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Staying healthy at the gym

Support staff, friends provide guidance, camaraderie

June 16, 2014

Peggy Alexander has been working out at the Duke Health and Fitness Center for the past 15 years. She knows exercise and weight management is important, and she wants to take care of herself.

With every aerobics class and healthy meal, Peggy Alexander says she is “combating her genes.” Her mom, a diabetic, died at age 48; her father passed away soon after at age 50. “Losing them raised my awareness about the importance of exercise and weight management,” she says. “I knew I had no choice but to take care of myself.”

Peggy joined the Duke Health and Fitness Center 15 years ago. Now almost 66 and retired, she has more time to take advantage of the services offered. “I used to go to water aerobics at 6:00 am while I was working, but now I go to two classes five days a week and sometimes on the weekends,” she says.

A lifestyle counselor meets with Peggy periodically to check her blood pressure and pulse, and to discuss any changes in her health or new fitness goals. “This continuity of care is why I’m in such good health today,” she says. “The entire staff are highly trained certified health professionals, and it makes all the difference.”

In fact, when Peggy experienced debilitating back pain last year, it was the staff at the Fitness Center she turned to for help. “When I went into the Center, I could barely walk. It was very humbling,” she says. “I received assistance from a physical therapist who helped me do practice specific exercises to strengthen my back and provided instruction on the things I should not be doing,”

Peggy was able to return to the activities she loved after a couple of months, however she is still mindful of protecting her back from injury. Fortunately, class instructors at the Center are mindful, too. “The instructors are very good about advising those who have particular health concerns not to perform certain exercises or to make modifications,” she says.

After more than a decade of membership at the Fitness Center, Peggy has found encouragement, guidance and support in the staff. And in other members, she’s found camaraderie. “This is more than just a gym – it’s a community,” she says. “I’ve developed personal relationships with many of the members; some of them have been in the same classes for 15 years. If it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t be there.”

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