with a trainer are also available for a nominal fee.  This fee may be waived or the consumer may qualify for state-funded assistance.

As the only accessible fitness center available in Central Pennsylvania for people with disabilities and the aging population, it is an important asset to our community.  Proceeds raised by the the Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania from the 2014 Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community will help fund the LWWD Fitness Center.

CILCP asks everyone to join them on Saturday, May 17, at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pa., to get active, show support for healthy living and a healthy community, and raise much needed funds for the fitness center.  Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. and the 5K walk kicks-off at 9 a.m.  A one-mile fun walk begins at 9:15 a.m.  To learn more about the Walk and how to participate, visit www.walkforahealthycommunity.org.  Or, join our team or make a contribution to CILCP directly.  Online registration ends at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 16.

Jesse, a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT) who has been trained to develop and implement individualized exercise programs for people who may have a physical, sensory or cognitive disability or who is healthy or has medical clearance to perform independent physical activity, says the fitness center is a life line to many people in the community.

“Despite budget cuts, our fitness center continues to grow, expand and pull in new members,” he said.  “For example, we have seen a lot of growth in our Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program which is designed exclusively for seniors and people within the disability community to improve strength, flexibility, balance and endurance.  Our fitness center and classes are unique, accessible and giving members of our community with special needs a place to get healthy.”

When asked how many members the fitness center has today, Jesse just chuckled.

“I don’t keep track of numbers—I keep track of happiness.”

The Living Well With A Disability Fitness Center is located at 207 House Avenue, Suite 107, Camp Hill, PA, 17011.  It’s open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Friday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  For more information or to become a member, contact Jesse Swoyer at 439-4070 or via email at jswoyer@cilcp.org.

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