A 69-year-old man who struggles to breathe. A 79-year-old man who lives with arthritis. Women trying to get into shape after recovering from breast cancer. And women in any stage of their pregnancy.
They have one thing in common: Because of their condition, it is difficult to exercise at a gym.
As such, several South Florida hospitals offer classes that target these conditions, allowing patients to work out under the supervision of certified instructors.
Jackson Memorial Hospital recently started a pulmonary rehabilitation program that increases muscle strength and endurance, and improves quality of life for oxygen-dependent patients. Memorial Hospital West has an indoor heated pool that allows patients with orthopedic conditions to stretch beyond what they could do on land. And Baptist Health South Florida offers prenatal yoga for pregnant mothers, and low-impact aerobics to help breast cancer patients get into shape.
“When you are getting back into exercising, you don’t want to do too much so that you don’t pull a lymph node,” said Elena Suarez, the supervisor of Exercise and Screenings at Baptist Health South Florida. “So low-impact aerobics is very, very helpful.”
Like many with pulmonary fibrosis, Adolfo Torres cannot walk for too long and relies on a wheelchair.
“There is no quality of life. Sit down, go to the bathroom and sit down. That’s what I do all day,” said 69-year-old Torres of Hialeah.
But that began to change after he started doing supervised exercises at the new pulmonary rehabilitation program at Jackson. The hospital opened the program in November to improve life for patients like Torres — people diagnosed with pulmonary conditions that makes it difficult for them to walk and breathe.
The exercises — done on a treadmill, a bicycle and an arm cycle — strengthen muscles and increase endurance but do not improve lung function, said Dr. Debra Fertel, medical director of lung transplant and pulmonary hypertension programs at Jackson.
“We all need oxygen to function. Our muscles need oxygen and if your lungs cannot keep up with that oxygen demand, then that patient’s capability of exercising becomes more and more limited,” Fertel said. “But this program allows them to build up strength and endurance.”
The program is helpful for patients who are awaiting a lung transplant. The stronger a patient, the quicker the recovery from surgery, Fertel said.
“If the rest of the body is very weak, the recuperation is much slower and their hospitalization is much longer,” she said.
Torres, who breathes with the help of an oxygen tank, is undergoing tests to see if he qualifies for a lung transplant. His twice-weekly visits to Jackson’s pulmonary rehabilitation program have helped him gain more mobility.
On a recent visit to the center, he said he was able to walk from the parking lot to the building elevator.
Patients with orthopedic conditions often find exercising in an indoor heated pool more beneficial than weightlifting and/or a treadmill workout.
“The warm temperature is really soothing,” said Rob Herzog, director of Fitness and Sports Medicine at Memorial Healthcare System in Broward. “It allows them to move through a range of motion that they would not be able to do on land.”
Memorial West offers an array of classes at its indoor heated pool. The water’s viscosity adds resistance to the exercises, and the warm temperature helps sooth the aches from arthritis.
“You are offloading some of this body weight. There is a force of buoyancy so you kind of float a little. You are not feeling gravity,” said Dr. Alan Novick, director of rehabilitative services at Memorial Healthcare System.
A fitness pool usually has a temperature of about 86 degrees; the pool at Memorial is heated to about 95 degrees, said Herzog.
“The difference of that is the warm water penetrates quickly to the joints, which is very beneficial for arthritis,” he said.
The exercises have helped 79-year-old Mark Cohn, who has arthritis and in 2007 had a hip replacement.
“When we cannot come we miss it very much,” he said. “Exercising for older people is critical and this is fun exercise.”
Baptist Health South Florida offers prenatal yoga for pregnant moms and low-impact aerobics for patients recovering from cancer.
‘Focused on Healing: Low Impact Aerobics’ has been successful for those recovering from breast cancer, said Suarez. Class exercises resemble a slow dance. The emphasis is on stretching and balance, much like tai chi. Patients also are supervised so they don’t lift their arms above their head, which can result in fluid retention.
At prenatal yoga, pregnant mothers do stretching exercises that help minimize back pain and muscle cramps associated with pregnancy, said Dr. Rafael Perez, medical director of the Fibroid Center. The class is appropriate for women at any stage of their pregnancy.
“There is the mental component of it as well that helps you relax,’’ he said.