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Exercise is Medicine

A Letter From Mike Alpert

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Dear Norm,September 6, 2017

Mike AlpertMike Alpert

Can you think back to a time when something dramatic changed for you? Something that defined what you really wanted to become or what you wanted to truly do that was meaningful with your life. Something so powerful that it really consumed a lot of what you focused on.

For me, that happened in 1992, one year after we opened The Athletic Club of Bend in Bend, Oregon. I was watching a 5-year-old boy, Gabe West, having a great time in our indoor pool, splashing and floating with my help, so happy that he was hugging and kissing me. I saw just a little boy having fun, but others saw the impact that exercise had on him. Gabe had Spina Bifida and was confined to a wheelchair. He was one of many young children who were participating in a program at our club called Team USAble Oregon for severely physically-challenged children. As the program grew, I began thinking about people in general who were struggling with chronic illnesses or chronic injuries. It became an obsession of sorts to think about the impact that regular exercise could have on helping to improve their quality of life and overall health. My passion and focus was defined: to run a world class health club, but also, and most importantly, to help people who were struggling with chronic injuries and chronic illnesses and to use Exercise as Medicine.

Then, in 2005, at the IHRSA convention, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation that Julie Main did on her Cancer Well Fit Program. After talking with Julie, she agreed to let us borrow her template and customize it for a program we developed in partnership with a local hospital and rebrand it as The Living Well After Cancer Program. Today, that 13-week program has helped improve the quality of life for over 900 women and men who are cancer survivors, and it's in its 12th year at The Claremont Club.

In the summer of 2007, a young man that our family knew was in a terrible accident and left paralyzed from the neck down. We began working with him in a converted racquetball court using weight bearing exercises and constant muscle movement and memory. The success that we had with him convinced us to convert a 3,000 square-foot studio and open it up to spinal cord-injured people. In less than a year and a half, we added an additional 2,100 square feet, and today, we are completing our final expansion, giving us roughly 7,000 square feet and servicing over 100 spinal cord-injured people and people affected by other forms of Neuro Muscular diseases.

Recently, I was able to view a segment on NBC Cleveland that featured the success that the Cleveland Clinic was having with a cycling program for people who had Parkinson's disease. On September 19th, we will roll out the Cycling for Parkinson's Program at our club.

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