Minnesota Hospital Association


January 16, 2019

Sanford fitness programs keep generations of community members healthy, mobile

Two programs sponsored by Sanford Health in rural southwestern Minnesota enhance the fitness and health of community members across generations.

In Tracy and Westbrook, physical health and mental health are often two top concerns identified during community health needs assessments – not just for adults, but for children as well.

Sanford Tracy Medical Center and Sanford Westbrook Medical Center used Sanfordfit, a health activation program, to address this concern. Starting in January 2017, Sanford Tracy and Sanford Westbrook completed a 19-week Sanfordfit program with fourth-grade classes at Tracy Area Elementary School and Westbrook Walnut Grove Elementary School. In 2017, the Sanfordfit program taught 74 fourth-grade students about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In 2018, the program reached 64 fourth-graders.

Two Sanford Tracy and Sanford Westbrook staff members met with the fourth-grade physical education classes once a week for 25 minutes each. Through fun activities, challenges and games, the students learned about making good, healthy choices regarding their food, move (exercise), mood (mental health) and recharge (sleep/rest). The students took home weekly challenge cards to complete and have parents or guardians sign. The students earned prizes by completing the challenge cards while also exposing their families to fit.

To evaluate the 2018 program year, the students completed a fitClub test in January and again in May. The students increased their correct answers by more than 24 percent (Tracy) and 23 percent (Westbrook) from the first test to the last. Each week, the staff could see the students engaging and absorbing the information through the fun activities.

The community of Canby identified a problem of older individuals experiencing falls. Sanford Canby Medical Center addressed the issue by launching Steady Steps, a class featuring general fitness and mobility, balance training, fall prevention and how to fall. In total, the community benefit reached 126 contact hours over the course of eight weeks.

Led by a physical therapist, the class was geared toward those with a fear of falling, those who had fallen in the past and those who wanted to be proactive in their health and wellness. A group of 12 active participants ranged in age from 68 to 90, with an average age of 80.

Sixteen sessions were offered, focused on flexibility, posture and core stability, strength and balance. Each class had a session recap handout with exercises for participants to complete at home. The first session included some basic balance and mobility testing. This test was repeated at the last session, with results provided for participants to reference.

Participants successfully navigated an obstacle course that was increasingly challenging every week, practiced actually falling (to a low surface) and getting back up, did homework and learned new health literacy and safety tips each week.

Both Sanfordfit and Steady Steps received positive feedback from participants and improved health and fitness in their communities.