Fighting MS with Fitness

Mary Olson exercising with her seeing eye dog close byDo nothing and end up in a wheelchair, or start exercising to help stave off the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS). Those were Mary Olsen's choices, and the fighter in her said it wasn't really a choice. There was no way this disease was going to rule her. Olsen was diagnosed with MS in April 2009, though she says her neurologist, Augusta Health's Robert W. McMahon Jr., MD, estimated it may have started setting in 8 to 10 years before that. The end result was a very weak left leg and the need for a service dog. "I knew I needed to exercise—'Use it or lose it,' " Olsen recalls Dr. McMahon telling her.

Augusta Health Fitness' role

So regular visits to Augusta Health Fitness became part of the 68-year-old's life. She knew a regular exercise regimen could help maintain and increase muscle strength. Her end goal: keep her independence and stay out of that wheelchair. "Mary's the perfect example of how an exercise program can change your life," says Angela Kaltenborn, ACSM, NCSF, the exercise physiologist at Fitness who's worked with Olsen since October 2011. Upon joining, Olsen was part of the "4 Weeks to Independence" program, where she started with several low-impact functional exercises and stretches. Over the four weeks, she added many exercises and drastically improved her overall workout. She's finished the program and still works out regularly. She says she has more strength to do household chores and the exercise helps combat her fatigue.

A medical-based facility

Early on, Olsen tried another gym, but felt more comfortable at Augusta Health Fitness, winner of the 2011 Certified Facility of the Year award from the Medical Fitness Association. Exercisers can rest assured that at Augusta Health Fitness, a medically supervised health and fitness facility, they can feel safe exercising. According to Kaltenborn, there are exercises to benefit everyone, no matter their ailments or conditions. With members young and old at varying fitness levels, everybody in the community can feel welcome. "The best thing I did was join," Olsen says. "Even if I can't always complete my entire routine, I do something and that's better than nothing. I want to make sure I'm always going forward."

Submit your story