Centers’ focus shifting to medically integrated wellness, fitness
By Ruth Cummins
Metro-area residents exercising at one of the new University Wellness Centers might have a tough time getting off the treadmill or spin bike and returning to their home or office.
That's because a workout can be more satisfying when you're surfing the Internet on your iPad using embedded consoles in the equipment that are fully interactive with touch-screen technology. Or, because you're using a free app that allows you to personalize your workouts and track your progress.
The view of the Swiss Alps isn't too shabby, either.
It's all part of the first phase of upgrades at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's University Wellness Centers in Madison, Downtown Jackson and Brandon, all well under way with a target completion by year's end, said Wayne Nunnelee, University Wellness Centers operations manager.
Nihad Lesnjanin, an employee of equipment manufacturer Life Fitness. puts together a treadmill for installation at the University Wellness Center in downtown Jackson.
The new look and feel for the University Wellness Centers, formerly known as Courthouse Racquet and Fitness, isn't just interior and exterior refurbishing and the installation of state-of-the-art cardio equipment. The focus is on medically integrated wellness achieved through personalized fitness and proper nutrition, two cornerstones of good health and disease prevention.
“We want you to live a long and healthy life,” said Chris Baker, a group fitness instructor for the centers. “We want to keep people out of the hospital, and to do that in a health-driven way.”
UMMC in late 2014 acquired the Courthouse Racquet and Fitness centers as a gift from Madison businessman John L. Black Jr. The fitness centers in Brandon, Flowood, Byram and North Jackson plus leased facilities in Madison and downtown Jackson became branches of the University Wellness Center, a brand new health endeavor for UMMC.
Renovation plans for the Northeast Jackson and Flowood centers are in the works, Nunnelee said. UMMC expects to invest about $1.3 million in upgrades to the facilities during the first year of ownership, and the number of staff is expected to increase to implement the wellness model. The Byram facility is in the process of being sold to an individual who plans to continue operating it as a fitness center.
Emily Tullos, a group fitness instructor at the University Wellness Center downtown Jackson branch, leads a spin class.
What sets the centers apart is their operation as an integral part of the health-care continuum. Students in UMMC's six health profession schools will be exposed to the medically related health and wellness model. The model is championed by Power Wellness Management, LLC, who is managing the facilities for UMMC. Power is a Chicago-area firm that partners with hospitals and health-care systems to create, develop and operate medically integrated wellness centers.
Downtown Jackson branch member James Turner of Madison says his workouts aren't about losing weight, but about being physically and mentally healthy so that he can keep up with his three kids ranging in age from 5 to 10.
Turner strengthens his upper body muscles during a workout at the University Wellness Center's downtown Jackson facility.
“I'm trying to maintain, and to ward off the negative effects of not working out,” said Turner, 44, whose federal job downtown makes it convenient for him to exercise at the center.
Turner said he enjoys the new equipment and other amenities, but also appreciates the camaraderie with those who exercise with him each morning. “It keeps you focused,” said Turner, who wants to avoid his family history of diabetes and hypertension. “I know what I'm doing now will keep the bad stuff at bay. I want to have a good quality of life as my kids grow up, and I want to be able to give them more of myself.”
All of the centers are providing fitness assessments, led by professional fitness trainers, every six months as part of membership. They're using the Polar BodyAge system, which assesses a person's fitness based on factors including their body fat, flexibility, strength and amount of oxygen in their blood, Baker said.
“It will determine your maximum aerobic capacity,” said Baker, who also serves as sales manager for all center locations.
Future plans call for the centers to offer Next Steps, a medically based fitness program for people who are transitioning from, or managing, a medical condition, Baker said. “There will be cancer fitness, diabetes fitness, cardiac fitness, pulmonary fitness, weight management fitness,” Baker gave as examples.
“The biggest change and improvement members are seeing is our all-new, top-of-the-line LifeFitness cardio equipment that includes treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent bikes, upright bikes, power mills, flex striders and spin bikes,” Nunnelee said. “This equipment is the highest-end technology available in cardiovascular equipment today.”
(From left) Matt Nassar, Sessions Roland and Percy Quinn take part in a spin class at the University Wellness Center in downtown Jackson.
Members will be able to use embedded consoles in the equipment that are fully interactive with touch screen technology, Nunnelee said. “You can browse the internet, watch TV on three times the number of channels previously available, plug in iPads, and use Bluetooth technology,” he said.
They can download a free app that allows them to “track their workouts, track their progress, access personalized workouts, provide motivation and engagement, and serve as an in-workout display on the cardio equipment,” Nunnelee said.
And, members can find themselves in another world - well, almost - through the centers' Lifescape courses that use a touch-screen TV to create virtual courses in places like Yosemite National Park or Kings Canyon. If you're running up a mountain, the incline of the treadmill you're on will adjust to the location you choose, Nunnelee said.
“This allows our members to have a virtual experience walking, running, or biking through beautiful landscapes from around the world, including the mountains of Switzerland or river valleys of France,” he said. “The scenery distracts you from the sometimes mundane experience of cardio exercise, but it also encourages you to work harder and try and get to the top of that mountain faster.”
The newer technology makes exercise a more enjoyable experience, Nunnelee said. “A more enjoyable experience encourages members to stick to their goals and objectives, and that leads to better, long term results, with overall wellness being the ultimate outcome for the individual and their entire family,” he said.
Baker said fitness trainers are committed to giving members the tools to make wellness their way of life.
“We want to track people and see if they're getting results,” he said. “We want to find a way to make it work for you, and to monitor, motivate and educate you to make your goals.”
Centers and hours of operation:
Madison, Brandon, Flowood (Lakeland Drive) and Northeast Jackson -Monday through Thursday, 4:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday 4:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sunday, noon-8 p.m.
Downtown Jackson - Monday through Friday, 5 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Sunday
For more information, or to join University Wellness Centers, call 601-948-8688 or email email@example.com