In each issue of HemAware, we take a look at how local NHF chapters and associations are making a difference in their communities. This month we talk with Jim Paist, executive director of the Hemophilia Foundation of Minnesota/Dakotas.
How did your chapter start its fitness program?
It began with a real interest in promoting fitness and regular exercise in our community, and an opportunity to apply for an NHF prevention grant in 2005.
Describe your fitness events and who attends.
Since we established our program in 2005, we have held quarterly group fitness events featuring swimming, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, soccer and basketball. Attendees have been predominantly youth and their parents, but we’ve also had a number of adult community members participate. Each event includes a low-calorie lunch to help promote good nutrition.
How do you adapt activities to fit the needs of the bleeding disorders community?
Each event and type of activity is planned with safety in mind. However, with our second basketball event last year, we decided to split the day to include floor hockey since the gym had all of the equipment. Although everyone had lots of fun playing floor hockey, we were later strongly advised by one of our local HTC hematologists not to do that one again because it’s a level 3 sport (dangerous, not recommended) in NHF’s “Playing it Safe” booklet on sports and exercise.
How does your local HTC work with you on these events?
They play a big role in the program. HTC staff lead short medical education sessions and the stretching before each event. Sometimes we have several HTC staff volunteer and participate in the events, and our fitness planning committee includes HTC staff. This summer we had a bicycling and canoe joint HTC event between our Twin Cities HTC and our Mayo Clinic HTC in Rochester. The location is a beautiful bike trail at the midpoint between Minneapolis and Rochester.
Has the program had a positive effect on your chapter members? Is there any way you can gauge the effect?
Not only are these group fitness events fun and good exercise, part of our intent with the program is to pick fitness activities families and individuals can do on their own after participating with us. Gauging the effect has been a challenge for a number of reasons, but measuring the effects is something that could be very helpful and is something we hope to pursue in the future.
The Hemophilia Foundation of Minnesota/Dakotas is located in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. To contact the foundation, call 651.406.8655.