Sticking to a diet is difficult for most people, and exercise routines rarely last past the New Year. Yet when you have a “village” full of fitness buddies, reaching your health and weight goals becomes part of the fun.
Beginning in 2004, Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT) staff implemented a heart-healthy diet and exercise plan for its residents. The plan focused on improving health by eating more fruits and vegetables, protein, and low-carb foods; decreasing calorie intake, and increasing water consumption; all while maintaining an active lifestyle through daily exercise.
While the plan sounds like a standard fitness magazine “how-to” diet, BVT registered nurse Patricia Matthews says that it is often difficult for individuals with developmental disabilities to control their cravings for food. “Our residents have difficulty understanding appropriate portion sizes at meal and snack times. If they are not given a specific plan, coupled with a conscious effort by our staff to help them follow that plan, they wouldn’t be successful.”
Debbie Bush, Director of ICF/IDD Services, says staff do not tell residents what to eat and when to exercise. Rather, they teach them why certain foods and exercises are important for their body. “Each day, our residents are given training opportunities so they know which foods to eat and which foods are unhealthy. They also learn about portion control and how many servings are needed a day from each food group to stay healthy.”
“These are critical elements of instilling healthy habits in our residents,” she says. “It works because residents are not instructed to do something, but because they know it is important to make good choices.” Thanks to BVT’s healthy habit initiative, residents have lost a combined total of 700 pounds!
“I just feel better,” said Linda J., who has lost more than 30 pounds after learning how to make healthier choices. “When I first came to Breckenridge, I was only able to do one or two exercises a few times a week. But now, I have improved my strength to where I can do them every day.”
And feeling better is just the beginning. “I wanted them to be like everyone else: active and healthy with normal blood pressures, and normal blood sugar levels,” said Mathews. “We have been able to transform our residents from the inside out. Thanks to the BVT plan, the number of medications they take is decreasing, they are not as hypertensive as they once were, and their life expectancy is going up.”
Residents engage in various exercises, such as stationary bicycles, ellipticals, treadmills and chair aerobics. Thanks to the BVT Ladies’ Auxiliary, enough funds were raised to purchase a Power Plate machine, which works by having individuals stand on a platform while the base vibrates. The movement enables residents to complete 60 minutes of conventional exercise in just a 10 minute period. The machine has become a favorite of Brian F., who has lost 100 pounds since coming to live at the Village.
“The Power Plate is helping to increase the residents’ core strength,” explains Matthews. “When the core of the body becomes stronger, it enables the rest of the body to become sturdier and more coordinated. Without a doubt we’ve seen an improvement in our residents’ ability to walk, which has impacted their overall health.”
To learn more about life at Breckenridge Village of Tyler or if you know of someone in need of residential services, contact 903-596-8100.