Training Disabled Veterans to Fight Inactivity: A Las Vegas Program Tailors the Recreation to the Individual

Parks & Recreation, July 2011 | Go to article overview

Training Disabled Veterans to Fight Inactivity: A Las Vegas Program Tailors the Recreation to the Individual


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

When Bernard Preston asked a group of blind veterans to tell him what activity they'd most enjoy doing, they gave him a simple, straightforward answer: Bingo. Since Preston's job is to help disabled veterans continue and maintain healthy weight loss through physical activity, it was not exactly the answer he was looking for.

"Great!" said the unflappable adaptive recreation specialist. And Bingo it was. Preston organized the group for the requested sedentary Bingo sessions at a rec center--but a few weeks after they had begun meeting, he asked the veterans if they'd like to take breaks for some seated exercises. As each week went by, Preston sought to incorporate more and more physical activity into those Bingo meetings--until he was leading the group into the aquatics facility for guided aquatics exercises. Before long, the focus of the meetings had shifted from Bingo to exercise.

Bernard Preston's goal is simply to make exercise fun--and to integrate it naturally into individual or group activities. "After all," he says, "they're only going to stay active if they are having fun." For those visually impaired veterans, it was more important to socialize as a group than to initiate regular exercise classes--so Preston followed their lead and looked for opportunities to help them increase their physical activity as they socialized.

Whether Preston is leading fishing clinics, aquatic recreation, golf outings, or wheelchair sports, his philosophy is the same: Meet people where they are and give them the chance to benefit from recreation. Most of the 177 veterans who participate in Preston's adaptive-recreation program have just recently completed the VA's MOVE curriculum-an eight-week weight management and nutrition course. They know they must find ways to incorporate exercise into their lives in order to be successful in reaching a healthy weight, but they don't always know how to do that. Preston helps them maintain the weight loss they have already achieved, while inspiring them to make the lifestyle changes that will get them to their long-term weight and fitness goals. …

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