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BEST program strengthens women’s health
The link between strength training and the prevention of osteoporosis is well documented, leading physicians to recommend an exercise program, especially for women over the age of 40 who are predisposed to the disease. Ali Hartwick has built on the idea and brought a program to Bowen that helps islanders develop a routine to strengthen their bones. This week, Bowen Island’s Bone Estrogen Strength Training (BEST) program was awarded a Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) grant for age-friendly community and planning, allowing it to continue through 2013 without cost to the participants.
“It is very cool to watch them progress and grow stronger,” Hartwick said about those attending the class. “And they report that their aches and pains grow less.”
“It all started last spring when I did a course online about BEST,” Hartwick said, adding that a study done by the University of Arizona looked at 300 post-menopausal women, some of whom showed signs of pre-osteoporosis. Those women were exposed to strength training, and, as a result, their bone density increased. “The results were fantastic,” Hartwick said. “And I thought, we need this on Bowen.”
This kind of training is also available locally from personal trainers but Hartwick didn’t want money be a limiting factor. “I wanted to make it available more widely,” she said.
She had the idea to offer the program though the municipality’s community recreation office where she received the advice to apply for a grant. “I asked Seniors Keeping Young (SKY) and they applied for a grant and received $2,000 [from the Bowen Island Municipality],” Hartwick said, adding that this contribution allowed her to run the class for a trial period of three months, twice a week - and free of charge. Hartwick started the program in September and was surprised by the positive response. “I had 20 people registered on the first day. Now we have 25 from 40 to 80 years old,” she says, explaining that the class is held on Tuesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Bowen Island Youth Centre. “[The exercises] are supposed to be done on a regular bases,” Hartwick says. “[The participants] come religiously twice a week and I also encourage them to walk with weighted backpacks and have given them pedometers. It’s a great program and the word is getting out.”
Kami Kanetsuka is one of the participants and has nothing but praise for the program and for Hartwick as an instructor. “She is serving such an important purpose,” Kanetsuka said, “We all get older and there are a lot of reasons we need this.” Kanetsuka added that Hartwick has a lot of patience in working with women with a variety of needs. The benefits go beyond osteoporosis prevention as BEST provides a chance for people to leave their homes and get together. “It’s much more complex, we also learned that we had gotten used to doing exercises incorrectly,” Kanetsuka added.
The funding from the municipality covered the program until the end of November and Hartwick looked for a way to continue. “The Bowen Island branch for the First Credit Union gave us $400, covering the program through January,” Hartwick said. “And now, we received the funds to run it through the year.”
Hartwick says that the money covers her wages and also pays for a speaker once a month. “We try to have snack when the speakers come. SKY has been able to help with the speakers and the recreation centre has given us the facility,” Hartwick said. “It is great to see the women gaining strength and lifting heavier weights than they lifted before. Some seniors are now pressing 15 pounds when they started out with five pounds.”
Registration for the program is ongoing and new participants are encouraged to sign up.