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CHI Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Hays Daily News
February 6, 2012

In the beginning, Zava Hanson just wanted to get her husband as excited about exercise as she was. Seeing as how husband Bob already worked at Hays Medical Center, Zava decided the Center for Health Improvement would be a good way to get him involved. And for nearly 10 years, the Hansons have been loyal members, staying in shape for their hiking and skiing hobbies.

"We don't want to go gracefully into old age," said Zava, 61. "So we have some hobbies that require good physical condition."

The Hansons are two of approximately 300 members who got started with the Center for Health Improvement shortly after it opened in February 2002 and have stayed with it. In its 10 years, the center has evolved, most recently becoming accredited by the Medical Fitness Association, and has seen more than 10,500 people enroll as members, according to CHI statistics.

Operated by HaysMed, the Center for Health Improvement includes a gymnasium, weight facility, pool and specialty clinics aimed at patient wellness.

All the center has done for HaysMed patients and the community will be celebrated this month, first with an open house Thursday, then by special presentations Feb. 13 and 21.

"Everything has grown," said Stephanie Schaffer, fitness director at the center who has been there since it opened. "Our whole goal is to take care of the whole body."

Mary Frances Dreiling, rural Hays, has been taking care of herself for the past nine years at the center. She had used Fort Hays State University's pool for some time, but after a knee surgery, she decided to give the center a try.

"I got addicted, and I've been staying there ever since," the 91-year-old said.

Even though her knees have slowed her down, she's still able to do a variety of activities at the pool and in the gym.

"There's something for you to go to when you need it," Dreiling said.

Schaffer said the socialization aspect the center provides is part of the reason so many individuals continue to use the center.

"It's a spot that sometimes we overlook, but for many members, it's a way to come and socialize," Schaffer said. "They're exercising and having fun making friends, which is an important part of wellness."

Along with helping with wellness in the community, the Center for Health Improvement also includes numerous specialty clinics, including cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation.

Clinical coordinator Amy Choitz said the clinic provides outpatient therapy for those who have suffered heart attacks, had bypass surgeries, stents or other heart issues, as well as who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, restrictive lung disease or other ailments.

"We work to get them up to an ideal level of exercise safely," Choitz said.

The rehab unit was operating at HaysMed before the center came along; however, the addition of the center has helped to continue individuals' rehab even after physician-required sessions are finished.

"Our biggest goal is that the person continues with positive lifestyle changes," Choitz said.

And that could be said for the entire center, whose mission is "to help people get well sooner and stay well longer."