June 9, 2014 9:16 pm

Moose Jaw health program touts high levels of success

Lisa Abbasi shows off how much weight she can bench press on Monday at Moose Jaw's YMCA Athabasca now that she has graduated from the program.

Graeme Matheson / Global News

MOOSE JAW – With a completion rate of 81 per cent, an ambitious program tackling Moose Jaw’s high levels of obesity is reporting success.

“This program is different due to the fact that we have a well-rounded program, and we make [participants] come five days a week,” said Nicole Bratten, exercise therapist for Alliance Wellness and Rehabilitation.

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Alliance and the YMCA have partnered to offer the Healthy Weights Initiative. The free 12-week program that incorporates 12 sessions each on diet, cognitive behavior therapy, 60 personal training workouts, two fitness tests, and social support. There are also follow-up components.

According to the organizers, the program, announced in January, has led to an average fat loss of 18.65 lbs, and a muscle gain of 6.23 lbs for the 70 participants who completed the first round. Five participants left the program on medical leave, and 11 people quit.

Mark Lemstra, president of Alliance, credits part of the completion rate to the accountability factor; participants are forced to join the program with a friend or family member.

“[Participants say] it was a hassle to begin with, to find a buddy that would take the program with them, but it turned out to be very important to making sure they continued on,” he said.

Including reports of improvements in depression, quality of life, and blood pressure scores, 93 per cent of participants that completed the program went on to purchase a membership at a fitness facility.

About 300 people have signed on to do the program so far.

Lemstra said the program has been getting a lot of buzz, including from outside the city.

“We’re going to be expanding to Saskatoon and Regina in the future, but we just don’t have the exact dates yet,” he said.

The federal government has also expressed interest in the program.

Before she joined the program, Lisa Abbasi’s workout schedule was sporadic and non-existent at times. Now, after finishing the program, that’s changed.

“There are days when I get off the different cardio machines, and I think, ‘Wow, that actually felt good.’ I didn’t used to feel like that,” said the mother.

With 21 lbs of fat lost, and 6 lbs of muscle gained, she’s looking forward to getting in even better shape.

“I still have to make myself come to the gym, and I still wake up in the morning, and I still feel like, ‘Oh, I want to skip today, and, oh, I could be sick,’ but I want to be here,” said Abbasi.

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