YMCA program reduces risk of diabetes among adults

Health and Fitness: One woman loses 13 percent of her body weight after she joins

of the HeraldMarch 12, 2014 

The day after her 54th birthday was the day that changed Laura Matson’s life. That’s when she viewed a Facebook post from the Mel Korum YMCA about its diabetes prevention program.

Since then, she’s been on a journey to improve her life by losing weight and staying physically active.

“The YMCA Diabetes Prevention program provided me with the motivation, skills and peer support that I needed to learn how to have a more balanced lifestyle,” Matson said.

Matson started the 12-month program last October.

“Five months later, I have reduced my weight by 13 percent and have increased the time I spend exercising from 180 minutes per week to 300 minutes per week,” she said. “My BMI (body mass index), which was in the obesity range, is now in the overweight range, and before my next birthday, I am confident that I will achieve my goal of bringing it into normal-weight range.”

The YMCA program runs for 16 weekly sessions, and then monthly. Participants are in a small-group environment. Goals are to “reduce body weight by 7 percent, increase physical activity to 150 minutes per week and to learn how to reduce risks for becoming diabetic.”

Program Administrator Susan Buell is the director of adult healthy lifestyles and chronic disease for the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap counties. The program started as a pilot at the Gig Harbor YMCA in conjunction with the state Department of Health. In 2013, it was introduced at all the YMCAs in Pierce and Kitsap counties.

Programs are available starting in the spring and the fall, Buell said.

“There are six active groups across Pierce and Kitsap counties,” she said.

To qualify, applicants need to have a BMI of greater than 25 and an elevated blood value that puts them at risk of diabetes.

“I love being able to walk the journey of discovery with people who see how they can be successful and lead healthier lifestyles and learn how to make healthier food choices,” Buell said. “Learning how to be active and doing it as a group is a powerful process, because we all learn, and we all struggle together.”

The fee is $199 for members of the Y. It can be paid during the 12-month period, Buell said. Financial assistance is available.

Membership is not required to participate. An insurance price is set at $429 for non-members, and it’s fully covered through United Healthcare.

Matson said she appreciated the program teaching her about maintaining a food diary.

“(This is) an activity which has had a great impact on my success,” she said. “In my career as a special educator, I have long known about the effect that having students count and graph their behaviors has on positively changing their behavior, but I never applied that to myself as it related to weight loss.”

Matson also said the slow pace at which information is presented is helpful.

“This approach did not require me to make drastic changes all at once,” she said. “Rather, it allowed me to make slow and gradual changes that have become incorporated in my daily life.”

Matson said the program has significantly reduced her risk for diabetes.

“As our group facilitator talks about in class, I have developed ‘a new normal,’ and my new normal is making me a healthier person,” she said.

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