As people age, it’s more important than ever to be physically active. A healthy, active lifestyle lends itself both physically and mentally to better living.
That’s why, twice a week throughout the summer, Dr. Carol Maritz, associate professor of physical therapy, and three physical therapy students visited the Mt. Baptist Zion Church at 50th and Woodland Ave. to put 20 members of the congregation through an intense exercise program.
The Mt. Zion Southwest Elderly Exercising Together (SWEET) Program was an extension of a similar endeavor that Maritz started in 2005 with the Senior Club at the Southwest Community Enrichment Center. The program aims to counteract the negative effects of inactivity among seniors. Dr. Maritz and her students collected data from the participants to track their progress that involves weight training and balance exercises.
Last February, Dr. Maritz spoke at a service regarding the importance of importance of exercise, especially for seniors. Since the pastor, Rev. Cedric Jones, Jr., is an exercise and health enthusiast, it didn’t take much for Dr. Maritz to convince him of the benefits of the program.
A community health fair in April at the church was attended by PT students who took blood pressures and handed out literature on healthy lifestyle changes.
“The church is a mixture of young and old congregants with about 400-500 members,” said Dr. Maritz. “We started the program after Mother’s Day working with their senior guild or women’s’ auxiliary and conducted classed from May to August.”
The three PT students, Neelam Patel DPT’13, Lincy Varughese DPT’13, and Allie Yecco DPT’13, ran the data collection, which they will use as part of their capstone projects next fall, as well as teaching. The program was so successful, “We actually had a waiting list over the summer,” Dr. Maritz said, a second group was started in September. Moreover, Dr. Maritz had 12 P1 students sign up to help, so she had to work on a group rotation schedule.
Dr. Maritz said they have also made videos showing beginner and intermediate exercises for the participants to have if they miss a class or want to practice. The entire project would not have been possible without funding from Citizen’s Bank.
Since the church has a nice space, they are able to work out there. However, approximately a quarter of the group returns to USciences for additional work in the BTE Technologies Advanced Evaluation and Rehabilitation Lab, which has additional equipment and diagnostic tools.
Plans are already in place to return this spring.
“As long as we have participation from the congregation, and we can get a student involved where we can collect meaningful data – it’s a win-win.” Dr. Maritz said. “The students love to interact with seniors to teach about healthy aging and the students are getting invaluable experience.”