April 18, 2008

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in Pike County and the Pikeville Area YMCA partnered to help citizens of Pikeville and surrounding communities live healthier lives by pumping up the extension program Weight: The Reality Series.

Participants who attended the first five weeks of the ten-week extension series were given a free trial five-week membership to the YMCA.

Weight: The Reality Series began in 2004 and is now offered in every Kentucky county. Programs that encourage healthy lifestyles and weight loss are needed in many eastern Kentucky communities like Pikeville, said Cristy Honaker, Pike County family and consumer sciences extension agent. According to the Kentucky Institute for Medicine, Pike County is one of the unhealthiest counties in the state. It ranks 110 out of the state’s 120 counties in health statistics comparisons.

The organizations’ collaboration for Weight: The Reality Series began after Eugenia Tackett, also a Pike County family and consumer sciences extension agent, mentioned Honaker’s interest in developing a partnership to Sherry Riddle, chief executive officer of the Pikeville Area YMCA.

Half of the series covered educational topics, such as adequate sleep, vitamin and mineral intake, fast food facts, determining body mass index and stress management. During this time, the participants also sampled healthy recipes. The other half of the sessions focused on physical activities. During the first five weeks, a YMCA trainer helped the participants set their fitness goals and get acquainted with the equipment.

“The thing I think people are surprised about with Weight: the Reality Series is the fact that it’s more than just weight management,” Honaker said. “It’s a very well balanced program that gives them lots of different health and wellness information that they need.”

Even though the first series of classes involving the partnership recently ended, the YMCA and extension office have seen benefits from the relationship. Riddle said it has been a great partnership for the YMCA because the program combined health and fitness, two parts of the YMCA’s mission.

“Our benefit is we expose more people to the Y, and hopefully, after they take this course, they will want to continue staying healthy and come back and get a membership and join the Y,” she said.

Honaker said she believed participants in this class were more focused and motivated than previous classes because of the partnership. In previous classes, the participants had a physical activity at the class site, but space and fitness equipment were limited.

“It’s an environment that’s more positive for physical activity,” Honaker said of the YMCA. “When you’re here, it just makes you want to be more involved. You want to move more; you want to come more.”

And the participants have seen results. Anna Lou Trout, of Sidney, said she joined the program because she was overweight and wanted to get her cholesterol under control. She said, by participating in the program, she has noticed significant health changes including weight loss, more stamina and improved endurance. Trout said she plans to continue to use the information from the class and has joined the YMCA. She credits the support she received from other participants in helping her reach her fitness goals.

“The collaboration that we’ve had with the other people has been an inspiration to keep coming every week and working out,” Trout said.

Sue Williamson, of Canada, Ky., perhaps had the most significant physical changes. She joined the program because she was having trouble breathing. Through the program she has lost 12.75 inches from her body and now breathes much better.

“She has been very dedicated and has spent a lot of time at the Y outside of just our class time,” Honaker said. “She’s really taken advantage of that last five weeks being able to utilize the Y.”

Even though the class recently ended, some members of the group plan to continue to meet to discuss their fitness goals weekly.

Honaker and Riddle said they plan to continue the partnership. Honaker added another class will be starting again soon.

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