Robert, determined to get healthy, joined Harris Health System’s Fit and Strong Together Program, also known as FAST, a 12-week program designed to encourage patients to make healthy lifestyle changes.
The program is for patients who struggle with their weight and factors that come with it—hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and pain.
The FAST team, made up of physical therapists and a dietitian, meet with patients in a group setting two times a week to discuss topics ranging from healthy eating to exercise safety while incorporating exercise into the classes.
Before starting the program, physical therapists take a base-line for each patient—weight, walking endurance, strength and measurements—so staff can track improvements throughout the 12 weeks.
Each Monday, participants have a physical education discussion led by a physical therapist.
“This is my second time in this program and, surprisingly, I’m still learning new things,” Robert says. During his first round, Robert lost 18 pounds and is eager to improve his numbers even more.
Once the discussion is over, it’s time for cardio and strength building exercises.
“During the class, staff monitor and help adjust the exercises to meet the individual needs of our participants,” says Jamie Partridge, senior physical therapist. “We’ve had the opportunity to bring success to patients who never thought they’d see results. From weight loss to pain reduction to taking less medicine, we, as therapists, consider this a journey we go on together.”
Jamie says the group atmosphere allows for relationship building.
“We are all working together for a common goal—improved health,” she says. “When a patient completes the program and shares their journey with me, I feel very humbled to have a small part in this life change they are undergoing.”
During the Friday session the focus switches to nutrition. Ashley Smith, clinical dietitian, talks to the group about topics ranging from label reading, making healthy eating choices to cooking demonstrations.
“The most important thing I hope we accomplish is increasing self-efficacy to make healthy changes in one’s diet,” Ashley says. “I want our patients to feel like they really can do this. Changing your lifestyle sounds great, but it can also be very intimidating. My goal is to simplify the process, educate the patients about different foods and help them make small changes that work best for them.”
Patients, like Robert, see improvements by making adjustments learned in class.
“Writing down what you eat was eye opening,” Robert says. “It’s the little things that help all of us make better choices.”
When Robert isn’t in class, he uses the DVD the physical therapists put together with easy, medium and hard exercises, and even tries to encourage his family to eat healthy with him.
“In FAST, we celebrate every success big or small,” Ashley says. “This can range from reducing medications, better controlled blood sugars, controlling portions or even planning meals for the week. I even get excited when someone tells me they tried a new vegetable!”