By Mary Grzebieniak
New Castle News
Veterans browsed exhibits and watched demonstrations designed to help them be healthier Friday outside the Butler Veterans Hospital.
While efforts were being made to preserve veterans health on one side of the campus, Vietnam veterans who lost their lives in that war were honored on the other side of the hospital with an exhibition of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall.
The Summer Health and Wellness Event drew a steady stream of veterans under sunny skies.
They were invited to watch a cooking demonstration by hospital dieticians Rachelle Lyon and Courtney Johns. The two had a barbecue grill and showed their audience how to prepare Grilled Vegetable Panzanella, Watermelon-Cucumber salad and a whole grilled chicken.
The purpose, Lyon said, is to encourage veterans to prepare food in healthy ways, something she said, they might not be too careful about.
Those attending also heard volunteer Kevin Chagnon describe how martial arts has made him healthier and aided in his weight loss. He invited those attending to the martial arts class he offers at the Butler facility twice a week.
He assured his audience of mostly retirees that its not too strenuous. I cant get down on the floor because of my knees, he said. He explained that in his class they do everything from a standing position.
We do it at a pace for older and injured veterans, he said, explaining that he has had both knees replaced and has limitations on his shoulders. Most of his class members are close to age 70 and he tailors it for their needs.
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Chagnon said his own experience has inspired him to offer martial arts as an exercise option to veterans. He recently started teaching the class on his own journey to better health which started when he joined MOVE!, a weight management program for veterans offered at several regional veterans clinics.
He joined the program after he retired and found himself at 335 pounds. He said MOVE! helped him to get the weight off through weekly meetings and offering different options for weight loss for veterans and their spouses. It was when the MOVE! leaders started pushing him to exercise that he decided to get re-acquainted with martial arts which he had loved as a young man. He started working out in his garage, only being able to do minutes at a time at first. After a year, he worked up to an hour.
As of yesterday I have lost 83 pounds, he said. And today, Chagnon is offering classes in his favorite sport to help other veterans gain fitness and muscle toning. For more information on joining his class, call Karen Dunn at Butler VA Medical Center, (724) 285-2292. The class is offered in Butler.
In keeping with the health theme at Fridays event, a farmers market was busy serving a steady line of customers at one end of the event. There were cabbages, watermelons, raspberries, peaches, plums and many other healthy choices at the market which is offered monthly during the summer on the hospital grounds.
In addition, there were tables with displays on healthy living with topics including exercise, diabetes, hepatitis, tobacco cessation, weight management and others.
Jennifer Martz, also a dietician at the hospital, had a nutrition booth where she had plastic models of one pound and five pounds of fat and muscle to show those attending that a one pound weight loss is not insignificant.
She said Fridays event is all about trying to get veterans healthier. She pointed out that eight of the 10 most frequently occurring chronic diseases are related to unhealthy behaviors.
If we eat better and exercise maybe we wont get there, she said, or if we have a disease already, we can slow its progression.
The MOVE! class is offered locally at the New Castle Veterans Clinic at Ridgewood Professional center, 1750 New Butler Road. For times and other details, call (724) 598-6080.
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