Through a grant from the RMH Foundation, a new program will begin around February to help those with disabilities to be more physically active.

The $12,500 grant will fund “Encouraging Wellness and Fitness for All in the Community.”

Brain Injury Connections of the Shenandoah Valley, the Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition and the Sentara RMH Wellness Center teamed up to develop the program.

“There are several barriers with people with disabilities that prevent them from doing more physical activity,” said Tamara Wagester, executive director of Brain Injury Connections. “One big thing is people just not feeling comfortable showing up.”

The new program will have a buddy system, which allows someone with a disability to go exercise with someone without a disability.

Some of the “buddies” will be students from occupational therapy and physical therapy programs at James Madison and Mary Baldwin universities, according to Wagester.

The team is addressing the need for more programs through advancing what’s already available in the community.

The Sentara RMH Wellness Center offers two programs: ProEx and EnCore.

ProEx, which is a doctor-referral program, involves a fitness specialist creating a customized exercise program based on individual medical needs and fitness goals in conjunction with a health care provider's fitness recommendations, according to a press release.

Those with disabilities do not need a referral to participate.

Fit EnCore is a biweekly group-based exercise class that incorporates a series of progressive balance, mobility, strength and flexibility exercises to target improved balance and posture, increase muscular strength, stability, body and gait awareness, and fall reduction.

The new program will overlap with ProEx and will allow those with disabilities to have two 30-minute active sessions a week overseen by a fitness specialist. Individuals will also have access to the rest of the wellness facility and classes like Fit EnCore.

“As a whole, with being a wellness center, we want to make fitness available to everyone,” said Heather Moneymaker, the site manager for the fitness department at Sentara RMH Wellness Center. “We would love to be able to offer even more based on the turnout we get. It could bring us more ideas for the future.”

To Wagester, coming up with the new program was a “natural team approach.”

“We have a lot of clients with brain injuries that work with us and have a need to do exercise and physical activity,” she said. “RMH has always been an amazing opportunity for our clients to go use the wellness center because of their programs.”

The wellness center offers over 80 group exercise classes per week, has a dedicated Pilates equipment studio, three indoor pools, an indoor track and basketball court.

The Shenandoah Valley Inclusive Wellness Coalition works with more than 30 wellness, advocacy and professional service organizations, as well as individuals with disabilities.

Its role in the program has been doing the marketing and bringing in the affiliations it has.

“We are aware that sometimes people can’t afford to be a part of the programs, so this grant is going to help with that,” Wagester said.

With the grant, there will be scholarships available to those who aren’t able to pay. Another portion of the grant will be used to purchase more adaptive equipment for the wellness center.

Because the grant is only valid for a year, the three partners would need to apply for more funds to keep the scholarships going.

“We are just so enthusiastic about this new program and hope more people in the community with disabilities have the means to go increase their well-being through exercise,” Wagester said.

Contact Laine Griffin at 574-6286 or Follow Laine on Twitter @laine_griffDNR

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