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Fitness program promotes active, health lifestyles - Medically Speaking, Volume Three, Number Four, 10/8/15

Utah Navajo Health System, Inc. is offering free fitness classes this fall at Whitehorse High School for those who wish to participate in an organized exercise program and keep active.

According to Lauren Hannibal, UNHS Nutrition-ist/Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer, the classes are held each Monday and Thursday at 6:00 p.m. in the Whitehorse High School cafeteria. Hannibal teaches the Monday classes and UNHS RN/Certified Personal Trainer Yikanee Sampson teaches the Thursday classes. Hannibal and Sampson both work with the UNHS Diabetes Control Project, helping Diabetes patients learn to control their Diabetes through exercise, proper nutrition and diet, and lifestyle changes. Hannibal said she was approached by several of her patients who wanted to exercise, but weren't sure how to start. They told her there was nothing available in the Montezuma Creek area. So, when she and Sampson were notified about attending Native Fitness Week at Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, they both attended and became certified as personal trainers.

Sampson said the course instruction included proper form and how to balance workouts, as well as how to teach in a class setting or on an individual basis, while keeping clients safe and injury free.

Hannibal put her training to good use over the summer in a series of fitness classes at the South Park, on Main Street in Blanding, and she hopes to continue these classes through the month of October, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, weather permitting. These classes will stop at the end of October and begin again in June if there is interest.

Hannibal and Sampson have different teaching styles, so the classes at Whitehorse vary a little from Monday to Thursday.

"I vary the exercises and ask those in my class if they want to try something new, but most of the time I use circuit training," Hannibal said of her Monday classes. "Lots of repetition and total body and aerobics, getting the heart rate up. We don't have any weights. If people want, they can bring their own weights, but we do have mats. Most of what I do is with body weight exercises like squats and pushups and palates-type of exercises."

Sampson said her classes focus on calisthenics, aerobics, cardio and modified moves so there is a variety, which is good, especially for those wishing to lose weight because you use different muscles. Hannibal said she also incorporates some cardio kickboxing and other activities as well. She said those wishing to participate can come to both sessions at Whitehorse if they want. They hope to continue this program through the end of the school year, as they did last year, but for now they are scheduled through December 22 at WHS.

"A big part of this program is to help prevent diabetes by getting people active, especially through the winter, when the weather doesn't cooperate, it gets dark early and people just don't feel like exercising on their own," Hannibal said. "Another barrier to people exercising in the winter is their kids are in school and they're just busy."

The Monday and Thursday classes are attended by adults and students. The majority of the adults are women between the ages of 20 and 30. A lot of parents bring their kids, according to Hannibal. The kids are mostly age 10 and under and they work really hard.

Sampson said the classes are taught with various levels of intensity incorporated into the workout, but even at the lower levels of intensity you can still get a good workout. She said the feedback from those attending the classes has been very positive. Hannibal said many of her students, who have not exercised a lot in the past, find the classes fun and rewarding.

"I think the classes improve the sense of community. Those who come consecutively become friends and they talk when they leave," Hannibal explained. "I think the classes improve lives and more importantly, health."

The fitness classes are open to everyone and all are encouraged to attend. If you attend for the first time, please arrive fifteen minutes early to fill out a few forms and releases, and have the course explained to you before you start. Otherwise, just come and have fun.

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