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Managing weight for long-term health

Concordia's PERFORM Centre pilots community program aimed at achieving a healthy weight and lifestyle
March 6, 2012
By Christian Durand

Losing weight is a preoccupation for many Canadians. Although the health risks associated with excess fat are widely known, tackling the bulge can prove to be difficult. The market is flooded with diets and exercise programs of all kinds; yet health complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease continue to rise. Despite all the information and programs that exist, many people still find it difficult to integrate weight loss into their busy lives.

This winter, the PERFORM Centre launched a 12-week pilot program designed for people looking for guidance in exercise and nutrition through the lens of prevention and a balanced multi-faceted approach.

Concordia employee Laura Campanelli jogs on a treadmill as part of the PERFORM Centre’s healthy weight program. | Photo by Christian Durand
Concordia employee Laura Campanelli jogs on a treadmill as part of the PERFORM Centre’s healthy weight program. | Photo by Christian Durand

“In conceiving our healthy weight program we wanted to focus on helping people meet realistic weight and fitness goals,” explains Christina Weiss, a certified exercise physiologist on the PERFORM Centre’s conditioning and rehabilitation floor. “Our approach isn’t about getting participants to lose large amounts of weight in little time, rather equip them with the specific exercises and information that will help them manage their weight and improve their overall lifestyle in the long term.”

Participants go through an initial assessment to identify their general fitness level and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, if any. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, prediabetes or high waist circumference.  A qualified fitness professional then conducts an appropriate fitness assessment, compiles the information and develops a safe and effective exercise program for their client.

“Once we have a clear picture of a person’s overall health, we can then go about tailoring specific actions to manage risk factors so that they can hopefully avoid develop disease,” says Weiss. “In some cases, certain participants already have some of these conditions, so then it becomes a matter of managing risk so their health situation does not get worse.”

Participants attend three one-hour sessions a week. Two are spent on the conditioning and rehabilitation floor where they get one-on-one guidance in the area of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal exercise, as well as instruction on how to properly warm up and cool down.

The two sessions of exercise are complemented with a session on nutritional education lead by a registered dietitian. These sessions educate participants on food portions that match their body size and gender as well as tips on what to eat before and after exercise.

Monitoring improvements is key to keeping participants motivated. “We track indicators, such as blood pressure, throughout the program as a way of showing participants the positive effects of proper exercise and diet,” says Weiss. “Even if someone isn’t losing a lot of weight at first, they can see their blood pressure dropping and that they are able to increase their exercise workload with time.”

Participants are also equipped with a TechnoGym SmartKey that stores workout information and which allows them to track their overall progression.

Laura Campanelli, a Concordia employee and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce resident, joined the program because she had been thinking about improving her overall health for years. “My doctor told me that I should lose weight, but I continually made excuses not to exercise because I didn’t know where to start.”

PEFORM’s personalized approach was the main attraction for Campanelli. “The instructors answered a lot of my questions and together we’ve developed an exercise program and diet that I know I can follow through on.”

The end goal is that, upon completion of the program, participants leave equipped with the knowledge and ability to lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent or manage the onset of disease.

Since joining the program at the beginning of January, Campanelli has seen her overall energy levels rise and has begun new physical activities outside of the PERFORM Centre. “I’ve never been this committed to exercise and health before. With what I’ve been learning, I really feel as though I can do this on my own.”

The next term of the 12-week program begins in late April. Twenty-four spots are available and registration is open. For more information on specific dates, times and prices visit the PERFORM website.

Related links:
•    PERFORM website 
•    “Personal training at Le Centre” – NOW February 29, 2012 
•    "Making it Real" – NOW October 26, 2011 
•    "Watching and Learning" – NOW September 28, 2011 


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