By Glen Rosales / For the Journal
Two Albuquerque Public Schools on the West Side are participating in a pilot fitness program that is earning praise from its participants.
“It’s a wonderful program because it’s so convenient,” said Melissa Velasquez, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School. “I had been looking for something, and then this came around.”
The twice-a-week program that also is in place at Volcano Vista High School includes stretching, yoga and Pilates, as well as nutrition information, said Katherine Chavez, APS employee wellness coordinator.
The program also is in place at the main APS center, as well as two Northeast Heights elementary schools.
The district’s insurance partners, Presbyterian Health Plan and Lovelace Health Plan, are sponsoring the pilot program, which started at the beginning of the semester and will last through December, Chavez said.
Each participant was given a health assessment in the first session, and will have another one in the final session to measure how they progressed, she said. Participants were measured for their blood pressure, body-mass index and body-fat percentage. They also answered questions about their stress and depression levels.
It’s part of an ongoing effort by the school district to promote health and wellness of APS employees, Chavez said.
General wellness, she said, will contribute to the wellbeing of APS employees, reducing sick days and hopefully helping lower insurance costs in the long run.
“This is a really good voluntary program,” said Presbyterian’s Tim Rivera, director of account services and retention, who is working with the district. “APS is very forward-thinking in this. APS is actually engaging employees and getting them involved.”
At the five sites, more than 100 employees are taking advantage of the program, Chavez said. And if it proves to be worthwhile, the district will consider expanding it to more schools.
“I can tell you that we’ve already gotten a number of schools asking about it,” Chavez said.
Katrina Sisneros, an instructional coach, works out during an after-school exercise class for teachers and staff at Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School. Two West Side schools are taking part in a fitness program that’s earning praise.
Peggy Friend, an LBJ secretary, said she hopes the program continues in the spring and into the future.
“I need the exercise,” said Friend, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and Type II diabetes. “I need it.”
Before the program started at LBJ, however, Friend said she couldn’t maintain a regular exercise regimen.
“This is really perfect because we meet right after school,” she said. “You don’t have to go home and change and then go back out again. You’re already here so it’s really convenient.”
The program incorporates an online charting system and also encourages journal-keeping so participants can track their progress for themselves.
“Our instructor told us not to get on the scale,” Velasquez said. “She said we’d notice the change in our clothes.”
Indeed, that has been the case, she said, adding she can notice a reduction in her stress level, increased energy and more restful sleeping.
What’s more, Velasquez added, it’s easier to maintain an exercise schedule when a group of colleagues or friends are working out together.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “Everybody in our group helps each other. We support each other.”
And one day, when there was a mix-up with a substitute instructor, the group completed its workout anyway, Velasquez said.
The instructor “is going to be so proud of us that we went ahead with our workout anyway,” she said. “It’s really all about a lifestyle change.”