Beginners in the MHAX III exercise program are not your typical gym members. Many of them are walking into the gym for the first time in decades, if ever, and the progress is slow.
A beginner might not be able to do very many repetitions on a weight training machine or last very long on the treadmill, but that's not what matters.
What matters is that they have begun.
At the end of three or four weeks, those who stick with the program increase their weights and start gaining strength.
"It builds their self-esteem when they feel stronger, which is a very positive, healthy change for them," said Laura Schatza, a certified personal trainer for the program. "It is sore and painful sometimes for them to do the weight training with arthritis.
"Later on, it helps to build strength and it helps to prevent their pain. So, it's hard to motivate yourself to do it, but if you do it and push through a little discomfort it helps."
"I started in the hospital and worked my way over here," Tony Visdas said. "My cardiologist prescribed this. I think as far as he is concerned I will be doing it forever."
March 17 marked Visdas' 466th session. Even a recent broken foot has not kept him from his workout.
Roberta Cogswell said that working out on the machines helped her after she fractured her tailbone last June. She and husband, Tobe, work out three times a week.
Tobe, 88, uses most of the machines in the gym for his routine.
"The program makes a big difference," said medical assistant Pam Palmer. "Blood pressures come down, cholesterol levels come down. I think it's important to stay with the program. Keep exercising. You don't come to this program just to get better and leave."
A doctor's prescription is required for membership in MHAX III. The program costs $35 a month. Participants may come Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Jim Cosgrave comes for his "well being" and the fact that he can walk more without experiencing the shortness of breath he used to have.
"I wasn't exercising very diligently before I joined," he said. "I've had heart disease for 25 years."
People who have been recommended to the program for everything from asthma, emphysema, stoke, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and knee surgery have all exercised in MHAX III.
Palmer checks and tracks patients' blood pressure, oxygen levels and pulse rates each time they come to exercise.
Individual programs are custom designed by Schatza. She sees patients in the program from age 20 to over 80 and customizes each program based on the participant's health. When a person is ready to move forward they meet with Schatza again to update their exercises.
"You are really never too old to build muscle," is a truth she tells all her clients. "No matter what age you are, you can build muscle. Exercise is the fountain of youth. It keeps you young and healthy and feeling good."
Another thing that keeps you young is socialization, and MHAX III provides plenty.
"They come in and are exercising with the same group of people and they make friends," Schatza said.