Athletic Club, Health Group Keep Seniors Fit

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She's a soft-spoken, yet articulate 71-year-old woman who, like many people, has diabetes.

Rosemary Tharp exercised off and on throughout her life. But when she found out about a year ago that she has diabetes, she knew she needed to take better care of herself. She knew the disease would worsen and threaten her life, if she didn't.

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Rosemary Tharp, left, Gail Hearne and Rich Finger take advantage of Payson Athletic Club through the Mogollon Health Alliance's MHAX III-Health Plus program.

"I was on pills first, but they didn't work, then about six months ago I started taking insulin," she said. She's been going to the Mogollon Health Alliance's exercise and health programs, MHAX III at the Payson Athletic Club for about a year and a half. She said the combination of the insulin with exercise has helped her tremendously.

Tharp said she's so much happier and feels better after even a little bit of exercise. "I have more energy and I am more alert now since I'm exercising," she said. "I'm proud that I've pushed myself to come in (to the gym) even those days I really didn't want to," she said.

Senior Rich Finger also has diabetes, and that disease damaged his heart valves, requiring him to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. "I'm here because it's good for me. I want to live longer," Finger said.

Before you stop reading, and start making excuses about why you can't do an exercise program, consider this. MHAX has about 90 members. It only costs $35 a month, there is no contract to join and you're in good company.

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Checking vitals is critical to a participant's success in any exercise program. Here, Rosemary Tharp does a self-check, however professionals are also available to do the monitoring.

Three trained health officials run the program. Beth Rimmer is the director, Carol Watts is a certified nursing assistant, and Pam Palmer is the medical assistant there.

"One client is a 92-year-old lady with balance problems. She wanted to strengthen her lower body and started on 10 pounds of weight on each leg, a total of 20 pounds, but after several months she's now up to 35 pounds on each leg, a total of 70 pounds," said Rimmer. She insists the client is doing great. "People in their 90s can make strength gains and she's living independently, without a health aide," Rimmer added.

Still it's easy for many people to make excuses not to come in.

"People with arthritis have a lot of pain and believe they shouldn't or can't exercise much. But really, the more they take their joints in a range of functioning they won't be as likely to succumb to the crippling effect of the disease," Rimmer said. She encourages everyone to exercise, especially asthmatics, who often are afraid to. "People with asthma think they can't exercise but they should. We keep the gym at a comfortable temperature and they'll get lots of supervision from health professionals," she said.

The program, called MHAX III - Health Plus is offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. To join the program, get a prescription from your doctor or physical therapist.

Call (928) 474-0916 to schedule an appointment and go in and set up a program that is tailored to your medical needs. Financial aid is available.

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