Springfield fitness center hopes to expand

07/13/09 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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VPR/Susan Keese

(Host) Two and a half years after its opening, Springfield's recreation and fitness center is bursting at the seams and ready to expand.

The facility has been renamed the Edgar May Health and Recreation Center, in honor of its most tireless supporter. Local medical providers are referring patients to the $5.2 million dollar center as a way to improve the region's physical health.

VPR's Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) The pool area is quiet but not idle on this rainy summer morning.

Splash Dad: go ahead jump!

(Keese) A dad and his two sons are playing in the graduated wading pool.  Later in the day the center will be full of splashing kids and families.

But now people are swimming laps in the big competition-sized pool: a couple of twenty-somethings, an elderly man, and a couple of middle-aged women.

Christian Craig, the facility's director, says some of them are here on doctors' orders, as part of the center's "Prescription for Exercise" Program.

(Craig) We have 24 area physicians that are referring patients that suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar - or who are at risk for those ailments.

(Keese) The program offers a guided six-month exercise regimen for patients referred by a physician.

In a room nearby, a woman works in a therapy pool with a physical therapist.

(Langley) Within the last 2 ½ years we've had probably 525 patients from more than 100 different doctors in 20 towns in the area so it's not just a little pocket of people that are using this...

(Keese) Susan Langley is director of rehab services at Springfield Hospital. She says patients suffering from chronic pain, or recovering from joint surgery, find it easier to move in the 92-degree water. 

(Langley)  you can use it for arthritis for fibromyalgia, you can use it for osteoporosis where you have to worry about people falling and fracturing something. They can do a lot of work in the water and not have that fear.

(Keese) Upstairs in the fitness room, the exercise equipment is so much in demand users sometimes have to wait as long as half an hour. But that could change, as early as next year.

A recent celebration of the center's new name and its namesake Edgar May, included the announcement that the center hopes to begin work soon on an addition that will include more exercise facilities and a nutrition kitchen and classroom.

May, who served the region in the Legislature for many years, says the center is first and foremost a health facility.

(May) And the health facility that we are is the cheapest form of health care in America, because if you do not watch your exercise, if you do not watch your nutrition, then you pay the piper. And the piper's pay is so high today that is destroying our national health care system.

(Keese) May hopes he'll soon have some data to prove what he's believed for years. A group of students from the University of Vermont have just embarked on a study of health outcomes for participants in the center's exercise program.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.


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