When Karen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis years ago, doctors weren’t sure when she would be able to move freely again.
Doctors were unsure if her condition was worsening or if she was becoming deconditioned, a state of functional loss in areas of mental status, degree of continence or ability to accomplish activities of daily living. That’s when she decided to attend the Move to Improve program 14 years ago as a way to increase her mobility.
“When I first started, I could barely walk and now I can ride a bike,” Karen said. “It’s a gradual process. We can get deconditioned. It takes a while to get back and to be mobile, but it works for me.”
Karen is just one of many individuals who attend the program that empowers people with limited mobility to continue on with their daily routines.
Move to Improve, which is a program offered out of the Foundation for Movement nonprofit, began in 2006 when the Multiple Sclerosis Society was seeking an exercise class for women particularly who had MS. The program has since changed and is open to anyone with any type of physical limitation, such as stroke and cancer recovery, joint replacement, fibromyalgia, arthritis, or knee and hip replacement.
“I’m one of the lucky ones with MS,” Karen said. “I attribute my 14 years of being mobile by going to class and exercising and increasing my strength. I’ve been able to move and walk further and for longer periods of time.”
National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer Jennifer Jones is certified to work with individuals with chronic conditions and leads the Move to Improve classes.
“I use that certification to hone my skills so that I can work with a variety of populations that have limitations,” Jones said.
Jones helps people who come out of surgery but may not be ready to go straight into the gym for their recovery. Move to Improve at the Fit Zone is that initial start.
“[Move to Improve] is for anyone that cannot go to the gym and jump into a regular fitness class,” Jones said. “It’s just a low impact option for them so that they can still get fit, still be in the gym, and still work out but it’s tailored specifically for them.”
Most exercises are done in chairs, since many of the participants have limited mobility. Each class begins with posture training, then works on the lower back and strength training with weights. Participants also work on their balance and flexibility.
“Balance is really crucial to people that have limited mobility,” Jones states. “It’s a total body workout but with low impact for our clients.”
Although Move to Improve focuses on physical recovery, the class offers much more. A sense of community is created within the class.
“We develop great friendships here,” said Marilyn Vignolo, a 10-year participant. “When you stop, you have to start over again, and here we feel welcomed.”
For Jones, the results have been rewarding. She calls this class a “lifeline” for many because they rely on it to function and do every day activities.
“It’s been a very humbling experience,” Jones said. “A lot of times in the gym world, you’re lifting as much as you can, and it’s all about how much you can do, how much you lift, and how far you can go, whereas these clients just want to be able to walk, move, and do basic life activities that we all take for granted.”
Classes are offered Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to noon at 5329 Truxtun Extension. Classes do not require a gym membership and are $7.50 per class. The first class is free.
Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.