By Bill Donovan

Correspondent

GALLUP — It’s 10 a.m. on a beautiful Tuesday and 86-year-old Don Holland is where he usually is every weekday morning — maintaining a healthy lifestyle by working out at the Gallup Wellness Center.

“The body is a complex machine and has to be kept in good shape for a long, healthy, life,” he said as he goes about his regular regimen of exercises that he does each weekday morning at the center from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The center, located at 1910 Red Rock Drive, is celebrating its one-year anniversary at its new location after being housed for years in the basement of the Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital.

Holland described the basement facilities as being small and crowded. Others have used terms such as dingy and unappealing. One person who used the facilities there said anyone who used it on a regular basis really had to be a health fanatic.

Two years ago, as the hospital saw a renewed growth under its new CEO David Conejo, more area residents were referred to the center for rehabilitation purposes and its director, Greg Kirk, realized that the facilities could no longer meet the needs of the hospital.

Rehabilitation center, gym

It didn’t take Conejo and the members of the hospital’s board of directors to realize he was right, so a decision was made to convert the hospital’s former dialysis center into a state-of-the art gym and rehabilitation center.

The renovation of the building and the purchase of the equipment would cost $2.6 million, most of which was raised through two years of fundraising by the Western Health Foundation.

“Now this is like state-of-the-art with tons of equipment and you don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to come here,” said Holland, who began using the center after he was diagnosed with West Nile Disease, which he contracted a few years ago when he came in contact with mosquitoes as he went camping at Navajo Lake State Park.

An engineer for IBM before his retirement in 1995, Holland has created a regimen which he follows religiously and which he credits for being able to use a walking stick instead of a wheelchair.

He starts with the lifting of 80 pounds of free weights, 30 minutes of riding a stationary bike, and then going on the circuit taking advantage of the other stationary equipment in the gym.

Multiple uses

The facility has become immensely popular since the move with doctors in the area sending hundreds of patients there a year for rehabilitation. Kirk said the center can receive 7,000 patient visits a year.

The two-story building offers rehab facilities on the top floor with trained occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists on hand to help those in need.

The bottom floor is a gym that is open 24/7 for use by employees of the hospital as a fitness center.

The gym is also made available to those enrolled in the center’s Silver Sneaker Aftercare Program which is for former patients who no longer need physical therapy but want to continue using the gym for a healthy lifestyle.

Their use of the gym only costs them $20 a month. This could be reduced to zero for those who have insurance or Medicare coverage that allows for payment for these kinds of services. Area residents who want to take part in this program are invited to come and talk to center personnel.

Fitness classes are held in the mornings and evenings. There is even a “teaching kitchen” on site to provide cooking demonstrations and a space to provide healthy choices through a simulated grocery store setting.

The center will also partner with the area Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs to mentor area youth. There is also space set aside to help the clubs fix up old bikes to encourage youth to be more active and to make use of the bike trails in the area.

With the new facilities and all of the space and new programs, Holland said he couldn’t understand why more people — and especially senior citizens — don’t join up.

“It’s important for older people not to get lazy,” he said. “You need to get your muscles back so your immune system stays strong. Obesity turns to diabetes and you don’t want that. I plan to be around to see the future.

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